Wednesday, December 20, 2023

MUSINGS from PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: Reflections on COP28 Outcome

 (The original Marathi article was published in Maharashtra Times Sunday Supplement on 17 Dec 2023. This is the English translation.)

Outcome of COP28

Priyadarshini Karve, Convener, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)

After the industrial revolution in the mid-19th century in Europe, industrialization based on mineral coal and other fossil fuels took off in Europe. Although political empires of European countries broke down globally after the Second World War in the twentieth century, globalization of industrialization based on fossil fuels continued. Due to the increasing use of fossil fuels, the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the environment has increased, leading to a rise in average temperature, contributing to global warming, a phenomenon that became widely recognized after the 1960s through scientific research. Since 1980s scientists started warning that due to this temperature increase, the delicate balance of local weather everywhere will be disrupted, leading to adverse effects on people's livelihoods and economies in the coming century. Acknowledging this threat, the establishment of the 'United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change' (UNFCCC) took place in the 1990s under the auspices of the United Nations. In this field, the 'Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change' (IPCC) was established during the same period to gather scientific knowledge and to provide interpretations of the science for the policy makers across the world. It is expected that based on the periodic and well-publicized reports of the IPCC, the UNFCCC should formulate strategies to tackle global warming and participating countries should implement and adhere to them.

To monitor the progress of these efforts, annual sessions lasting two weeks are held in November-December. These gatherings are known as the 'Conference of Parties' or 'COP.'

In 1997, a significant decision was made during the third meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Kyoto, Japan, known as the 'Kyoto Protocol.' Recognizing that 37 developed countries have reaped the maximum benefit from the use of fossil fuels until the 1990s, it was considered their responsibility to save the world from the impending crisis. To reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, these countries committed to concerted efforts, and the new concept of carbon market emerged from this.

However, the developed countries did not fulfill their responsibilities under the agreement. By 2010, it was obvious that the Kyoto Protocol had totally failed. Nevertheless, the information about the issues related to global warming reached citizens and stakeholders in developed countries, leading to increased awareness. This lead to a few responsible industries taking action, but the efforts made were quite inadequate.

From the industrial revolution until the 2010s, there was a noticeable increase in the average temperature of the earth. This temperature rise had diverse consequences, affecting different parts of the world. There was a reduction in snow cover at the poles, an increase in the sea level, disruptions in rain cycle, and an increase in natural disasters like cyclones. The awareness of this global crisis reached ordinary people worldwide.

Scientists had indicated that if the unrestricted use of fossil fuels continued, the Earth could warm by more than 5-6 degrees Celsius by 2100. This warming had the potential to disrupt global socio-economic systems, affecting the lives of people and the environment. Perhaps these warnings gave an impetus to the negotiations and all the countries agreed on a new approach to tackle climate change in the COP at Paris in 2015.

The Paris Agreement in 2015 aimed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and strive to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Countries agreed to voluntary action plans and regular reporting of progress. The agreement acknowledged that developed nations, which had historically contributed more to greenhouse gas emissions and totally failed to implement the Kyoto agreement, needed to support developing nations in their efforts to address climate change. The Paris agreement was to be operationalised from the start of 2021 but that was delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic. However by now more or less all the countries have worked according to the agreement for a couple of years. New commitments are expected in 2025. Recently COP28 concluded in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. To take stock of the progress so far and to initiate formulation of the next set of commitments was the main agenda for this meeting.

After 2010, significant advancements in renewable energy technologies and some efforts under the Paris Agreement have led to a collective result. As a result, the estimated increase in the Earth's average temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions is now projected to stabilize around 3-4 degrees Celsius by 2100. Although this goal is more challenging than the target of limiting the increase to 1.5-2 degrees, if more ambitious commitments are made by countries every 5 years and if the low carbon technologies continue to develop rapidly, this target is still achievable.

Despite the progress, the global use of fossil fuels continues to rise. The Earth's average temperature has already increased by 1.2 degrees Celsius. According to scientists, limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees is difficult but not impossible. If beyond 2030, fossil fuel consumption decreased globally and in the next two decades, it dropped to zero the target can be achieved. However if the fossil fuel continued to rise beyond 2030 the temperature increase will go beyond 1.5 degrees by 2050 and the second half of the 21st century will destroy the progress made by humans over the last 11-12 thousand years. Science is clearly warning that this is not a battle for some distant future but it is a battle for survival for you and me and our children and grandchildren that are already here. The future will be decided by what decisions are taken about the energy generation and use by us in our personal and professional lives and by the governments on the policy and implementation level. We are all creating the history of the future today.

The outcome of the COP28 that ended on 13 December should be seen in this background. This year's conference was hosted by a country at the forefront of providing fossil fuel to the world. The host country had chosen the head of its leading petroleum company to lead the conference. Therefore many people were afraid that the slow moving train of the Paris agreement might be derailed in this meeting.

It is crucial to address the continued use of mineral fuels to avoid reaching the 1.5-degree threshold and experiencing irreversible consequences. The future will witness changes in how countries, individuals, and businesses generate and utilize energy. The official implementation of the Paris Agreement is expected to begin in 2021, emphasizing the urgency of global cooperation. The Conference of Parties (COP 28) held in Dubai under the leadership of the United Arab Emirates provided a platform for discussing and advancing climate-related initiatives.

