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Editorial Articles

Issue no 34, 19-25 November 2022

Addressing the Intensifying Impacts of Climate Change

Avinash Mishra Madhubanti Dutta

We have been discussing the effects of climate change for almost a decade now, which is currently perceived as the biggest threat to humanity. According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) assessment of climate change, environmental problems have a wide range of impact on people's lives and health. In terms of geographical and socio-economic vulnerabilities, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report and domestic reports on the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) both identify India as one of the world's hotspots. Climate change worldwide is a serious issue. Increased emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are altering the Earth's climate, and these changes are having a significant impact on the environment. For example, glaciers and ice sheets are melting faster, lake and river ice is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges are shifting, and flowers and leaves are budding earlier. Regardless of whether the world decarbonises rapidly, existing trends in emissions and atmospheric greenhouse gases would make some extremely serious climate impacts inevitable through 2040. The IPCC estimates that in the next decade alone, climate change will drive 32-132 million more people into extreme poverty. Food security will be compromised by global warming, which will also make heat-related deaths, heart disease, and mental health problems increasingly prominent. The effects of climate change that have begun to manifest in India have received considerable attention this summer. With temperatures in the capital city exceeding 49 degrees Celsius, the soaring heat has surpassed records. The likelihood of heat waves has increased, making a substantial portion of India's population vulnerable. According to the most recent Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group II of the IPCC, failure to take prompt action to prevent or adapt to climate change might have disastrous effects, especially in India. Sea ice loss, rapid sea level rise, and longer, more intense heat waves are just a few of the consequences of global climate change that scientists have long anticipated. India is one of the world's most climatevulnerable nations. India must therefore map out all the sensitive areas, industries, and population groupings at the district level. India's topography and geography are diverse enough to call for various approaches depending on the location. Planning and implementation are simply the foundation of an effective framework for climate action. To maintain these efforts, it is essential to set up a periodic monitoring mechanism to assess the progress and a frequent update on new scientific resources and parameters by a research and knowledge committee. India has already begun to experience the effects of climate change, including glacial retreat in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, sealevel rise, and the combined effects of powerful tropical cyclones that cause flooding, an erratic rainfall pattern, extreme heat stress, desertification, urban flooding, and forest fires. India, like the majority of nations, would fall short of the IPCC guidelines despite its efforts to combat climate change unless its policies abandon all other development objectives in favor of combating climate change. However, the IPCC report and regional studies from the nation both show that India is already in a vulnerable position. States like Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Bihar are among those that are most susceptible to climatic hazards including floods, droughts, and cyclones. There are a few gaps in our strategy in the existing adaptation plans that must be addressed. Many of these plans are inadequate, dispersed, unstructured, and unevenly distributed among areas. Due to the interconnectedness of an ecosystem's functioning and the human societies that surround it, this may render climate mitigation initiatives ineffective. One could get temporary fixes but not lasting long-term ones if the other is not addressed. Plans for sustainable adaptation that can be put into action to reduce adaptation gaps must have sufficient funding. All parties involved in the process, both public and private, must invest and create a budget plan for adaptation measures. The solution to the problems that climate change poses for India is a long-term sustainable action plan, effective governance, and money, keeping in mind the challenges faced by developing countries. Even though existing methods are functional, adaptation is necessary, but disadvantaged communities need greater assistance.

India's Mitigation Initiatives

·         In 2015, the Prime Minister had announced a target of 175 GW installed Renewable Energy (RE) capacity to be achieved by the year 2022. By 2021 end, India had crossed the 100 GW milestone (excluding large hydro). The government believes that India has tapped only a fraction of the vast potential for renewable energy and has, therefore, raised the target to 450 GW RE installed capacity by 2030

·         An additional 3 million hectares of forest have been added over the past ten years, bringing the total amount of forest to approximately onefourth of the nation's land area.

·         India is on a target to fulfil its pledge to neutralise land degradation at the national level. By 2030, it hopes to have 26 million hectares of damaged land restored. In doing so, India will fulfil its promise to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

·         The National Hydrogen Mission seeks to make India a Green Hydrogen centre and assist the government in achieving its climate goals. By 2030, 5 million tonnes of Green Hydrogen should be produced, and this will aid in the expansion of renewable energy capacity.

