Set Emission Limits

Published in The Himalayan Times. This link – https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/set-emission-limits-mitigation-priority/

The Himalayan Times Article 2017 -12-01

Dec 01, 2017

The 23rd Conference of Parties (CoP23) ended with an agreement, among others, to prepare a ‘rule book’ next year in Poland for the implementation of the Paris Agreement but the Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) already revealed, right ahead of the CoP that, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) i.e. the voluntary emission reduction pledges by the parties will only help achieve one third of what is envisioned in the Paris Agreement.

It is seen that most of the countries with a negligible individual share in the global Green House Gas (GHG) emission are facing the greatest threats caused by climate change. The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) lamented the same on the 23rd CoP and pleaded with the top emitters to cut down emissions. Lamenting and pleading are the things they mostly do in such negotiations because they cannot pressurize the top emitters as it is those same top emitters from whom they are getting (also expecting more) technical and financial helps for mitigation and adaptation programs.

Mitigation or Adaptation?

Mitigation of climate change is far better than adaptation. Any life form in this earth except human beings can neither project the degree of change in future climate nor understand humans’ projection and get prepared for this change. Those species which can face the unprecedented change will persist and those which cannot will go extinct. Therefore, adaptation programs work well only for humans if at all. So mitigation should be of higher priority than the adaptation programs. Hence, the emissions should be so reduced so that there will be no further necessity of adaptation programs in the days ahead.

But how to reduce the emissions has become the main issue at the present. When the climate scientists already warned that climate change is a grave threat to human existence itself, isn’t it time to set appropriate Annual Emission Limits for each country ensuring that the temperature rise does not exceed the threatening level? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be given the full authority over it and each country should abide by the guidelines developed by it. The population size of the country might become one of such bases for setting such limits.

Science proves that the climate change is very real and politicians still debate whether it is real or not. What a pity! This is exactly the opposite of what actually it should be. There should be no debate as if one accepts climate change or not because individual acceptance or denial does not stop the process of climate change in any manner.

Will Climate Funds Really Work?

These are so many funds established for the climate change mitigation and adaptation programs. The Adaptation Fund, the LDC Fund, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) are some of them. Let’s take an example of the REDD program which is supposed to receive payments, after 2020 AD based on the results presented, from the GCF. According to the Transparency International’s latest release, 87.5 per cent (56 of the 64 countries) partner countries of the UN-REDD program have a serious corruption problem, i.e. Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of less than 50 out of 100. (2016 AD) Data is not available for 5 countries. Eighty-three percent of those countries (53 of the 64 countries) have CPI of less than the global average score of 43. So, will the REDD investment actually benefit the ground level, poor communities who are ignorant of this vast technical issue? Optimistically, there are safeguards. The better thing is there are seven of them. But, would the safeguards really work, should the countries be so corrupt? The corruption in these countries is so rampant because the people there are very good at outsmarting the policies. There is no assurance that the safeguards will be wisely adhered to.

Now, if paid for the results based payments, disparity increases within the country (as they are highly corrupt and the fund will mostly go to the hands of influential politicians and top-level bureaucrats) and if not paid for failing to meet the safeguards, the investment for the REDD readiness goes to waste, only increasing the country’s burden on climate budget. Those who will be able to present the convincing results will be paid and the others will be left behind, which increases the disparity between the countries again. But, a lot of scientific research needs to be done before jumping into the conclusions.

Hence, if obligatory Annual Emission Limits are set for each country based on scientific standards, no organism has to suffer from the impacts of climate change. Who suffers more and who suffers less will no more be an issue. It is difficult to understand why humans are creating the problem and making each innocent organism in the earth suffer?