The beginning of the COP was marked by an important and satisfying decision. In the past year, during the 'COP 27' held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, a significant decision was unanimously reached. To assist poorer countries facing the most severe impacts of climate change, a new fund named 'Loss and Damage' was proposed. Developed countries were urged to contribute. United Arab Emirates, being a prosperous but developing country, declared its commitment on the first day of 'COP 28' by contributing to this fund. This step put a moral pressure on the developed countries and several of them announced their own contributions. Unfortunately, the developed countries have yet to fulfil their promised financial assistance for adaption to the developing countries. This new fund has faced financial challenges, with only a few hundred thousand dollars announced despite the urgent need for billions for 'Loss and Damage.'

The last 2-3 days of extensive negotiations lead to a declaration that pleasantly surprised many.

In global geopolitics, the fossil fuel producers have such a strong grip on the world politics that in the past 27 years, the term 'fossil fuels' has not even been mentioned in any unanimous declaration from UNFCCC. Perhaps, for this reason, mineral fuel-producing countries needed to take leadership roles! Due to the global temperature rise caused by coal and other petroleum fuels, the world needs to transition away from fossil fuels, has been mentioned in various contexts in this declaration. However, there is also criticism that the wording is vague and can therefore create loopholes. However many people believe that now that the issue has been stated the ambiguities can be resolved over the years. Had this transition started from the start of the century many communities worst affected by climate change could have been saved. This regret has also been expressed by the few commentators.

Protestors at COP28 demanding that Africa must get technology and finance
to go in for renewable energy in a big way. 

Lack of economic aid required for developing countries to move away from mineral fuels was emphasized in this declaration. The developed countries had managed to keep such a mention out of the declarations for years. 'COP 28' has achieved success in this regard on the international stage. However, the failure of developed countries in this regard has not been explicitly mentioned. The declaration aspires to triple the renewable energy generation in this decade, and this needs to be welcomed.

These issues have been mentioned in the declaration. Now, these need to reflect in the declarations to come in 2025 from each country. For this, all wise and responsible citizens worldwide need to create public pressure on their governments. Can common people go beyond their national prides, to build bridges over the disagreements, debates, and wars of their national and international interests to build a global unity for the sake of the bright future of human society? This is the pertinent question.

Monday, December 11, 2023


(The original Marathi article was published in Lokmat daily on 8 Dec 2023. This is the English translation.) 

However much may the mercury rise, India says, coal must be burned!

At the UNFCCC Conference COP 28, 'What India will not do' is what we are saying!

The first week of the twenty-eighth annual meeting on global warming concluded on December 6 in Dubai. In addition to government delegations, representatives of various groups from around the world act as observers, of which I was one. If global warming is not controlled, economic-social-political system will collapse in next two-three decades. So the role India is taking in the negotiations in this conference is directly related to your and my daily life.

Dr Priyadarshini Karve speaking at a Press Conference organising by IGSSS
to highlight the plight of cities in the developing world in the face of climate change

India's annual average contribution to global warming since 2000 is third/fourth in the world. From the beginning, India was criticized for setting very modest goals under the Paris Agreement. But since India's share of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the last two hundred years is barely 3-4 per cent, there is no reason to set ambitious targets, was India's stand. It is against this background that the announcement that we have achieved our target of increasing the share of renewable energy sources in electricity generation ahead of schedule should be seen.

Two years ago there was to be a resolution for 'phasing out' mineral coal. India intervened at the last minute and demanded that the wording should be changed either to phasing out all fossil fuels or phasing down coal. This forced a change in the resolution to 'phasing down'. This issue is back on the agenda at this conference held in a fossil fuel producing country.

All fuel producing countries, including the host, have taken a stand that use of fossil fuels will continue, focus will be on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from mining and refining fossil fuels. India has made it clear that it will continue to use coal. Scientists and observers agree that the use of all fossil fuels should be phased out. In fact, many studies suggest that India's entire energy system can be based on renewable energy by 2047. Yet it is apparent that the Indian government is only taking a stand on continuing coal consumption due to pressure from large coal producers. India did not sign the two declarations that came out of the conference in the first week itself also because of the same pressure to some extent. 

On December 1, a manifesto was issued by 130 countries on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in food production systems. The use of mineral fuels has a major contribution in food production. Therefore, there is a need for technical and financial contribution to achieve food security while reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. India has reduced the use of diesel for irrigation by using solar pumps extensively. Instead of chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers, natural farming, etc. Incentive schemes have also been implemented. But still India does not want to participate in this agreement. One reason may be that the goal of reducing methane emissions may be inconvenient due to the large livestock population, but there is also pressure from fossil fuel companies that produce chemical fertilizers.

Covid-19 highlighted the link between warming and health crises. Health systems require uninterrupted and good quality power supply. Therefore, a declaration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while strengthening the world's health system was issued on December 3 by 124 countries.

India stayed away from with an official statement that the goals of this declaration were unrealistic. But there is an overall impression that India has taken this position as it has been prominently stated in the manifesto that power generation from coal should be reduced in order to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from this sector. 

On the very first day of the conference the host country announced that it would contribute to the Loss and Damage fund. Except for the cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the rest of the United Arab Emirates is backward, so this country is considered a developing country. So a developing country taking such a lead shamed developed countries like Germany, USA and others to also announce their contribution. There is indirect pressure on other capable developing countries like China, India, etc. Still no comment has been received from India in this regard.

In general, at least in the first week, what India will not do in terms of measures against the increase in temperature has been highlighted.

Priyadarshini Karve, Convener, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)


Monday, May 29, 2023

माझं शहर माझी जबाबदारी - स्वच्छ, हिरव्या नद्या आणि बरंच काही हवं!!!!

