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Climate Change Mitigation Strategies: UNFCCC and India

Info: 5420 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Environmental StudiesClimate Change

From UNFCCC Goals to India


Climate Change has the potential to alter the ability of the earth’s physical and biological systems to provide goods and services essential for sustainable development. Recognition of Climate Change as a significant global environmental challenge has a recent origin. International efforts to address the climate change formally began only a decade ago with the adoption of United Nations Framework Convention to Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992.

India is a party to UNFCCC and the government of India attaches great importance to climate change issue.

India is a vast country covering 3.28 million Km2 with diverse surface features and supports 16.2 percent of the global human population. Endowed with varied soils, climate, biodiversity and ecological regimes, under diverse natural conditions and over a billion people speaking different languages, following different religions and living in rural and urban areas, India is an example for a complex yet successful democratic system. Decentralization of powers through local government, to benefit the grass root level is another significant feature of Indian Government. The 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts, 1992, of the Constitution of India have endowed vast powers to local governments at rural and urban levels respectively. India’s commitments to mitigate climate change are reflected in the essence of these two acts and the working and powers given to the local government.

This paper explains and brings to picture how climate change mitigation strategies are filtered in Indian System right from the UNFCCC goals to The Government of India and further to smaller levels of local governments. The paper will explain the hierarchy and working of Indian governance system and highlights the climate change initiatives within this system. The paper will also analyze the constraints and gaps in the institutional setup at local level, which, if rectified, would give more successful results in Climate Change Mitigation Mission of the Government of India.


Over a decade ago most countries joined an international treaty- The United Nations Convention on Climate Change so as to consider the impacts of climate change and to work for adaptation and mitigation initiatives for secure future and sustainable development. The convention, commonly known as the UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994. The ultimate objective of The convention is stabilizing green house gas emissions at a lower level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate systems.

Under the convention the governments-

  • Gather and share information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies and best practices
  • Launch national strategies for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to expected impacts, including the provision of financial and technological support to developing countries.
  • Cooperate in preparing the adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

In 1997, the Kyoto protocol came into being, which shared the convention’s objectives, principles and institutions and also significantly strengthened the convention by committing the parties to individual and specially; “legally binding targets” to limit or reduce climate change. The text of the Kyoto Protocol was adopted unanimously in 1997; and it entered into force on 16 February 2005.

India is signatory to various multilateral environmental agreements, including The Montreal Protocol, The convention on Biological diversity, the United nations Convention to combat desertification ,including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) .Government of India attaches great importance to climate change issues. Eradication of poverty, avoiding risks to food production, and sustainable development are three principles embedded in the Convention. At present, information provided in the India’s Initial National Communication to the UNFCCC is in terms of guidelines prescribed for Parties not included in Annex I to the UNFCCC and the inventory is prepared for the base year 1994.

India is a vast country. It covers 3.28 million km2 of area having diverse surface features. Also, it occupies only 2.4 percent of the world’s geographical area, but supports 16.2 per cent of the global human population. The country is endowed with varied soils, climate, biodiversity and ecological regimes. “Under such diverse natural conditions, over a billion people speaking different languages, following different religions and living in rural and urban areas, live in harmony under a democratic system”( India NATCOM,2004).

Climate Change Negotiations

Global warming issue became a part of the international agenda in 1988. The climate issue, initiated by the small island nation Malta, came up at the UN General Assembly in December 1988, as part of a discussion on ‘the common heritage of mankind’. The resolution set up a preparatory committee to work towards an international agreement. The concern for global warming particularly by the industrialized countries geared up since then and ‘climate politics’ came into being and were refined with a series of international conferences and formal negotiations that followed. The momentum culminated in the signing of a Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and opened for signatures at the Rio Earth Summit in June, 1992. The FCCC aims at stabilization of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations, in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Subsequently, the parties to the FCCC adopted the Kyoto Protocol in December, 1997. However, the developing nations see the Protocol as burdened with loopholes because of the fact that it emphasizes on the economic concerns, rather than ecological or social justice. The main area of dispute between the developed countries and the developing countries lies in the sectors pertaining to equity and sustainability. However, the operational details of the Kyoto Protocol have now been finalised after intensive deliberations at Marrakech, on November 10, 2001, which was participated by 171 countries .

