Only joint collaborative efforts can minimise climate change impact

South Asia Monitor, June 08, 2015
By Dr. Ram Kumar Jha

Increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is a major contributor to climatic change. As definition given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. Climate change is projected to undermine food security due to increase in temperature of 2oC or more in late 20th century and may impact negatively on wheat, rice and maize productivity in tropical and temperate regions, although individual locations may benefit. India’s vulnerability to climate change is well known. This is because of its large agricultural dependent population and excessive pressure on natural resources.

The climate change impact results not only from gradual changes in temperature and sea level but also, in particular, from increased climate variability and extremes, including more intense floods, droughts, and storms. Climate change is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources in most dry subtropical regions, intensifying competition for water among sectors. Much of this damage would come in the form of severe economic shocks. In addition, the impact of climate change will worsen existing social and environmental problems and lead to economic disorders. Therefore, climate change is a major issue in front of the world, even though more important than this is how to minimise the impact of climate change. This may help to balance social, economic and agricultural growth.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important anthropogenic GHG. Its annual emissions have grown between 1970 and 2004 by about 80 percent, from 21 to 38 Gigatonnes, and represented 77 percent of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), monthly global average CO2 concentrations surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) in March 2015. NOAA collects its data on global carbon dioxide concentration on air samples taken from 40 sites around the world, including some remote islands. IPCC’s fourth assessment report concluded that a doubling of CO2 concentrations from pre-industrial levels (when they were approximately 280 ppm) would likely lead to an increase of temperature somewhere between 2°C and 4.5°C (the so-called climate sensitivity).

Pieter Tans, NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said that burning fossil fuels has caused global CO2 concentrations to increase by more than 120 ppm since pre-industrial times. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that emissions growth from burning fossil fuels stalled in 2014, remaining at 2013 levels. However, stabilizing the rate of emissions is not enough to prevent climate change.

As the world’s third largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, India may be in a unique position to affect atmospheric levels of CO2. While its total emissions are rising, its per capita emissions at 1.9 metric tons is a third of the global average, a quarter of China’s and tenth of the USA. It is not clear how rising CO2 levels have affected or would affect India. Claims in a 2007 IPCC report that the Himalayan glaciers would melt away in the near future have proven to be not credible. However, a series of studies has shown that unseasonal rain and erratic weather is unsettling the Indian farmer.

The path of industrialisation and urbanisation that India adopts will have a significant impact on the world’s warming and its own health status. Already, 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India. India’s stance at various conferences, including the Climate Change Conference in Lima in 2014, has been that it was unfair to demand emissions cuts from developing countries. The argument being that these economies were still growing compared to the developed world, and that such emission levels would be unavoidable if they want to catch up. India may take an uncompromising position globally to protect its own interests, but it is also difficult to ignore the warning signals from Mauna Loa.

Mitigation and adaptation are complementary approaches for reducing risks of climate change impact. Mitigation, in the near term and through the century, can substantially reduce climate change impact in the latter decades of the 21st century and beyond. Benefits from adaptation can already be realized in addressing current risks, and can be realized in the future for addressing emerging risks. Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally.

In this line in India, a high level advisory group on climate change was constituted in June 2007 and reconstituted in November 2014. Launched in 2008, India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) identifies a number of measures that simultaneously advance the country’s development and climate change related objectives of adaptation and mitigation. The implementation of the NAPCC is designed to take place through eight National Missions. These form the core of the National Action Plan and incorporate multi-pronged, long-term and integrated strategies for achieving India’s key goals in the context of climate change. For the realisation of these proposed actions at the sub-national level, in August 2009 the prime minister of India called upon state governments to prepare their own State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) consistent with strategies in the NAPCC. Till date, 31 states have prepared their State Action Plan. The SAPCCs have both adaptation and mitigation component to address climate change impacts, though adaptation has been identified as a more important element of the plan. A combined budgetary requirement of Rs.11,33,692 crore ($188.66 billion) has been assessed for implementation of SAPCCs.

The budget allocation for Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) under the Union Budget 2015-16 is less than 1 percent of total budget expenditure and Gross Domestic Production (GDP) at current market. There is decrease in Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) for MNRE from Rs.541 crore to Rs.288 crores in union budget 2015-16 (decrease of 46.8 percent). This allocated budget is contrary to requirement of investments to realize the expansion in targets for this sector.

A National Adaptation Fund with an initial corpus of Rs.100 crore (.0056 percent of total union budget 2015-16) is allocated to support adaptation actions to combat the challenges of climate change in sectors like agriculture, water, and forestry. Simultaneously, rate of clean energy cess levied on coal, lignite, and peat increased from Rs.50 per tonne to Rs.100 per tonne. For the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) the estimated budget is Rs.13,180.04 crores (0.74 percent of total union budget 2015-16). The budget also provides concessions on custom and excise duty available to electrically operated vehicles and hybrid vehicles to curb pollution and promote clean energy.

Climate change has the characteristics of a collective action problem at the global scale, because most GHGs accumulate over time and mix globally, and emissions by any agent (e.g., individual, community, company, country) affect other agents. Effective adaptation and mitigation responses would depend on policies and measures across multiple scales: international, regional, national and sub-national.

(Ram Kumar Jha is working as Policy Analyst, CUTS International, Jaipur. He can be contacted at

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