प्रिय मित्रांनो, 

जागरूक नागरिकांसोबत सेल्फी!

पुणे नदी पुनरुज्जीवन (पीआरआर) चळवळीचा भाग होणे हा एक आव्हानात्मक प्रवास आहे. पुणे महापालिकेने प्रस्तावित केलेली आपल्या नदीकिनाऱ्यांवरील तथाकथित 'पुनरुज्जीवन' योजना रद्द व्हावी आणि जीवितनदी संस्थेने सुचवलेला पर्यावरणपूरक पर्याय स्वीकारावा, यासाठी जीवितनदी या संस्थेच्या पुढाकाराने सुरू झालेल्या चळवळीत सहभागी नागरिक विविध प्रकारे प्रयत्न करत आहेत!

नदीच्या ज्या भागात या प्रकल्पाअंतर्गत बेसुमार विनाशकारी काम सुरू करण्यात आले आहे, त्या भागात अधूनमधून फेरीचे आयोजन केले जाते. मी बंड गार्डनच्या परिसरातील अशाच एका फेरीत सहभागी झाले होते. तिथे मी ५०० मीटरपेक्षा कमी अंतरावर सुमारे ७००-१००० वृक्षांची बेकायदेशीर कत्तल पाहिली. आपण कल्पना करू शकता की या पट्ट्यालगतची झाडी किती घनदाट आहे. या ७००+ वृक्षांमध्ये चांगले वाढलेले, पन्नास वर्षे किंवा त्याहून जुने स्थानिक वृक्षही होते. या वृक्षांसोबत हजारो पक्षी, सस्तन प्राणी, कीटक आणि सूक्ष्मजीव (एक चांगली जैवविविधता) नांदत होते. यातील काही वृक्षांचे म्हणे पुनर्रोपण होणार आहे... पण इथे जे नष्ट होत आहे त्यात झुडपांपासून वृक्षांपर्यंत विविध स्तरांमध्ये वाढलेली वनश्री आहे. अगदी चांगल्या नैसर्गिक जंगलाची एक छोटी प्रतिकृतीच जणू.

कापण्यासाठी चिन्हांकित केलेले परिपक्व झाड

मात्र, विकासाची प्रक्रिया जलद गतीने व्हावी, यासाठी या वनश्रीवर राडारोडा व दगड टाकून निर्दयीपणे हे जंगल नष्ट केले जात आहे. माझे सहकारी सत्या आणि उमा म्हणाले की, ते या झाडांना 'जिवंत समाधी' देत आहेत.

हे ज्या पद्धतीने होत आहे ते निव्वळ अनाकलनीय आणि अतार्किक आहे, जुनी वाढलेली सध्याची झाडे आणि घनदाट वनश्री नष्ट करून त्या जागी हिरव्या गवताचे ठिपके, ठरावीक अंतरावर नियोजन करून लावलेली  एकांडी झाडे आणि काँक्रीटच्या रचना उभ्या करण्यातून काय साध्य होते?  आपले नदीकाठ शाश्वत करण्यासाठी नक्कीच वेगळे मार्ग काढावे लागतील.

बांधकामाच्या ढिगाऱ्याखाली पडलेली झाडे आणि झुडपे

नदीपात्र कसे कार्य करते, त्याची वैशिष्ट्ये काय आहेत आणि नदी कोणत्या परिसंस्थिकीय सेवा पुरवते याच्या मूलभूत समजेचा अभाव येथे स्पष्टपणे दिसून येतो. नदीचे पाणी जलपर्णीने भरलेले (आपल्याला नको असलेली हिरवाई) आणि दुर्गंधीयुक्त आहे. हा भाग बोट क्लबचाही भाग असल्याने येथे नौकाविहाराची व्यवस्था करण्याची योजना आहे, मात्र जोपर्यंत नद्यांमध्ये सातत्याने स्वच्छ पाणी येत नाही, तोपर्यंत त्यात बोटी चालविणे किंवा नदीतले इतर कोणतेही उपक्रम राबवणे अशक्य आहे. नदी मेली आहे, तिचे पुनरुज्जीवन करायला हवे आहे! 

नदीमध्ये जलपर्णी

नदीपात्रातल्या या विध्वंसाबरोबरच तिथे चालू असलेल्या कामावरील मजूरांच्या वसाहतीतील दृश्यही निराशाजनक होते. कामगार, त्यांचे कुटुंबीय आणि लहान मुले पत्र्याच्या तात्पुरत्या झोपड्यांमध्ये राहत असून उन्हाच्या तीव्र लाटेला सामोरे जात आहेत. मात्र या झोपड्यांना पूर्ण वाढलेल्या झाडांच्या सावलीचाच काय तो आधार आहे. काय विडंबन आहे पहा! 

बांधकाम कामगारांची तात्पुरती वसाहत

कामगार व त्यांच्या कुटुंबियां अवस्था आणि नदीकाठावरील विध्वंसक काम पाहून नदीकाठ विकासाची ही सारी प्रक्रिया किती निष्काळजी आणि अज्ञानी आहे, याची जाणीव होते! नागरिकांचे जीवनमान उंचावणे हा या प्रकल्पाचा एक हेतू आहे, असे त्यांचे म्हणणे आहे, पण त्याचे प्रतिबिंब या प्रक्रियेतसुध्दा उमटलेले नाही! 

