Updates from ESG & Upcoming Events
Evolving a Participatory Climate Action Plan for Indian Metropolises
Environment Support Group, supported by the Commonwealth Foundation, is in the process of evolving a socially inclusive, deeply democratic and participatory climate action plan for Bengaluru! As a part of the project, ESG is holding consultations with various marginalised groups, ward committee members, academics, civil society and the general public to identify key climate challenges and potential strategies. The first of the series of consultations was held with senior citizens on 28th November, 2023 at Beneath the Mango Tree, Benson Town. Read the report of the consultation here. ESG will be holding another consultation with senior citizens (date & venue to be disclosed soon). Read Bhargavi S Rao’s article on the need to engage senior citizens for climate actions plans here.
In December, ESG will be conducting three more consultations – with the Dalit community and the landfill-affected communities at Mavallipura on 16th December, 2023; with sex workers on 18th December 2023 at SIEDS; and with urban farmers (date and venue to be disclosed). Stay tuned on ESG’s website & social media for further updates!
Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent
In August 2023, Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi (IMPRI) conducted a course on Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent: Impact and Way Forward. Bhargavi S Rao led the discussions on Climate Justice & Equity during Week 4 of the course, highlighting India’s ambitious climate goals and raising concerns about land allocation for RE projects. Access the report of the course here.
Updates from the COP28
The COP28 summit being held in the UAE witnessed the presence of 199 member countries of the UNFCCC to engage in crucial discussions and commitments to fulfil the obligations of the Paris Agreement. The ongoing conference hit its first groundbreaking milestone by approving the ‘loss and damage fund’.
Another promising prospect is the commitment made by 124 countries by signing the ‘Declaration on Climate and Health’. However, India has withheld its commitment towards the instrument citing the impracticality in reducing greenhouse gases for cooling purposes in the health sector.
Amidst such significant developments, the COP28’s President has shockingly stated that there is ‘no science that phasing out fossil fuels will fix the climate’, and that a phase down or phase out model for fossil fuels is ‘inevitable as it is essential’.
The Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency pledge was signed by 118 countries with an aim to triple renewable energy generation capacity by 2030. India is not a signatory to the pledge given the already visible commitments made by the country in the renewable energy sector.
India has taken a rather unwavering stance on how it is not in a position to abandon coal use anytime soon as it is still essential in meeting the growing demand for electricity in the country as well as acts as a catalyst for the transition to green energy. Another commitment towards the transition into such greener energy was made by the United States along with 21 other countries by taking a pledge to triple nuclear capacity.
Pitfalls of Energy Transition
The world is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy faster than ever. However, this has not led to a halt in coal burning as the global demand for electricity has grown faster than clean energy, pushing up carbon emissions instead of reducing it.
India has ambitiously committed to achieving 500GW of clean energy by 2030 and to reach net-zero by 2070. However, there are several challenges to the same as there is heavy reliance on mega projects that have massive environmental impact, lead to displacement of people and loss of livelihoods, and also generate large amounts of waste.
Further, a study by the Council for Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) highlighted challenges hindering the widespread adoption of rooftop solar systems mainly due to cost barriers.
Consequences of ill-planned Mega Projects
Several mega infrastructure projects have come at the cost of the environment, more so those projects in ecologically sensitive zones. Growing tourism led to the 880-km Char Dham project in Uttarakhand which recently saw the collapse of a section of the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot, trapping 41 workers. Despite bypassing an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for construction, the Supreme Court approved the project in 2019, citing national security under the recent Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act 2023.
The news of the tunnel collapse comes at a time when in Bangalore, to address the city’s escalating traffic concerns, the Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivkumar announced a project of constructing a double-decker flyover to accommodate both metro and vehicular traffic, in addition to the proposal to construct tunnel roads through the city.
In early October, the Teesta Stage III hydropower project in North Sikkim breached due to a glacial lake outburst flood, raising questions over the environmental impact of a large project in a seismically sensitive and landslide prone area. The construction of the Vizhinjam International Seaport by Adani Port Private Ltd has sparked concerns about its potential impact on the coastal ecosystem. Such mega ports present a spectrum of disadvantages that span environmental, social, economic, and logistical dimensions.
