Context: A recent report, “Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region” by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) reveals that India has warmed up 0.7° C during 1901-2018.
- The 2010-2019 decade was the hottest with a mean temperature of 0.36° C higher than average.
- Prolonged exposure to heat is becoming detrimental to public health, especially the poor unable to afford support for coping with the heat.
India’s vulnerability to climate change
- Assessment by the MoES shows that India may experience a 4.4° C rise by the end of this century.
- India has also suffered two of the 10 most expensive climate disasters in the last two years.
- Super-cyclone “Cyclone Amphan” that hit India in 2020, cost more than USD13 billion. The “June-October Monsoon Flooding” cost USD10 billion and around 1,600 lives.
- It was India’s heaviest monsoon rain in the last 25 years and the world’s seventh costliest.
- In early 2021, India suffered two more cyclones: Cyclone Tauktae hitting the west coast and Cyclone Yaas from the east.
- India’s rising IDPs: According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, India’s Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs) are rising due to damaging climate events.
- About 3.6 million out of 170 million living in coastal areas were displaced between 2008-2018.
- Uttarakhand residents began deserting their homes after the Kedarnath floods in 2013 due to heavy precipitation that increases every year. Within 2050, rainfall is expected to rise by 6% and temperature by 1.6° C.
- Coastal erosion: India lost about 235 square kilometres to coastal erosion due to climate change induced sea-level rise, land erosion and natural disasters such as tropical cyclones between 1990-2016.
- India’s Deccan plateau has seen eight out of 17 severe droughts since 1876 in the 21st century (2000-2003; 2015-2018).
- In Maharashtra and Karnataka (the heart of the Deccan Plateau), families deserted homes in 2019 due to an acute water crisis.
India’s climate initiatives
- India vowed to work with COP21 by signing the Paris Agreement to limit global warming and submitted the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) with a goal of reducing emissions intensity of GDP by 33%-35% and increasing green energy resources (non-fossil-oil based) to 40% of installed electric power capacity by 2030.
- In their NDCs, countries communicate actions they will take to reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions in order to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. Countries also communicate in the NDCs actions they will take to build resilience to adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures.
- In 2015, India cofounded with France at COP21, the International Solar Alliance (ISA). It is a coalition of about 120 countries with solar rich resources— which aims at mobilising USD1 trillion in investments for the deployment of solar energy at affordable prices by 2030.
- India held the top 10 position for the second year in a row in 2020’s Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI). The country received credit under all of the CCPI’s performance fields except renewable energy where India performed medium.
- Slow development in renewable energy sector: Despite leading ISA, India performed the least in renewable energy according to the CCPI’s performance of India.
- The country is not fully compliant with the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal of the NDCs and there are still risks of falling short of the 2° C goal.
- According to India’s carbon emission trajectory, the country is en route to achieve barely half of the pledged carbon sink by 2030.
- To achieve the Paris Agreement’s NDC target, India needs to produce 25 million-30 million hectares of forest cover by 2030.
- Going by the facts, it seems India has overpromised on policies and goals as it becomes difficult to deliver on the same.
- India is expected to be the most populated country by 2027, overtaking China, contributing significantly to the global climate through its consumption pattern.
- India is in a rather unique position to have a significant influence on global climate impact in the new decade.
The Glasgow COP26 offers India a great opportunity to reflect on the years since the Paris Agreement and update NDCs to successfully meet the set targets. Being one of the observer states of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) as well as an influential member of COP26, India has the ability to improve its global positioning by leading a favourable climate goal aspiration for the world to follow. The country has the opportunity to not only save itself from further climate disasters but also be a leader in the path to climate change prevention.
- The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference.
- The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- It is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland between 31 October and 12 November 2021, under the presidency of the United Kingdom
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