असे म्हटले जाते की आम्ही पर्यावरणवादी किंवा कार्यकर्ते किंवा जे काही नाव ते आम्हाला नावे देतात ते आम्ही सर्व विकासाच्या विरोधात आहोत… तर होय, आम्ही आहोत या असल्या विकासाच्या विरोधात! कारण हे २०२३ आहे आणि आपण अजूनही १९८० च्या दशकात असल्यासारखे काम करत आहोत. त्या काळात आपल्याला 'शाश्वतता' हा शब्द माहीत होता पण त्याचा अर्थ पुरता आकळलेला नव्हता. आपण आपल्या आजूबाजूच्या आपल्याच लोकांना आणि आपल्या पर्यावरणाला कधीही महत्व दिले नाही, परंतु आता वेळ आली आहे की आपण स्वत: ला वाचविण्यासाठी शाश्वततेच्या आधुनिक निकषांचे पालन केले पाहिजे आणि आपल्या विकासाच्या कल्पनेला शाश्वत विकास लक्ष्यांशी जोडून घेतले पाहिजे.  

जागतिक वातावरण बदलाच्या संकटामुळे वाढता उकाडा आणि दिवसागणिक हवामानात अचानक होणारे बदल यांना आपण सामोरे जात आहोतच. त्यात ही निष्काळजी, बेफिकीरी, पैसा कमावण्याची हाव आपल्याला परवडणारी नाही. आपली अर्थव्यवस्था भरभराटीला यावी जरूर, पण आपले पर्यावरण आणि आपले लोक यांचीही भरभराट व्हायला हवी!!!

शहरात होत असलेला हा तथाकथित विकास पाहिल्यानंतर एक जागरूक नागरिक म्हणून मला माझ्या प्रश्नाचे उत्तर हवे आहे - आपण कुठे जात आहोत???

कोणत्याही सुशोभीकरणाआधी आम्हाला मूलभूत सेवांची आवश्यकता आहे, त्यापैकी काहींची ही यादी.

प्रदूषणमुक्त व सुरक्षित सुरक्षित सार्वजनिक जागा .

स्वच्छ नद्या.

खड्डेमुक्त रस्ते .

योग्य सावली असलेले सुरक्षित वाहन तळ. 

वाहतुकीचे कार्यक्षम व्यवस्थापन.

चालणे आणि सायकल चालविण्यासाठी सुरक्षित रस्ते.

फक्त आवश्यक तिथेच उड्डाणपूल (आणि आपल्या टेकड्यांचा बळी देणारे उड्डाणपूल अजिबात नकोत).

कार्यक्षम कचरा व्यवस्थापन सेवा (अर्थातच वर्गीकरण केलेला कचरा कचरावेचकांना देण्याची जबाबदारी नागरिकांची!) 100% सेंद्रिय कचऱ्याचे जागेवरच व्यवस्थापन (कंपोस्ट / बायोगॅस / बायोचार अशी तंत्रे वापरून).

सांडपाण्यावर १०० टक्के प्रक्रिया करून या पाण्याचा बांधकामासाठी वापर करून स्थानिक गोड्या पाण्याच्या स्त्रोतांवरील भार कमी करणे. 

विजेचे कार्यक्षम, सातत्यपूर्ण आणि स्वच्छ स्त्रोत आणि शाश्वत पाणी पुरवठा. 

जेथे शक्य असेल तेथे (निवासी वसाहतींत शक्यतो १०० टक्के) पावसाचे पाणी साठवणे.

असलेले भूजलवाहक, नैसर्गिक व सांस्कृतिक वारसा क्षेत्रे आणि आपल्या टेकड्या आणि नद्यांचे संवर्धन व संरक्षण. 

या यादीत आणखीही भर घातली जाऊ शकते. या गुगल फॉर्मद्वारे आपण आपल्या सूचना पाठवू शकता. 

जोपर्यंत हे सारे होत नाही, तोपर्यंत आपल्या नैसर्गिक परिसंस्थेची मोडतोड करणाऱ्या आणि गडद काळ्या भविष्याचे कृत्रिम हिरवे चित्र रंगवणाऱ्या कोणत्याही सुशोभित नदीकाठ प्रकल्पाची आपल्याला गरज नाही!

पौर्णिमा आगरकर.

PS: Marathi translation by Dr Priyadarshini Karve .

Like/Follow/Share us on FacebookInstagramTwitter  Citizens of Sustainable Pune

Saturday, May 20, 2023

My City My Responsibility - Need Clean, Green Rivers and much more!!!!

 Dear Friends, 

Selfie with fellow concerned citizens!

Being part of the Pune River Revival (PRR) movement has been a challenging journey. Everyday a group of concerned citizens and members of Jeevitnadi, the organisation which is spearheading this movement are striving harder from all the spheres just to ensure that the so-called 'rejuvenation' plan on our RIVERFRONT proposed by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) be SCRAPPED and the ecological ALTERNATIVE suggested by Jeevitnadi team be adopted! 

Mature tree marked to be cut

Every now and then there's a walk on the stretches where the rampant devastating work has been initiated. I visited the stretch at the Bund Garden where I witnessed illegitimate cutting of almost 700-1000 trees in a stretch of less than 500 m. You can imagine how dense is the vegetation along the stretch. Among these 700+ trees there were several trees that were old grown mature heritage trees that housed thousands of birds, mammals, insects and microorganisms (a good biodiversity). There are a number of trees that are planted for transplanting blah blah...while a lot of them are shrubs forming a kind of layered vegetation, a mini version of forest setting that we generally see in a typical forest ecosystem. 