The protocol has been guided by Article 3.0 of the FCCC, and marks the first global attempt to place legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries. The Protocol calls for 5.2% reduction from their 1990 level of GHG emissions by the developed countries during the period 2008-2012. It also specifies the amount each country must contribute toward meeting the reduction goal. Nations with the highest CO2 emissions like the United States, Japan and most European nations are expected to reduce emissions by a range of 6 to 8 per cent. By 2005, all industrialized nations that ratify the accord must also show ‘demonstrable progress’ toward fulfilling their respective commitments under the Protocol.

Some issues that add to the complexity of the Kyoto Protocol:

Considerations for baseline and its effects – The target of 5.2% reduction beyond 1990 level in the commitment period 2008-2012, were dependent on 1990 emissions. This meant that if a country which had high emissions in 1990 and had reduced them between 1990 and thereafter, then it could actually increase its emission once again, or only stabilize these, and not carry out any reductions.

As an example one can analyse the case of Australia. In 1990, as much as 30 percent of the emissions were from deforestation, which eventually became a blessing for the country – for, instead of penalizing for creating the problem in the first place, Australia has been able to use its emission to its advantage, by winning the right to count any improvement from its 1990 level as its national credit. And as its deforestation rate has been controlled, it actually can increase its emission above and beyond the figure of 8 percent it is expected to reduce. On the other hand, USA and Japan were lobbying hard to change the date of baseline from 1990 to 1995. The reason for this lies in the fact that both the countries have made a significant increase in carbon emissions between 1990 and 1995.

Flexible mechanisms – The Kyoto Protocol includes three mechanisms –

Art.6 (Joint Implementation),

Art.12 (Clean Development Mechanism) and

Art.17 (Emissions Trading),

These mechanisms are meant to pave an explicit way for developed countries to meet their Kyoto targets easily. The cheapest and the most attractive option for meeting the emission targets of the North (i.e developed countries-Annexe I) being the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that will be operated on the project basis invested in the South (i.e under developed countries). This implies that, as global warming is bound to be unsolved even by the end of this century, the South would have to pay a heavy price in future once they have reached a high level of energy efficiency through means like CDM. For by then the cost of carbon cutting will be very high even for the developing countries, which would eventually have to do the carbon cutting on their own. The next issue comes on the question of energy-efficient technology, which the North wishes to push to the South through CDM. As technology up-gradation is a continuous process, hence what is the most efficient technology at the time of implementation of the CDM project, may be obsolete within few years that follows.

Principle of equity: the Kyoto Protocol does not define the rights and responsibilities of all nations within a reasonable frame. So long as the world remains within a carbon based energy economy, equitable sharing of the ‘atmosphere’ shall remain a critical issue, especially for poor developing countries who need a maximum space for their future economic growth.

The Kyoto reduction, by itself, is inadequate to achieve a stabilization of climate change by 2100. A continual and larger reduction, similar to that stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol for the 2008-2012 period, will be needed in the future in order to begin to stabilize long-term greenhouse gas emissions. Even if stabilization of greenhouse gases is achieved, global warming will still continue for several decades and sea levels will continue to rise for several centuries. This is because Even if the emissions from the developed countries were reduced to zero in the near future, the current trends of growing emissions from developing countries alone could force the atmospheric concentration to exceed stabilization levels of 550 ppm

( Parivesh, CPCB,2006). Thus, participation of all countries, including the developing countries such as India, is essential for a successful worldwide effort to arrest the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

India and Climate Change- The Threats and Vulnerability

Climate Change is a major global environmental problem and an important issue because of diverse impacts not only ecological, but economic, social, political and physical in nature and content. It is a matter of great concern especially for developing countries like India who have limited capacity to develop and adopt strategies to reduce their vulnerability to changes in climate. Global, national and local level measures are need of the hour to combat the adverse impacts of climate change induced damages.

“India being a developing country has low capacity to withstand the adverse impacts of climate change due to high dependence of majority of population on climate sensitive sectors as the agriculture, forestry and fisheries”,( Shukla, et.al, 2003). This is coupled with poor infrastructure facilities, weak institutional mechanisms and lack of financial resources. This is the reason why we are seriously concerned with the possible impacts of climate change. The possible impacts of climate change are mentioned below:

  • Water stress and reduction in the availability of fresh water due to potential decline in rainfall.
  • Threats to agriculture and food security, since agriculture is monsoon dependent and rain dependent agriculture dominates in many states.
  • Shifts in area and boundary of different forest types and threats to biodiversity with adverse implications for forest-dependent communities.
  • Adverse impact on natural ecosystems, such as wetlands, mangroves, grasslands and mountain ecosystems.
  • Adverse impact of sea-level rise on coastal agriculture and settlements.
  • Impact on human health due to the increase in vector and water-borne diseases, such as malaria.
  • Increased energy requirements and impact on climate-sensitive industry and infrastructure.

One of the various reasons for vulnerability of India depends on its typical and diverse climatic conditions. India is subject to a wide range of variation in climatic conditions from the freezing Himalayan winters in the north to the tropical climate of the southern peninsula, from the damp, rainy climate in the north-east to the arid Great Indian Desert in the north-west, and from the marine climates of its vast coastline and islands to the dry continental climate in the interior. The Indian summer monsoon is the most important feature in dictating meteorology of the Indian subcontinent and, hence, its economy. Almost all regions of the country receive entire annual rainfall during the summer monsoon (also called the SW monsoon), while some parts of the south-eastern states also receive rainfall during early winter from the north-east monsoon. Therefore, India could be more at risks than many other countries from changes in temperature and sea level.

Models predict an average increase in temperature in India from 2.3 to 4.8 °C for the bench mark doubling of carbon dioxide scenario (Lonergan, World Bank Technical Paper No.402, 1998). Temperatures would rise more in Northern India than in Southern India. In the North Indian Ocean, under a doubling, the average number of tropical disturbance days could increase from 17 to 29 a year (Haarsma et.al Climate Dynamics, Vol.8, 1993); while, without protection, approximately 7 million people would be displaced, and 5,760 Km2 of land and 4,200 Km of road would be lost (Asthana, JNU, New Delhi, 1993). Further, in the Indian context, climate change could represent an additional stress on the ecological and socioeconomic system that are already facing tremendous pressure due to rapid urbanization, industrialization and economic development.

Options for Mitigation

The ability to adapt to climate change depends on the level of income and technology, as well as the capacity of the system of governance and existing institutions to cope with change. The ability to mitigate GHG emissions depends on industrial structure (the mix of industrial activities), social structure (including, e.g., the distance people must travel to work or to engage in recreational activities), the nature of governance (especially the effectiveness of government policy), and the availability and cost of alternatives. In short, what is feasible at the national level depends significantly on what can be done at the subnational, local, and various sectoral levels”(Climate Change 2001: Working group III: Mitigation; IPCC,2001).The challenges of climate change mitigation involve diverse issues – economic, political, social and environmental. Governance is one of the prime issues in mitigation of climate change impacts. A structured governance system is the only tool through which any policy framework or initiative can be achieved. The importance or role of governance in mitigation thus can be described through its three pillars:

  • Organizational Structure- Through governance the qualities of organization participation, transparency and accountability can be achieved in the mitigation exercise at all levels..
  • Financial Mobilization- This involves ensuring financial commitment globally, at national levels and also at local levels of the government
  • Legal Framework- It ensures empowerment, enforcement and compliance of mitigative strategies and supporting environmental laws.

As the National GHG inventory for India shows, the major increase in GHG emissions over the next 20 years would be related to energy consumption. As India has abundant coal deposits, it is beyond doubt that coal will be the dominant source of energy. Therefore, energy efficiency measures in this sector remain our prime concern. Power generation in India is expected to reach a peak demand of 176 GW by 2012, and the total energy requirement will be 1058 billion units (Parivesh, Central Pollution Control Board, 2006).

This is why; increasing the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the form of low carbon options are the two main measures that can greatly reduce GHG emissions. We will now simultaneously specify what scientific mitigation tools for climate change are available for various sectors and the corresponding governance measures to actually target the process of mitigation.

The energy sector:

  • Fiscal incentives and taxes, voluntary emission reductions, green rating, and capacity building etc. Another area of importance is the transmission and distribution losses, which is energy loss.
  • There is considerable scope of reducing losses, meant to translate into a large mitigation potential.
  • Two major categories of Barriers hinder adoption of electricity conservation and demand management in India.

a) Macro-level barrier – At the level of governance system; either policy induced or due to lack of

appropriate policies and;

b) Micro-level barriers – related to the consumers and the economic environment they face.This

can be equated to lack of awareness about possible alternatives on the

part of the consumers and lack of awareness drives on the part of the


The forestry sector:

IPCC Second Assessment Report categorizes three broad options for abatement viz.

  • Conservation management: This strategy attempts to conserve the existing carbon storage capacity of forests by halting or slowing down forests deforestation and forests degradation.
  • Storage management : This strategy attempts to increase carbon strategy in woody vegetation and soil in existing degraded forests, as well as to create new carbon sinks in areas where forests do not exists or have been cleared. These may be achieved by promoting natural regeneration, reforestation on deforested lands, aforrestation of non-forest lands and agro-forestry on crop and pastureland.
  • Substitution management: This strategy attempts involves the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable fuel wood or other biomass products.

Here, governance plays an important role based on it a capacity to generate and bring about changes in the management of forests and augmentation of use of renewable products.

The agriculture sector:

Methane emissions from rice cultivation remain the major contributor of GHG emissions. Other sources being enteric fermentation, manure management, agricultural soils etc. Abatement strategy in this sector in India can be achieved given the scientific expertise available in India, but require gearing up by proper governmental intervention at the level of ministry of agriculture, as far as policy initiatives are concern, and through local governments for implementation and monitoring.

The industrial sector:

As the national inventory of GHG shows, major contribution came from energy intensive sectors like iron & steel, fertilizer, cement, aluminium, paper & pulp etc. A few option available for energy efficient options in power, industrial and domestic sector are given as follows:

Source: Teri, New Delhi.

These can be supported by further subsidizing use of energy efficient options and where required made mandatory by the government under the periphery of the existing environmental laws of the country.

Mitigation through sinks:

Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by a number of processes that operate on different time scales, and is subsequently transferred to reservoirs or sinks. The Kyoto Protocol through its Ariticle 3.3 allows afforestation as a sink to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Further, Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol states that additional human induced activities in the agricultural soils and LULUCF categories may be added to the three mechanisms (Joint implementation, Clean Development mechanism and Emission trading) subject to certain conditions.

In India, forestry is dominated by government based institutions. These institutions need new insight so that they can effectively incorporate mitigation policies and measures in their resource management activities. According to the central Pollution Control Board, India has been persistently implementing one of the largest reforestation programs in the tropics with over one million hectares planted annually. Nearly half of this reforestation is on degraded forests and village common land. It is estimated that the carbon uptake in forests, degraded forests, and plantations is estimated to offset the gross carbon emissions from the forests sector. Carbon dioxide emissions in India are projected to increase from no-net emissions in 1990 to 77 million tonnes by 2020( Parivesh, CPCB,2006).

Barriers to mitigation:

Greenhouse gas mitigation measures are compounded by several barriers inherent to the process of development. In India, inequitable distribution of income and wealth forms a core feature of barriers to effective implementation of any type of intervention in India, leave apart climate change. Available instruments to limit domestic GHG emissions can be categorized into market based instruments, regulatory instruments, and voluntary agreements. For the developing countries, however, domestic structural reforms and policies on trade liberalization and liberalization of energy markets act as barriers to GHG reduction. These policies coupled with macroeconomics, market oriented reforms, set the framework in which more specific climate policies would be implemented. The IPCC Special Report on technology Transfer (IPCC, 2000) identifies various important barriers that could impede environmental technology transfer, such as:

  • lack of data, information, and knowledge, especially on emerging technologies;
  • inadequate vision about the understanding of local needs and demands;
  • high transaction costs and poor macro economic conditions;
  • insufficient human and institutional capabilities;
  • inappropriate technology adopted and
  • Poor legal institutions and framework.

These hold good for the overall barriers of mitigation in Indian Context also. In terms of governance and its intervention, technology transfer can be traded off with some of our own indigenous technologies. This will ensure equitable exchange and also promote indigenous Indian Science.

National Policy for Climate Change Mitigation

We, as present generation have inherited this environment and atmosphere from our ancestors. Further the consequences of climate change will be faced by our children in the future. And so it can be said that climate change is an inherently different and irreversible problem as compared to other environmental problems. Also, the assumption that prior experience of problems like air pollution has failed at many levels as a good model upon which policy decisions on climate can be based. Options to mitigate climate change include actual emission reductions carbon dioxide sequestration and investments in developing technologies that will make future reductions affordable and easily available since cheap relative to their current costs. Since the inception of UNFCC in 1992, the Govt. of India has been an active participant in the climate charge negotiations. India being a party to the UNFCC was the 38th country to ratify it on November 01, 1993. The Ministry of Environment & Forests is the nodal Ministry for all environment related activities in the country and is the nodal Ministry for co-coordinating the climate charge policy as well. The working group on the FCCC was constituted to oversee the implementation of obligations under the FCCC and to act as a consultative mechanism in the Govt. for impacts to policy formulation on climate change. To enlarge the feedback mechanism the Govt. of India has constituted an Advisory group on climate charge under the chairmanship of the Minister of Environment & Forests.

Development of National Guidelines & Policy Options for reducing GHG Emissions

The national guidelines or framework for monitoring GHG emissions and policy options for reducing GHG should emphasize not only on issues associated with climate change but also include the following:

  • Emission Forecasting
  • Setting goals
  • Policy criteria
  • Policy evaluation
  • Organizational and political issues

Climate change and GHG emission and sequestration may include many sectors of society and extend far into the future. Furthermore, policy measures to address GHGs overlap with many other public policy objectives, however in a complimentary way. Policy formulations involve:

  • Understanding the issues at hand,
  • Having a broad vision of the range of actions that governments can take to address those issues,
  • Selecting from within this the approaches that offer the most potential far achieving multiple public goals.

More importantly, the policy formulation process must respond to local circumstances and must address institutional, fiscal, political, and other constraints. The Govt. of India has nevertheless addressed a large number of local and regional environmental issues in its developmental strategy that are complementary to the climate change issue.

Institutional Arrangements So Far For Climate Change Related Strategies

In Area of Research

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Ministry of Science and Technology (MST), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Ministry of Non Conventional Energy (MNES), Ministry of Defence (MoD), Ministry of Health and Family welfare (MoHFW), are the main ministries of the Government of India which promote and undertake climate and climate change-related research in the country. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is also am important agency involved in working of this area and is under the direct governance of the Prime Minister.It supports all the above agencies with satellite-based passive remote sensing. The MoEF, MST, MHRD and MOA operate under the umbrella of many premier national research laboratories and universities. The most prominent being the 40 laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an autonomous body under the MST; and the vast network of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under the MOA. The CSIR is the national R&D organization which provides scientific and industrial research for India’s economic growth and human welfare. It has a countrywide network of 40 laboratories and 80 field centers. The ICAR network includes institutes, bureaus, national research centers, The Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the MST coordinates advanced climatic and weather research and data collection over the Indian landmass. There are three premier institutions under DST that are solely dedicated to atmospheric science viz. the IMD, the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF) and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM).

Apart from the Indian initiatives, climate change research promoted by international organizations like the World Climate Research Program (WCRP), International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP), International Human Dimension Program (IHDP) and DIVERSITAS are being strongly supported by various Indian agencies like Indian Climate Research Program (ICRP) under DST, National Committee- International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (NC-IGBP) constituted by Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and Geosphere-Biosphere Program (GBP) of ISRO. Agencies like CSIR, also provides infra-structural and financial support to carry out research in the area of global change

In Area of Development

The single most important feature of our post-colonial experience is that the people of India have conclusively demonstrated their ability to forge a united nation despite its diversity, and to pursue development within the framework of a functioning, vibrant and pluralistic democracy. In this process, the democratic institutions have put down firm roots, which continue to gain strength and spread. A planned approach to development has been the central process of the Indian democracy, as reflected in the national five-year plans, state plans,departmental annual plans, and perspective plans of various ministries of the central and state governments. For the last five and a half decades, the guiding objectives of the Indian planning process have been sustained economic growth, poverty alleviation, food, health, education and shelter for all, containing population growth, employment generation, self-reliance, people’s participation in planning and programme implementation, and infrastructure development.

The National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development, 1992, provides the basis for the integration of environmental considerations in the policies of various sectors. It aims at the achievement of sustainable lifestyles and the proper management and conservation of resources.

The Policy Statement for Abatement of Pollution, 1992, stresses the prevention of pollution at the source, based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle. It encourages the use of the most appropriate technical solutions, particularly for the protection of heavily polluted areas and river stretches. The Forest Policy, 1988, highlights environmental protection through preservation and restoration of the ecological balance. The policy seeks to substantially increase the forest cover in the country through afforestation programmes. This environmental framework aims to take cognizance of the longer-term environmental perspective related to industrialization, power generation, transportation, mining, agriculture, irrigation and other such economic activities, as well as to address parallel concerns related to public health and safety.

The statutory framework for the environment includes the Indian Forest Act, 1927, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Other enactments include the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995, and the National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997. The courts have also elaborated on the concepts relating to sustainable development, and the ‘polluter pays’ and ‘precautionary’ principles. In India, matters of public interest, particularly pertaining to the environment, are articulated effectively through a vigilant media, an active NGO community, and very importantly, through the judicial process which has recognized the citizen’s right to a clean environment as a component of the right to li

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Climate change describes large changes in global or local weather patterns and global warming generally considered to be largely caused by an international increase in the use of fossil fuels from the mid-20th century onwards.

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