·         The second phase of FAME India (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles in India was launched in 2019. The first phase of the scheme was launched in 2015 on a panIndia basis with the goal of promoting the production and use of electric and battery-run eco-friendly vehicles in the nation. The policy's goals are to decrease the number of old and defective vehicles on the road, reduce vehicular air pollution in order to meet India's climate change commitments, improve road and vehicle safety, increase fuel efficiency, formalise the current unregulated vehicle scrapping business, and increase the supply of affordable raw materials for the automotive, steel, and electronics industries.

·         The government also aims to achieve 100% electrification of Indian Railways by 2024/Net Zero by 2030.

·         The target year for blending 20% ethanol in petrol has been advanced to 2025. The Government of India has been supporting the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Program to enhance India's energy security, reduce import dependency on fuel, save foreign exchange, address environmental challenges, and boost the domestic agriculture sector. The government's "National Policy on Biofuels," announced in 2018, outlined the importance of the potential target of blending 20% ethanol into petrol by 2030. Due to the positive results of the government's various interventions since 2014, the objective of blending 20% ethanol was advanced from 2030 to 2025-2026. Ethanol blending will not only reduce environmental degradation but also boost the income of sugarcane farmers. The government has been advocating the conversion of surplus sugarcane and sugar into ethanol for supply to Oil Marketing Companies for blending with fuel as a long-term option to cope with surplus sugar, to promote the sustainability of the sugar sector, and to guarantee immediate payment of cane dues to farmers. This will boost the revenue of sugarcane farmers in addition to reducing import dependence on crude oil and promoting ethanol as an indigenous, non-polluting fuel.

·         There are numerous other initiatives being undertaken to carry out the "Panchamrit" aims as envisaged by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, including electrification using renewable energy sources, steps to improve energy efficiency, energy storage, clean mobility, PLI (Production Linked Incentive) schemes on ACC battery storage, and high-efficiency PV (photovoltaic) cell production, as well as National Green Hydrogen Mission, organic farming, and circular economy.

The Need for Adaptation: At least 170 nations now include adaptation in their climate strategies, although many have not yet moved from strategy to implementation. The IPCC concludes that existing efforts are still primarily gradual, reactive, and small-scale, with the majority concentrating exclusively on immediate impacts or hazards. There is still a gap between present and necessary levels of adaptation, which is largely due to the lack of available funding. The IPCC predicts that by 2030 and 2050, respectively, developing nations alone will have adaptation needs totaling $127 billion and $295 billion annually. Barely 4-8% of tracked climate financing, which totaled $579 billion in 2017-18, is being allocated to adaptation. To achieve the COP26 targets (United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021), the government is also working towards creating sustainable finance and having a green taxonomy

Adaptation Based on Ecosystems: This strategy includes a wide range of tactics, including the preservation, restoration, and sustainable management of ecosystems as well as more environmentally friendly agriculture techniques including adding trees to farms, diversifying the types of crops grown there, and planting trees in pastures. With co-benefits for biodiversity, livelihoods, health, food security, and carbon sequestration, ecosystem-based adaptation might lessen the climatic hazards that many people already suffer, such as droughts, intense heat waves, floods, and fires. These policies must be developed in meaningful cooperation with indigenous people and local communities, and they must take into account how future global warming will affect ecosystems.

New Technologies and Infrastructure: New research indicates that combining manmade choices like flood control channels with naturally occurring solutions could help lower dangers associated with water and the shoreline, especially in urban areas. Access to more advanced technology, such as more resilient animal breeds, solar and wind power, or more resilient agricultural kinds, can also aid boost resilience. However, some of these climate adaptation strategies may be hazardous if they are done incorrectly or with an inadequate design. For instance, expanding irrigation systems can reduce short-term climate risks but can also deplete already limited groundwater supplies. The impacts of climate change on various societal segments are interconnected. Food production and human health can be hampered by drought. In addition to harming ecosystems and infrastructure, flooding can spread illness. Health issues can reduce worker productivity, and increase mortality, while also having an impact on the availability of food. Every part of the world we live in is affected by climate change. However, the effects of climate change are not uniform throughout the nation and the world; even within a single city, different regions or people may experience different effects. Future scenarios that are predicted as an impact of climate change are not unavoidable. We already know a lot of the issues and potential fixes, and as we continue to study climate change, new hazards keep surfacing. By lowering warming and bringing emissions as close to zero as feasible, experts believe there is still time to prevent the worst-case scenario. It will be necessary to invest in new infrastructure and technology to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, which will generate jobs. Additionally, reducing emissions can minimize negative effects on human health, saving countless lives and the amount spent on medical treatment.