However, this vegetation is being ruthlessly cleared either by cutting or simply dumping construction debris on it in order to ensure fast tracking the DEVELOPMENT process. My fellow citizens Satya and Uma said that they are giving LIVE samadhi to these trees in Marathi it is 'Jivant Samadhi'.

The way this is taking place is simply mindless and illogical, because there's no point in clearing old grown existing trees and dense vegetation just to create newly grown green grass patches along with other manicured vegetation and concrete structures. Definitely there has to be a way out in order to make our riverfront sustainable! 

Trees and shrubs dumped under the debris

The basic LACK of understanding in HOW the riverbed functions, WHAT are its features and WHAT ecosystem services it offers can be clearly seen here. The river water is full of water hyacinth (green that we don't want) and is smelly. Since this stretch is also part of the Boat club there's plan to have boating activity here, however unless we have consistent clean running water in the rivers, boat rides or any activity along the river is worthless. The river is dead, needs restoration!  

Water hyacinth in the river

Apart from this destruction, the scene at the construction labor colony, had been a disheartening scene too. The workers, their families and young ones are residing in tin sheet temporary hutments and facing the scorching heat waves. However these hutments are being sheltered by the full grown trees demarcated to be cleared. What an irony! 

Construction workers colony

Seeing their condition and the destructive site work just gives one an understanding that how careless and ignorant is the overall process of riverfront development! They say project intends to give quality of life to the citizens but it does not reflect in the process! 

If then it is said that WE the environmentalist or activists or whatever names they call us are against development then YES, we are! Because this is 2023 and we are still functioning as if we are in the 1980's when we knew the word 'sustainability' without knowing its meaning. We never valued our people and our environment but now is the time we better adhere to the present norms and align ourselves to the Sustainable Development Goals in order to save ourselves.  

With the rising heat and abrupt changes in day to day weather because of the Climate crisis that we all are in, we cannot afford this careless, mindless, money minting attitude. Lets ensure our economy thrives but so does our environment and our people!!!

As a concerned citizen I want answers to all the so-called development happening in the city as to where are we heading???

We need our basic services in place, listing some of them below.

  • Pollution free spaces. 
  • Clean rivers.
  • Safe public spaces.
  • Pothole free roads.
  • Appropriate shaded parking spaces. 
  • Efficiently managed traffic.
  • Safe walking and cycling spaces.
  • Less or only required flyovers (and NO flyovers at the expense of our hills).
  • Efficient waste management services (segregation first by citizens of course!) with 100% organic waste managed at source (compost/biogas/biochar).
  • 100% treatment of wastewater and using this water for construction activities reducing load on local fresh water sources. 
  • Efficient, consistent and clean sources of electricity and sustainable water supply. 
  • Rainwater harvesting wherever feasible and 100% for residential complexes.
  • Conservation of existing aquifers, green spaces, heritage areas and our hills and water bodies. 

More can be added to the list. Please share your opinion on this poll: Click here

Unless we have these in place, we DON'T need any beautified riverfront that compromises our natural ecosystem services and paints artificial green picture having a dark black future!

Pournima Agarkar.

Like/Follow/Share us on FacebookInstagramTwitter  Citizens of Sustainable Pune

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Firsthand experience at the COP27 Egypt

Hello people, 

Being a local from Pune and working along with grassroot initiatives gives me a feeling of immense pleasure and satisfaction. But when you get a chance to talk about the initiatives with people at a global platform it’s the next level feeling.

The 27th Conference of Parties (COP) is one of the most expensive ones happening post covid. It is partly as a recovery from the pandemic and partly because the host city is a resort city. One may feel why organize such large scale meetings and consultations? Why to add to the already increasing emissions pool?

Trust me this global meeting is very much needed from accountability perspective. It’s a platform where NGOs, Activists, Youth, Civil Society Members like you and me get an opportunity to hold the Head of the States, Ministers and Negotiators our leaders responsible for their actions at an international level. This platform has a legal binding so if that is a fight it is to be fought here.

Entrance banner

Now that all the carbon emissions happening due to the meeting with all the flights coming in and with all the resources that are being pulled in for this annual meeting are being optimized but there's still a lot of scope.

So far, this year’s COP has been disappointing from Climate Finance perspective since so far only a few million dollars have been poured in by the emitters when what we need is billions of dollars for all the loss and damage that has already been occurred. There are a lot of ‘Ifs and Buts’ on how to fund and whom to fund...blah blah blah.

But with whatever sessions I attended and with all the work that we are doing at INECC, LAYA and Samuchit I am quite hopeful, and this COP added value to my HOPE. The work that is happening at local level has immense potential to take on the whole world without the petty finance from these historic emitters or the so-called developed nations. Nevertheless, from justice point of view it is their moral and legal responsibility to fund their fellow people on this planet. That too in the form of absolute fund and not in debt, this point was raised very clearly in one of the sessions that I attended. Climate crisis is indeed a human rights issue and it’s our right to ask for all that is lost and damaged with or without the political will. Our environment and surroundings are not dependent on us, we humans are dependent on them. Our world leaders have to realize they are on a suicidal pathway. If they don't, it's time for us to change our leaders who can turn the tide! That's where our work with engaging citizens and youth gets crucial. 

