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Climate Change: Issues and Strategy to mitigate
Dec 12, 2014

Climate Change is a serious global environmental concern. It is primarily caused by the building up of Green House Gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. GHG trap heat and contribute to warming. The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration, a GHG, are due primarily to fossil fuel use and land use change, while those of methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture. Global Warming is a specific example of the broader term “Climate Change” and refers to the observed increase in the average temperature of the air near earth’s surface and oceans in recent decades. Its effect particularly on developing countries is adverse as their capacity and resources to deal with the challenge is limited.

Climate change impacts the natural ecosystems and is expected to have substantial adverse effects in India, mainly on agriculture on which 58 per cent of the population still depends for livelihood, water storage in the Himalayan glaciers which are the source of major rivers and groundwater recharge, sea-level rise, and threats to a long coastline and habitations. Climate change will also cause increased frequency of extreme events such as floods, and droughts. These in turn will impact India’s food security problems and water security.


Climate Change mitigation activities should be sensitive towards poor countries as 1 in every 7 persons in the world today still lives in abject poverty, all of them in developing countries. The number of poor people in the world is more than twice the combined population of Europe. Adaptation is a central and critical priority for developing countries to address Climate Change.


Global efforts to develop a new agreement for post-2020 period under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which entered into force in 1994, have scaled up because it is the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that is ending in 2020, not the Convention. The ultimate objective of UNFCCC is to stabilize, within a limited time-frame, Green House Gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous human induced interference with the climate system.


The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets. The Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. The first commitment period of Kyoto Protocol was 2008-2012. Its second commitment period is from 2013-2020.

Mitigation vs Adaptation:

The new post-2020 agreement should ensure a balance between mitigation and adaptation. The term mitigation refers to efforts to cut or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases - limiting the magnitude of future warming. It may also encompass attempts to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Mitigation may require us to use new technologies, clean energy sources, change people's behaviour, or make older technology more energy efficient.


Mitigation differs from climate change adaptation, which refers to the actions taken to manage the unavoidable impacts of climate change.


Some barriers to green technologies:

  • Switching to low-carbon energy sources such as wind power, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric or nuclear represents one of the major strategies for lowering the emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, the plants still face barriers related to capital costs, financing, public perception and a longstanding dependence of markets and institutions on fossil fuels, which make up about 80% of all energy.

  • Technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) could help reduce the impact of CO2. One form of CCS involves chemically capturing the carbon dioxide from a power station flue, and then piping it underground so that the invisible gas is contained in rock formations without leaking. But while CCS could, in theory, limit the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere, it doesn't do much for the CO2 already there. i.e. CCS is effective in mitigation and not in adaptation.

How else can we help curb climate change?

  • Greening urban areas can make a difference. Cities are home to half the planet's population, and are responsible for three-quarters of energy consumption and 80% of carbon emissions. Retro-fitting buildings to make them more energy efficient and cutting the impact of transport emissions represent some of the strategies for doing this.

  • Garbage disposal should be environment-friendly. The adverse impact of garbage generation can be reduced primarily by producing less but also recycling more and treating waste in a way that is less harmful to the environment or even using it as a sustainable energy fuel source. About 11.2 billion metric tonnes of solid waste is currently being collected around the world every year, and the organic portion that decays is contributing around 5% to global greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Mitigation also extends to the protection of natural carbon "sinks" like the forests or oceans. New sinks can be created through, for example, forest regeneration.

  • Geo-engineering is one controversial area that has gathered momentum in recent years. It requires the deliberate intervention in the climate system with the aim of curbing global warming. One example is Solar Radiation Management (SRM), which involves reflecting more of the Sun's rays away from the planet back into space. This could be done by pumping sulphur aerosols into the high reaches of the atmosphere, where they would have similar reflective properties to the ash released naturally by volcanoes. It can also be done by fixing giant reflecting plates or mirrors in the tropopause.

  • A little-known technique called Bio-Energy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) would combine the burning of biomass, such as wood, for energy and then piping the CO2 into rocks. In theory, one could begin to remove emissions that have already been accumulated in the atmosphere. But the technology is unproven.

India and Climate Change:

India has a domestic mitigation goal of reducing emission’s intensity of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 20-25% by 2020 in comparison with 2005 level. Some of the recent measures that India has taken towards this goal are:

  • India has doubled the Clean Energy Cess on coal, which very few countries have, and the Clean Energy Fund already has over 3 billion US dollars to be used for promoting clean technologies.

  • India’s National Solar Mission is being scaled up five-fold from 20,000 megawatts to 100,000 megawatts. This will mean an additional investment of 100 billion dollars and savings of about 165 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. The Union Cabinet recently approved the scheme for setting up 25 solar parks (to be set up during the next five years) each with a capacity of 500 MW and above and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects in various parts of the country.

  • India is releasing 6 billion US dollars in one go for intensive afforestation which will result in more carbon sinks.

  • India has allocated about 200 million US dollars for the ‘National Adaptation Fund’, setting-up of Ultra Mega Solar Projects, Ultra-Modern Super Critical Coal Based Thermal Power Technology, and the development of Solar Parks on canals.

  • Yet another initiative of the India is “100 Smart Cities’ with integrated policies for adaptation and mitigation to reduce the vulnerability and exposure of urban areas to climate change and also to improve their energy.

  • India has put in place stringent norms for cement industry. India’s Action Plan for cleaning one of the longest rivers in the world, River Ganga will bring multiple benefits of pollution reduction and climate adaptation. India has also taken initiatives for protecting coastal, Himalayan, and forest areas.

  • India has initiated preparations to develop a National Air Quality Index and have launched a National Air Quality Scheme.

Furthermore, India has to play a leading role in crafting a new deal that could be effected for the post-2020 period. India is the symbolic leader of the developing and the under-developed world in these negotiations. Thus, India needs to balance the interests of this world and its need for development to eradicate poverty.


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