Ahead of the Paris climate summit, the debate is heating up

  • Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Nov 30, 2015 13:33 IST
A deal in Paris on climate change would be crucial since the current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020. (REUTERS)

In a month’s time, the curtain will come down on 2015. It would, perhaps, not be wrong to say that the year has been dominated by the war in Syria and the rise and rise of the Islamic State (IS). Yet in this challenging period, the world leaders have managed to set aside their differences and put their heads together to sign the critical Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at New York in September.

Hopefully, that momentum and heady camaraderie will continue in Paris, where the climate change meet begins on Monday. The meeting is critical because for the first time in over 20 years, a climate meet will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate to keep global warming below 2 ºC.

The conference’s own carbon footprint will not be too moderate though: It is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants. A deal in Paris would be crucial since the current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020 and scientists have warned that if emissions continue to rise, we will pass the threshold beyond which global warming becomes irreversible.

Watch | PM Modi arrives in Paris for Climate Change Summit

The latest report from the World Meteorological Organization says that 2015 will be the hottest on record and 2016 could be even hotter due to the El Niño weather pattern, warning that inaction on climate change could see global average temperatures rise by 6 ºC or more.

Global average surface temperatures in 2015 are likely to reach what the WMO called the ‘symbolic and significant milestone’ of 1 ºC above the pre-industrial 1880-1899 era, and around 0.73 ºC above the 1961-1990 average. While discussions on climate change have been on for the last 20 years, it would not be wrong to say that it has not taken the public imagination by storm.

All you need to know about the Paris Climate Change Summit, 2015

One of the key reasons for the public’s business-as-usual attitude is because the discourse has failed to establish in layman’s language the correlation that exists between climate change, and say, political instability. For example, many believe that the Syrian conflict has its roots in climate-change-fuelled drought that had engulfed the country just before the civil war began.

Even though everyone agrees that the world needs a roadmap to tackle climate change, several sticking points remain.

The developing world, including India, will stick to the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, and its right to develop. It will also insist on transfer of clean technology and climate finance. Already certain pre-meet tensions are visible: Last week, environment minister Prakash Javadekar hit out at US secretary of state John Kerry’s statement that India was being over-cautious towards the new global climate regime that was expected in Paris.

The US has been trying hard to break the ‘firewall’ between the obligations of developed and developing countries as it presently exists in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which the Paris agreement is to be signed. Expect more such fireworks.

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