Side event on Global Goal on Adaptation by CAN 

Nevertheless, this COP also gives me HOPE, to see so many developing countries, indigenous groups and even a war struck nation like Ukraine making a point to come here on a global platform and put forth their perspective. Though some are playing a victim card, but they are here to show that we need to be heard and that is important. A lot of Adaptation and Climate Finance has already been diverted towards pandemic and wars. Hence it is important now to create an additional pool of resources for such uncertainties and fund the ones who are part of the solution ensuring to make this world a better place to live in.

Ukraine Pavillion at the COP27

Asia Pacific Youth group

I was all excited and overwhelmed with everything happening around in this meeting. Right from getting into the registration hall with all the security therein.  Then setting our booth space and meeting online friends from Asia Pacific Youth group and so on. It was so good to see all group members face to face. Seeing the energy and enthusiasm of my young fellas from Australia, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India gave a lot of HOPE for a better future!!!

We also had our side event, for which I was nervous for no reason. I was not on the panel, still with all the stalwarts on the panel, our side event went quite well and well in time too. Hats off to my colleagues on the panel Myron Mendes, Nakul Sharma and Martin Voss and our moderator cum opener Dr Priyadarshini Karve for a great show. It gives me a feeling of pride to be part of the team.

Our side event at the COP27 on the big screen

The best part this year’s COP events focused on local solutions and actions on ground as well. INECC’s initiative on Locally Developed Choices for Nationally determined Contributions (LDC for NDC) was first such side event to be showcased! I realized later that a lot of organizations are working on local solutions and had the same opinion as us. Thus, we were all showing solidarity in the work that is being done for making ourselves Climate resilient.   

COP27 Side events schedule

Being part of local campaigns and undertaking social media campaigns is something that I feel is required, but the way it is done matters. I am glad that I could participate in one such campaign on asking the emitter nations to ‘Pay Up 4 Loss and Damage’ at an international level organized by Climate Action Network (CAN). The best part was when a pack of Ministers passed by the whole campaign gained momentum and everyone there looked upon them for paying up to the climate crisis. There were around 500+ people there in all, young and old, supporting the campaign at that time. It was quite a scene!  

Me at the CAN campaign
Another interesting campaign by CAN was on awarding the Fossil of the Day award to entities that are doing their best at their worst like supporting fossil fuels. It’s all about holding these 'villains' responsible for their actions. There were some other campaigns such as endorsing ‘Non-Proliferation of Fossil Fuel treaty’, conserving Oceans, saving vulnerable communities, etc. Apart from this there were many interesting discussions and sessions happening at the same time in multiple pavilions, it was very difficult to decide which one to attend. How to get to that place was another exercise altogether, the overall logistic arrangement in this COP was horrible, from the chaotic shuttle service to the maps provided everywhere making no sense... but we still managed to get to places.

Campaign on Ending Fossil Fuel at COP27

With all the e-networking that I had been into since the past couple of years, I happened to meet all these people here. I met my Bangladeshi friend Zuhair from the Conference of Youth (COY) I attended in 2017, one of the mentors from my Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) coursework Raji working in Andhra Pradesh was happy to see me and know that I am working with LAYA that is situated in Vizag. Also met fellow Climate Reality member Rituraj Phukan who's doing great work on ground in Assam on Climate Education.

Face to Face meetups at the COP27

Also made new connects with groups working on similar initiatives from other South Asian countries like Bangladesh and met people from INFORSE a very active network having a consortium of developed plus developing country organizations working on sustainable energy access. Attended a session by CEEW whose work we follow at the SDG pavilion. We also met old friends of Nafisa and Dominic who have attended almost every COP and are still excited about COP and are still exploring ways to participate in the campaigns. 

INFORSE meet at their booth in COP27

The one week at COP has been very enriching for me and I am grateful for attending this one!!!

Pournima Agarkar. 

You can connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter 

OR message here to join our WA group.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Musings from Priyadarshini Karve: #COP27: Day 6

 #COP27: Day 6

Saturday November 12 was our last day at COP27. The meeting also takes a break on Sunday and will continue for another week. But our stay here is over. 

As I mentioned in one of the previous blogs, Egypt and Sherm al Sheikh have not done a great job with the logistics of the conference. 

It was not clear till about two weeks before the start of the conference whether we would even be able to be here. The hotels all over the city were arbitrarily hiking prices and refusing to confirm reservations. We managed to sort out our stay arrangements and were able to absorb the escalated cost, but many other people from NGO sector had to cancel their trips. Several people were blackmailed into paying more after arrival here. 

For almost half of the first week the prices of food and beverages inside the venue of the conference were exhorbitantly high. After a lot of protest from the observer organisations the food prices were slashed by half. It seems that the hotels with bookings for the second week of the conference have also been told to lower their prices and not demand extra money from the participants. But all in all, it appeared that the hosts tried their best to contain the civil society presence at the COP. However, those of us who did get here and those who will come in the second week in spite of all the hurdles have certainly made our presence felt. There has been some protest or other going on almost daily and drawing a lot of media attention from around the world. 

Some of the newslinks are here and here and here.

INECC team member Pournima in the Climate Action Network (CAN) Protest

On my last day at COP27, I attended what was for me the best side event. It was organised by International Network for Sustainable Energy (INFORSE) and had speakers from Europe, Africa and South Asia. It was interesting to see that organisations in Denmark on one hand and several prominent countries in Africa on the other hand have come up with systematic plans to shift to 100% renewable energy with a clear timeline. The plans presented were very much grounded in practicality and focused on solar - wind - hydro and sustainable biomass energy with each country focusing on its own unique combination. The south Asian presenters were from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. They too presented how localised renewable energy solutions that are helping local communities to achieve climate adaptation as well as contribute to mitigation. This was exactly the pathway that we too are pushing for through our #LDCforNDC campaign. 