Conclusion : Global warming threatens both human and environmental health. Delaying action increases the likelihood that climate change will have disastrous effects on our planet, rendering it unrecognizable. A little window of opportunity to realize a sustainable, livable future for everyone exists in the coming years. To change course, immediate, bold, and coordinated measures must be made to reduce emissions, foster resilience, protect ecosystems, and vastly increase funding for adaptation and mitigating loss and damage. The 27th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP27), a pivotal event in the fight against climate change, was held from 6th to 18th November 2022 in Sharm elSheikh, Egypt. The 198 convention members gathered for the yearly summit to collaborate against the negative impacts of climate change. The world is not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 C, and events in the past year have made the road to achievement even more challenging. The continuation of international climate cooperation depends on the success of resolutions and decisions made during the COP27. Much will rest on the willingness of development countries to assist underdeveloped nations in dealing with the loss and damage brought on by climate change. Building on the results of COP26, COP27 brings action on a number of areas crucial to addressing the climate emergency; including decreasing greenhouse gas emissions urgently, fostering resilience, preparing for climate change's unavoidable effects, and fulfilling obligations to finance climate action in developing nations. At COP27, nations are urged to work together once more to fulfill the historic Paris Agreement for people and the environment in the face of a worsening energy crisis, record greenhouse gas concentrations, and an increase in extreme weather catastrophes. Building a compelling national narrative about climate change based on what India can do and what India needs is once again in the limelight as COP27 concludes. India's needs have been estimated by a number of different sources, with estimates ranging from $1 trillion to be invested over the next ten years to $10 trillion needed to achieve net zero by 2070. The majority of energy economy models concentrate on technological approaches to reducing emissions, making suggestions for renewable energy, hydrogen, carbon capture, demand management, etc. They lack the expertise to offer commentary on the political or behavioral aspects of putting these solutions into practice, such as the employment distributional effects of phase-out of coal, managing just transitions, coping with resource limitations, or even investigating whether alternate solutions trends of urbanization or economic growth are feasible. We require a more thorough and thoughtful approach to modeling. Studies should concentrate on the socioeconomic growth patterns, the management of the energy transition, predicted emissions, investment requirements, the study's approach to social fairness, the effects on the environment, and what it means for India's energy security. The two vital areas where the commitments made under the Paris Agreement have not been fulfilled are nevertheless climate finance and technology transfer. Additionally, equal attention to adaptation is a top priority for a developing nation like India because a significant part of the population is vulnerable to the growing hazards of climate change and natural disasters. The updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). for India has been authorized by the Prime Minister and will be submitted to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The updated NDC aims to boost India's contributions to the Paris Agreement's objective of strengthening the global response to the challenge of climate change. Such a strategy will also assist India in establishing growth routes with reduced emissions. Based on the UNFCCC's guiding policies and provisions, it would defend the interests of the nation and future development goals. The 2015 NDC included eight goals, three of which have quantitative targets for 2030, namely the creation of an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent through increased forest and tree cover and the achievement of cumulative installed non-fossil power capacity to reach 40% of GDP. According to the revised NDC, India is now committed to lowering the GDP's emissions intensity by 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and generating nearly half of all installed electric power capacity from sources other than fossil fuels. The Honorable Prime Minister's vision of sustainable lifestyles and climate justice to safeguard the weak and vulnerable from the negative effects of climate change. To advance and further disseminate a healthy and sustainable way of life-based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation, especially through a mass movement for 'LiFE'- Lifestyle for Environment as a cornerstone to addressing climate change. LiFE stands for Lifestyle for Environment. LiFE's mission is to live in harmony without causing environmental damage. And individuals that adopt such a way of life are referred to as "Pro-Planet People." Mission LiFE draws inspiration from the past, works in the present, and thinks about the future. The principles of "reduce," "use," and "recycle" are embedded in our everyday lives .In India's revised NDC, the citizen-centric approach to addressing climate change is also emphasized. India's decision to adopt increased NDCs demonstrates its commitment to fully decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.

(The author is Adviser & Young Professional NITI Ayog (Tourism) E-mail: duttamadhubanti89@ gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal.