Climate change debate gets hotter

Updated: Jan 25 2007, 05:43am hrs
Globally 1990 was the warmest decade ever. The global average surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 5.8 degree C during 1990-2100. When director-general of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) and chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underlines such statistics once again, he has reason to.

He emphasises that the impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor all over the world, thereby exacerbating inequities in health status and access to adequate food, clean water and other resources.

Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide, which are emitted by burning fossil fuels. The Kyoto Protocol binds developed countries, which account for the bulk of GHGs, to reduce their emissions to at least 5% below 1990 level by 2008-1012.

Though the US is the biggest emitter of GHGs, its not abiding by the protocol. The US has signed the protocol, but has not ratified it. Developing countries like China and India are exempted.

While attempts are on for putting in place a successor regime to Kyoto beyond 2012 and engaging with the US, world opinion leaders insist that India should also play a leadership role in tackling the issues of climate change.

Two presidents, three former prime ministers, ministers, leading scientists, corporate honchos and NGO activists from all over the world were in New Delhi to attend the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (January 22-24), which was organised by Teri.

Says Jeffrey Sachs, director of the UN Millennium Project, Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing India. Its in Indias own interest to take a lead to tackle it. India need not wait for a new post-Kyoto phase.

Adding that there is not enough progress on post-Kyoto framework as yet, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emphasises, We should look for solutions not only collectively, but also take initiatives at country levels. India has a big task ahead. It is about greening Indias future.

Agreeing with Indias stated position that developed countries should shoulder the major responsibility of slowing down global warming because they are mainly responsible for it, James Leape, director-general, WWF (International), insists that at the same time India should not fall behind.

Adds Leape, Poverty cannot be addressed unless issues of sustainable development are addressed. Its not about providing taps and toilets, but about ecosystem as a whole. Also, businesses need to perform their role here.

Herman Mulder, senior adviser to the UN Global Compact, says, Indian businesses may not be there because Kyoto does not bind India today, but while going for expansion, acquisitions and mergers in a globalising world, Indian businesses need to be forward looking.

In fact, some Indian companies are already up there. The country has 155 registered clean development mechanism (CDM) projects, with another 400 in the pipeline, according to the UNFCCC. CDM is an instrument, whereby industrialised countries accumulate emission credits by investing in emission reducing projects in developing countries.

But these are isolated examples. And CDM is just one instrument. Informed self-interest about the economics of addressing climate change would be more helpful for businesses, though.

Say Bjorn Stigson, president, World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), If businesses have to come forward in a big way, we need to build a business case either in terms of profits or incentives.

Laying the blueprint for the way forward, Nicholas Stern, head of Stern Review on Economics of Climate Change, states in his paper that three elements of policy are required for an effective global response.

He elaborates, The first is carbon pricing, through tax, trading or regulation, so that people pay the full social cost of their actions. The second is policy to support innovation and deployment of low carbon technologies. The third is removal of barriers to energy, efficiency and measures to inform, educate and persuade.

The climate change debate is likely to pick up momentum when IPCC releases its fourth assessment report (first of the series) on February 2, 2007. Of course, the bigger question is: How fast will it move beyond the debate