Personally, it was heartening to see that in spite of the big push and bad mouthing of biomass fuelled cooking by LPG and electricity lobby, the grassroots level organisations in Africa and South Asia still see the importance of improved cook stoves and biogas plants based on waste biomass as the more realistic solutions for meeting cooking energy needs. They also had practical data on how these humble interventions support both adaptation and mitigation. 

What I liked the most about this side event was that all the presentations were to the point, matter-of-fact showcasing of solutions without dwelling much on 'victim' status of the communities. 

Another observation that was personally important to me - I saw on the stage several individuals and organisations that I had connected with at some point or other in the last 22 years of my professional career! I was really happy to see that all of us are still continuing to fight the 'good fight' in our own spheres of influence! I will surely be re-connecting with all of them in the near future and will explore what more we can do collectively. 

On this positive note I am now ending this series of blogs from COP27. Thank you all of those who read and encouraged me to keep this going! 

Climate Action must go hand in hand with SDGs to achieve climate justice

Day 5 Blog

Day 4 Blog

Day 3 Blog

Day 2 Blog

Day 1 Blog

Priyadarshini Karve
Director, Samuchit Enviro Tech
Convener, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Musings from Priyadarshini Karve: #COP27: Day 5

 #COP27: Day 5

11 November was the BIG high security day with the US President Joe Biden coming to the COP stage. Given USA's track record with the UNFCCC process, the US presence at COPs should be protested as much as the presence of fossil fuel industry at COP is protested! But unfortunately, politics trumps ethical considerations in this case. 

If the Kyoto agreement had actually been delivered by the developed world, we would not be in the mess that we are currently in. The most important factor that weakened the Kyoto agreement was USA, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, walking out of the treaty. 

The successor to Kyoto agreement was to be structured by 2010 and should have been ready to be implemented by 2015 if not 2012 (the end date for Kyoto agreement). This process was stalled by President Obama. This delayed the formulation of Paris agreement to 2015 and then its implementation to 2022 - nearly 10 years delay during which the earth continued to heat up. 

In 2016 President Donald Trump pulled USA out of the Paris Agreement and almost derailed the second and perhaps the last chance that humanity had to avoid or at least contain a civilizational collapse. 

President Biden brought USA back into the Paris Agreement as one of his first actions on getting elected. He has in the two years of his regime enacted certain measures that are likely to reduce USA's emissions by about 40%. But all this is too little too less. And the question remains - what happens if in 2024 USA gets a Republican president? 

In spite of these uncertainties and past disappointments the world has no option but to continue hoping for more meaningful action from USA and applauding whatever little is thrown our way because of its political and economic clout across the world. 

I stayed away from all the hoopla around President Biden's visit and address at COP which I am sure has already been reported by the press. Instead, I attended a very relevant discussion organised in the SDG pavilion by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and collaborators. This discussion was about accountability. 

Big political leaders make lofty announcements at COP. Big businesses were racing against each other to announce carbon neutrality targets in last year's COP at Glasgow. Big Multilateral Development Banks make big promises of finance for low carbon and climate adaptive infrastructure in every COP. But there is no standard mechanism or process to check what is happening around these claims in an objective way. Where is the accountability? How do we build a structure that will infuse accountability in climate action? How to get reliable data that will allow third party assessment of the claims? That was the focus of this discussion. 

For private businesses the carbon accounting process is one concrete way by which fulfilment of promises of carbon neutrality can be checked. For me the most interesting slide was what I show in the photograph below. 

Accountability of Carbon neutrality pledges by the private sector

A carbon neutrality pledge is generally aimed at some future date like 2040 or 50 or beyond. This must be backed by an action plan with short term milestones that clearly show the path to be followed. Then standard protocols must be established for carbon accounting - not limited just to direct use of electricity and fossil fuels (what are called Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions) but also accounting for the indirect emissions from actions such as sourcing of raw materials, construction and maintenance of infrastructure, managing waste on a daily basis and at the end of life of products, contracted out services, etc. (all of these are collectively called Scope 3 emissions). Current carbon accounting standards do not insist on Scope 3 accounting in spite of the fact that for many private sector entities this is the biggest contributor to their carbon footprint. And finally transparent and honest disclosure of the data is also important. 

All of this resonated very well with me because I have been saying more or less the same things for a few years. After Paris Agreement and the 1.5 deg C report by UNFCCC I felt that beyond investing in renewable energy infrastructure etc., the governments will have to eventually demand lowering of emissions by the private sector and might start including such pledges in the NDC. In that case it might become mandatory for companies to report their carbon emissions periodically. To an extent this has started appearing in NDcs from Europe. India cannot be far behind. 

I also felt that as more and more NGOs and institutions engage with the climate change issue, they should 'walk the talk' by going for low carbon operations and presenting the evidence to the world in a transparent way. 

Converting this thinking into action, we conducted a carbon accounting exercise for the headquarters of Laya, the secretariat of INECC. We have also tried to estimate the carbon emissions of some of our meetings and have tried to keep these as low as practically feasible. A few years ago, we launched a participatory process for educational institutions to go for carbon neutrality as a joint project by students, teachers and management, with our role as that of a mentor rather than a consultant. 