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Reducing carbon emissions: Responsibility of key nations

Published in The Himalayan Times. This link – http://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/reducing-carbon-emissions-responsibility-key-nations/

tht-opinion-2016-nov-17

November 17, 2016

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s 13th assembly in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007, first developed the concept of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission, it was found that deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20 per cent emission in the form of carbon. Hence to reduce the GHG emission, preventing deforestation and forest land degradation was seen as one of the crucial tasks. And, for those developing and underdeveloped countries that help in reducing the atmospheric carbon by capturing and sequestering in their forests, the developed countries, listed as Annex I countries, which are the top GHG emitters, had to help them financially and technically. Based on the results of how much carbon is sequestered by the forests with reference to a certain baseline data, the forests are to be paid. This is the basic concept of carbon trading. The REDD mechanism became REDD+ and REDD++ after additional components such as sustainable management of forests and conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks are included in it.

Global temperature is soaring neither because ‘we’ (Nepalese) are consuming a high amount of fossil fuels nor because we are rapidly clearing forest lands. The amount of GHGs emitted by Nepal annually hardly equals the daily emission, if not hourly, by, for example, China alone. Similar comparisons can be made with the USA, India, Russia, Japan and the European Union. Nepal’s contribution to global GHG emission is just 0.025 per cent. Ceteris paribus, it would take forty years for Nepal to emit 1 per cent of the current annual global GHG emission. Even if we allocate our whole budget in fossil fuel only, our contribution to annual global GHG emission probably won’t reach 1 per centAnd still, we are behind REDD that aims to reduce atmospheric carbon by preventing deforestation from us, not from the top emitters! Should we always focus on forest conservation only or think about development too? It is not that development cannot be achieved within environmental protection, but instead of regulating a REDD implementation mechanism, deploying that manpower in other developmental works will be more beneficial. We are in the list of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) not because we don’t have sufficient money but because we don’t have the ability to spend it effectively and the will to develop ourselves.

Anyway, we are implementing REDD, but the issues of permanency, leakage, baseline data, etc. are raised and we are not certain to be paid again. We have been calculating the amount of dollars we deserve from our carbon sink but we don’t know if we will really get it. Just a year ago, officials were wary of the source of money for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) which is supposed to pay for the carbon sink after 4 years, i.e. 2020 AD and the scenario has not yet changed significantly.

What makes the situation worse is the recent political development in the United States, which is also the second largest GHG emitting country, where the newly elected president Donald J. Trump has expressed doubts over climate science, signifying it as a hoax. How can we expect such a country to pay for the carbon sink whose president-elect has even threatened to withdraw last year’s already ratified Paris agreement?

We have always been discussing how Nepal can get benefits from carbon trading. We hardly hear the discussions about how carbon trading benefits the environment actually, as the objective of REDD is to reduce the emissions and ultimately limit the rise in temperature. But at the same time, the top carbon-emitting countries do not seem to be serious about cutting down their emissions. Though the ratification of last year’s Paris agreement by many countries earlier than expected showed some silver linings, the recent political development seems to jeopardize the deal. It is not sure now that they will fulfill their commitment to limit the emissions.

If we really work for the environment, we must be able to tell them, the top emitters, “We don’t want any payment for the carbon we sequester. It’s our responsibility towards the environment/ the mother earth. We actually need you to cut down the emissions.” Then only will we have the ethical right to pressurize them to cut down the emissions. Otherwise, they will always go on saying that they were helping to mitigate the effects of climate change by paying for the carbon and it seems that we are letting them emit as much GHGs as they want for the sake of money. Expecting money from the one and pressurizing the same to cut emission does not seem reasonable. What if those countries themselves say that they won’t pay for the carbon sink? The USA may say so soon. Will we start deforestation to pressurize them? Certainly not.

Developed countries are also unwilling to cut down emissions in the name of ‘economic growth’. But, the Climate Group, in one of its news stories last year, wrote – “Demonstrating again that economic growth can be achieved within environmental protection, according to the document presented to the press, ‘Switzerland emits less GHG today than in 1990 despite the fact that gross national product increased by 36% over the intervening period.’”

If Switzerland can do it, can’t other countries do the same?