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Climate Change: Biggest Challenge to Human Civilization

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By Prof. Dr. Badar Alam Iqbal *

Global warming is the most vital and strategic issue for the human population irrespective of developed and developing countries. Unfortunately, both developed and developing economies are not serious to this problem and challenge. Any real breakthrough has not been made out during the different vital summits that have taken place. Latest example is Durban summit held in 2011 in South Africa is being considered more myth in nature and contents than a reality. This is because the proposed cuts in the emissions rates at the Durban are too little.

In December 2011, 190 countries had arrived at deal that is to work toward a future treaty that will need all nations to reduce emissions that are responsible for increasing global warming. The deal on a future treaty is the most contested element of a package of agreements that had emerged from the Durban Summit. The summit had also agreed upon the creation of fund to help poor nations adapt to global warming, and further to measures involving the preservation of topical forests and development of clean-energy technology. While Governments avoided disaster in Durban, the nations by no means responded adequately to the rising threat of global warming. [Broder, GM; the Hindus; New Delhi; December 12;  2011]


Durban summit was the globe last chance to make world green house gas (GHG) emissions peak by 2020, and breathe new life into the globe sole legally binding climate agreement popularly known as Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, when its first phase would end. It is an undisputed fact that unless developed nations of the North continent reduce their 1990 level emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020, and emissions start falling rapidly after that, irreversible, catastrophic climate change would become certain. Unfortunately, Durban Summit had decided to defer any significant and strategic global warming action or strategy till after 2020 then it would be too late. [the Hindu; New Delhi; December 12, 2011]

Major Issues Decided at Durban:

United Nations climate change negotiations at Durban agreed a package of measures that are forcing global polluters to take legally binding action to slow the pace of world warming. The measures are as under:

a)    After the collapse of Copenhagen negotiations during 2009 to come up with a new; internationally binding deal, and only incremental progress a year later in Cancun, a partial legal vacuum had loomed as drafting a new U.N. treaty is extremely time-consuming. Durban deal extended Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase on emissions cuts run from 2008 to the end of 2012. The second commitment period would run from January 1, 2012 till the end of December 2017.

At the request of the European Union  (EU) and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the negotiators agreed upon to initiate a work plan to explore and identify options for closing the “ambition gap” between nations’ present emissions reduction pledges fro 2020 and the goal of keeping world warming below 2oC.

b)    The Durban package bring into operation new arrangements fro making more transparent the actions taken by both developed and developing economies to tackle their emissions. This is the most vital and strategic step for building the missing trust between parties.

c)    The Durban Summit also made a progress by agreeing the design and structure of Green Climate Fund (GCF) to channel up to US $ 100 billion a year by 2020 to poorer economies, but achieved little on establishing where the money would come from to meet the targets of US $ 100 billion.

d)    The negotiators had also agreed upon to define new market mechanism under a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, but pushed forward a decision to bring up rules for them in 2012. Nations would work for a new mechanism over the next 12 months with a view to making recommendations at a summit in Qatar at the end of 2012.

Another Perception on Durban Summit:

Worse, the roadmap agreed upon four years ago at Bali, which erected a firewall between the North’s obligations and the South’s voluntary measures, would be abandoned next year. The Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, constituted at Bali to strengthen the convention’s implementation, would be terminated. A new process would begin, considerable dilution of the Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) principle, that maintains that while all nations share a duty to protect climate, their respective obligations are unequal; the North must do more than the South because it is responsible for nearly three-fourths of all GHGs accumulated in the atmosphere. [Bidwai; P; the Hindu; New Delhi; December 29, 2011]

Historic Emissions:

The thinking of developed and developing nations which has been on the way for the alt 20 years, in regard to global warming would not work positively and constructively. The most strategic and vital issue is ‘historic emissions’. The developed economies have started burning fossil fuels earlier and so bear responsibility for most of the CO2 already in the atmosphere. Balancing that, many countries have worked harder to reduce emissions than others. The European Union for example, has, while China has invested heavily in renewable in recent years, so these countries could take credit for such steps. Then there is the differing of each nation. For example, those economies with large forests provide a valuable service in absorbing carbon, while others’ circumstances afford less opportunity to make use of low-carbon power. Japan is a case of under reference, having pledged to phase out nuclear power; it would be hard pressed to explore enough renewable options. [Biro; F; Austria; December 13, 2011]

Money Flow:

Funds availability is the most cortical bottleneck in implementing the decisions taken at the various summits. Developing nations have been promised US $ 100 billion a year by 2020, from developed economies and private sector, in order to help them move to green economy and cope with the effects of global warming. But is not clear that overall where these massive funds would come from.

In the aftermath of the talks some officials were in easy mood that United Nations process had been vindicated. For years, the question of whether economies required to sign a legally binding international treaty or could simply make national commitments that could later be changed meaning thereby “pledge and review” which is certainly is one of the most contentious issues.

Race for Green Energy:

The United States of America reclaimed the top rank in the worldwide clean energy race in 2011.  This is there due to policy uncertainty. The US leadership is likely to be short-lived after a variety of clean energy programmes expired at the end of 2011. Although, China relatively flat year in 2011 cooled the rapid pace of growth in the Asian region, new opportunities are emerging in the flourishing markets of India, Indonesia, Australia and Japan Clean energy investments in India have increased by 54 per cent in 2011 to a figure of US $ 10.2 billion. The wind sector in India led the way, attracting US $ 4.6 billion and spurring deployment of 2.8 GW during the year under reference. India’s pursuit of its ‘National Solar Mission” is aiming to deploy 20 GW of solar energy by the end of 2020, is also evident in the increase in investment to a level of US $ 4.2 billion.

Green Expectations at Rio:

The United Nations has organized a conference on sustainable development at Rio in June 2012. One of the major areas that are missing is the subject of global warming. The most astonishing thing is that how sustainable development is possible with out controlling or reducing global warming. These two issues are interdependent. According to the a recent report released by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the length, frequency, and or intensity of warm spells or heat waves would increase over the most land areas. It is also possible that the frequency of heavy precipitation or the proportion of heavy falls to total rainfall would rise in the present 21st Century over many areas of the world. The losses arising out of these would vary region to region. For example, fatality rates and economic losses expressed as a proportion of gross domestic product are higher in developing countries.

 Hostility between the EU and other Major Countries:

India has joined the US and 15 other major countries of the world in opposing European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which requires carriers flying to or from Europe to offset their carbon emissions. The participants’ nations chalked out a common strategy against the EU’s emission trading scheme. These countries have been clear both in the meeting and any number of times thereafter that they are strongly opposed to the application of the ETS and have had quite strong and vigorous words concerning the application of ETS to foreign carriers.

The meeting was convened in Washington with a group of major aviation economies for supporting the process of making progress on reducing emissions in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is the multilateral body charged with handling international aviation. Experts are also working on the development of the ‘global standards’ required to enhance the improvement of airline operations, things like air traffic management, which are actually enormously important, a big part of reducing emissions.

* Prof. Dr. Badar Alam Iqbal; Fulbright and Ford Foundation Visiting Professor; Adjunct Professor; Monarch Business School; Switzerland; Full Professor; Department of Commerce, Aligarh Muslim University; Aligarh(UP) India.

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