However, I could also see that in India we don't have enough people with even a basic understanding of what carbon accounting is - let alone be qualified carbon accountants and auditors. We need to build this basic understanding if carbon accounting is going to be a mainstreamed process in industry, academia and civil society. So, I launched an online course with the limited aim of building 'literacy' about carbon accounting around 2016. 

I in fact thought even beyond the accountability concerns that the panelists talked about. The IPCC Assessment Report 6 clearly stated that even stopping emissions is no longer going to be enough to meet the 1.5 deg C goal of the Paris Agreement. We have to also invest in removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Currently the only way to do that is to increase the land cover under natural ecosystems to sink the carbon into vegetation. Many of the carbon neutrality pledges are relying on creating carbon sinks. How does one account for that? I feel that the carbon accounting protocols need to include a component to estimate the 'sunk carbon' too. I have tried to include a flavour of that approach in my course. 

We ran the carbon accounting course in a rather amateurish and low-key manner for the past 5-6 years and then COVID happened. It has certainly opened my eyes to the various tools available and possibilities around online education. The course is currently being revamped in collaboration with 'Climatora'. Stay connected with Samuchit Enviro Tech on social media to know more about this! 

In the meanwhile, you can try our personal carbon footprint calculator in its new and revamped version made in collaboration with Climatora on this link.

Priyadarshini Karve
Director, Samuchit Enviro Tech
Convener, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

Musings from Priyadarshini Karve: #COP27: Day 4

 #COP27: Day 4

Organising a COP is a huge undertaking for any city and the host country. Tens of thousands of people would be descending on the city over a period of two weeks. There are protocols that need to be followed for heads of states from across the world, as well as their ministers and negotiators. The NGOs and research organisations and businesses that send their delegates are also increasing day by day. Egypt and Sherm al Sheikh have not done a great job with the logistics of the conference unfortunately, but more about this in a later blog! 

Typically, COP tends to take over a city and does not remain limited to the conference venue. There are a number of side events that happen at other venues across the city. There are also a few marches and processions that take the COP to the streets of the city. 

We keep on getting notifications of events happening outside the COP venue but one of those drew our attention due to its unique venue and title. This event was organised by an organisation named 'SISU' and was called Ancient Futures. It was to be held at the Sherm al Sheikh Museum in the evening. So, we decided to look in on it. 

The museum is an imposing building, but we did not go inside it. The event was held on an open terrace outside. The seating arrangement had a few chairs and a few mattresses and pillows. There was some food and beverages on offer for the attendees. 

The event was focused around listening to the voices of women from indigenous communities. We managed to catch the main component of the function which was going to go on for 4 hr. 

The speakers were three indigenous women from South America and Africa. They spoke very eloquently about the relationship of the indigenous people with the earth and specifically about the role of women of the community - which used to be more decisive and equal than modern communities. 

Ancient Futures Event

The argument made by the 'King' (she called herself the king while everyone else referred to her as queen... If one thinks of 'king' as a gender-neutral word for the main leader, her usage of the word was correct - somewhat similar to 'Rashtrapati' in the Indian context.) of a tribe from Africa was interesting. Referring to the history of humanity she asked - aren't we all indigenous people of Africa? Why should we make this distinction between 'indigenous' peoples and others merely on the basis of differences in ways of life? 

The lady from Brazil was recently elected to the Parliament and was a supporter of the newly elected leftist president Lulla. She explained that this time the indigenous communities strategically participated in the elections and took a lot of efforts to get the indigenous people to come out and vote. As a result, the number of elected representatives from the indigenous communities has gone up in the new parliament and hopefully that will help in addressing some of the commercial threats faced by the tribes in the Amazon forests. 

Apart from this the overall tone of the conversation was the usual spiel on how the earth is suffering because the women are suffering etc. 

The issues of gender equality are indeed an important socio-politico-economic challenge. It is not limited to indigenous communities but is far more universal, but yes, the disenfranchisement of indigenous women is far graver and devastating than that of women in the so-called modern societies. Environmental challenges in general and climate change impacts in particular also add to gender inequality. But I fail to understand why people need to respond to these realities from a place of 'emotions' than a place of 'rationality'. I also visited a booth by a US based university, and they are doing a project with young people across the world to help them relate to climate change with their 'hearts'. 

I have always felt that an accurate understanding of the science is a better way to get the heart involved in solving the large complex challenges that we face today. An understanding of the mitochondrial DNA that links all humans to a single ancestral woman that lived in Africa about 500,000 years ago is a more powerful argument for the kinship and therefore equality of all humans than any emotional appeal to the sense of justice and equality. Understanding the intricate feedback loops and connections between the earth's geological, climatic, and biological systems is essential to understanding the importance of maintaining these systems in their current forms for the survival of our species rather than calling the planet 'mother earth' and ourselves its 'protectors' and 'stewards'. 

The solution to climate change will of course need a wide variety of people to be involved in the fight and different things may motivate different people. But it is concerning to me that modern science is often looked upon as a villain as it is perceived as the trigger for the industrial revolution that heralded climate change. But the same industrial revolution also heralded the communication systems that allow us to connect with all humans across the world. The same industrial revolution also helped us overcome many deadly diseases and increased the average life span of humans. 

Solving climate change is not just about going back to the traditional ways of life because the climatic conditions that exist today have not been experienced by humans at all. The solution to climate change will come through a blending of traditional wisdom and modern scientific thinking. The proponents of both should respect and work with each other rather than looking down upon each other.  

Priyadarshini Karve
Director, Samuchit Enviro Tech
Convener, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)