India Faces More Titlis and Gajas as Developed World Sleeps Over Commitments to Fight Climate Change

Scientists attribute the increased frequency and severity of such disasters to global warming, which has been caused by massive carbon deposit in the space mainly by developed world over last one century.

New Delhi: As cyclonic storms Titli and Gaja hit India’s east and south-east coast in quick succession claiming more than 100 lives and rendering lakhs of people homeless within six weeks, the real culprits behind the cause of such disasters seem to show no urgency in averting the future crisis.

Scientists attribute the increased frequency and severity of such disasters to global warming, which has been caused by massive carbon deposit in the space mainly by developed world over last one century.

Ironically, rich countries not only continue to be in a denial mode but they are also thwarting the progress towards the operationalisation of the Paris Agreement signed by about 200 nations in 2015. Under the Paris deal, all nations have committed voluntary steps to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to control the global warming and these commitments will be legally binding on them once the deal is operationalised.

Just before the start of climate summit next month in Katowice, Poland, CNN-News18 has learned that developed nations have ganged up to slow down the operationalization of Paris deal. Sources closely involved in the negotiations before the Katowice summit have revealed that the finalisation of the rule book looks unlikely in this summit. The Paris deal has to come into effect by the year 2020 and the rule book is a guiding manual to implement this deal.

The final rule book would be an imperative to implement the Paris deal like enforcement of any law requires executive rules under the law. According to the agreed timeline, the rule book should be finalised in Katowice summit but sources tell us that rich countries have deviated from their promises made in Paris deal. These promises are critical to limit the temperature to keep the world safer.

Nations like US, Australia, Japan and Canada have joined hands and raised objection to several demands made by developing countries including the key issue of finance. Under this commitment by rich nations in Paris deal they are obligated to provide financial assistance to developing and poor nations who have suffered the climate impacts for no fault of theirs. However, US had announced to withdraw from Paris deal in early 2017, soon after Donald Trump came to power, while it still keeps influencing the negotiations.

Like finance, the issue of reporting on climate action has also hit the roadblock. The rich nations want the same yardsticks of reporting applied on all nations which may not be possible for many developing and poor countries given the inadequate or no resources available to them.

The contradiction is that while developed countries want equal yardsticks for reporting of step taken to curb climate change, they are not in favour of practising transparency in providing finance. This is a critical situation for the developing countries, particularly for the small island nations and least developed countries. If the rich nations don’t relent and the deadlock continues it will become impossible to implement the Paris deal in set timeline and that will be a serious blow to the efforts to contain global warming.

“The whole idea of rule book getting finalised in Poland conference is to keep the timeline sacrosanct. It then enables countries to get through the domestic process next year (in 2019) so that the deal comes into effect by 2020 seamlessly,” told an observer following the negotiations closely. “But this attitude of rich nations may seriously impact the deal and the road map.”

This development is also important because world over the extreme weather events like heavy rainfall in short intervals, long spells of droughts, heat waves and cyclonic storms are becoming rather frequent and more severe. This fact was vastly acknowledged by the renowned scientific body Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its special report released last month. IPCC has warned in its special report about the serious consequences if rise in the temperature of earth goes beyond 1.5ºC.

IPCC report clearly tells us that sea level is rising and calamities (like Titli and Gaja) will occur more frequently and can be more severe due to global warming in future. Obviously, countries like India will be biggest victim in such a scenario as India has got more around 7500km-long coastline and 300 million people live along this. Many of these people depend on shoreline for their livelihood. Similarly, the rising temperature can inflict disasters in the fragile eco zones like Himalaya where thousands of glacier and glacial lakes are situated.

The 2013 Kedarnath tragedy in Uttarakhand is a grim reminder of this fact where more than 5,000 people died and thousands are still missing. The disaster occurred due to heavy incessant rain for several days, unusual snowfall early that year and quick melting of it during rains and bursting of a lake above Kedarnath shrine which caused massive floods and landslides. All these factors combined together to play havoc at 11,500 feet height of Kedarnath shrine.

India will bear the brunt also because most of its agriculture is dependent on rain and the danger of crop failure can increase the problem of farmers who are already under duress. The global average temperature of earth has increased by almost 1 degree C compared to pre-industrial level already and the earth is getting warmer at a much faster rate than feared. IPCC has cautioned that we are left with only 12 years’ time to save the earth from touching the threshold of 1.5 degrees C temperature rise.

To achieve this target the world will have to cut down the carbon emissions by 45% over 2010 level by 2030. This requires a massive increase in the commitments made by developed countries in the Paris deal.

Clearly, developing countries face an uphill task at Katowice Climate Summit next month to force the developed world to come around and India will have to muster support with other nations to build up pressure if we don’t want tragedies like Gaja, Titli or Kedarnath floods as frequently as they are visiting us in our backyard.

(The author is a senior journalist. All views expressed are personal)