Scrutinising Emission Trading
With the beginning of the annual “smog season” in North India, combating air pollution has become more important than ever, requiring long term solutions. The world’s first market for particulate emissions has been established in Surat, Gujarat allowing industries to trade permits for emitting particulate matter under an Emissions Trading System. However, there are several issues not only in implementing the scheme, but also in the effectiveness of such trading schemes itself.
Updates on Waste Management
Improper disposal of waste is further exacerbating the climate crisis. A new report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) has revealed that waste from 19 global brands, like Adidas and Walmart, is being used as fuel in local brick factories releasing harmful emissions that affect workers, surrounding communities and the environment.
Plastic pollution remains rampant in India and is noticeably more in tourist spots. Ladakh faces increased garbage problems during the tourist season which is worsened by the lack of a solid and plastic waste management policy.
The global effort to reach an internationally binding treaty on ending plastic pollution has culminated in a zero draft of the treaty. Further negotiations will continue in April 2024 in Ottawa.
The Violence in Mining
BMW has recently come under scrutiny for reported findings of serious violations of environmental and labour protection regulations at cobalt mines in Morocco. Cobalt is in high demand for its utility in batteries. The sudden rise in the demand for batteries has also generated large quantities of e-waste that is potentially toxic if not disposed of correctly. While India has rules for the same management and handling of e-waste,there are still several shortcomings.
In Todgatta, Gadchiroli, the police have forcefully dispersed a 250-day tribal protest against 6 proposed iron mines, leading to arrests and dismantling of protest sites. Similarly, marginalised Dalit and Adivasi communities in the Bauxite belt of Odisha faced arrests highlighting how violent mining is in the state.
In brighter news, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has raised alarm over the illegal extraction of minor minerals in Odisha’s Cuttack district for a third-line railway track.
Species Threatened by Extinction
Reckless human activity is pushing many species towards extinction. The former Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, known for his anti-environmental policies, is currently facing investigation for harassing a humpback whale while riding a jet ski. Consumption of sea urchin spaghetti as a delicacy in Sicily is putting the sea urchins at risk of extinction.
While the IUCN warns of several species of animals facing extinction, scientists have raised concerns that the IUCN red list itself is outdated and unreliable, and that the extinction risk of some species may be far worse.
A new study has found that while climate change is pushing animals to evolve and adapt, the rate of evolution/adaptation of some species is mismatched with the rate of global warming, thereby pushing these species to climate-driven extinction.
Challenges to Biodiversity Conservation
Biodiversity, the intricate web of life that sustains our planet, is under constant threat from various anthropogenic activities. In Karnataka, the Forest Department conducted a study to gauge the carrying capacity of Bandipur Tiger Reserve’s Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ), with researchers finding a slightly higher demand of ecological resources than supply.
Meanwhile, in Manipur, a conflict arises between the ground strategy for biodiversity conservation and the State’s proposal to ‘de-reserve’ portions of wildlife sanctuaries to accommodate government activities like installing mobile towers!
In Portugal, eucalyptus monocultures planted under carbon offsetting programmes have lead to increased wildfires threatening the biodiversity and water resources.
Caution over Genetic Modifications
In attempts to curb pests, harm befalls the biodiversity and the health of people and animals. In yet another case against Monsanto, now Bayer, a Missouri court found links between Bayer’s weed-killer and cancer, and imposed a penalty of over $1.5 billion on the company.
Despite such historical cases, scientists are exploring genetic modification as a potential solution to combat insects and pests, particularly for diseases like malaria that needs a cautious approach, community trials taking into consideration potential societal and cultural implications.
In Uganda, the Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation has called for laws on GMOs, as the nation is currently researching genetic modifications to curb mosquito-borne diseases, which needs to be regulated.
Can Humans Survive Global Warming?
Previously, scientists predicted that increased solar radiation would evaporate Earth’s oceans in 2 billion years. However, new research finds that within the next billion years, a rapid deoxygenation event could occur, leading to an atmosphere dominated by methane, making life unviable on Earth.
Signs of the threat to humanity and all life on earth are already visible. Record levels of GHG concentrations has led Earth temporarily breaching the 2°C threshold making 2023 the warmest year. Global warming and climate change is also leading to farmer debts, migration and suicides. It has also contributed to mental health issues and destabilised communities.
Unfortunately, current human lifestyles and activities are not sustainable and only exacerbate the problems of climate change, highlighting the need for degrowth to address climate change.
[This issue of EJM has been compiled by Vidita Govindachari, Pranjali Gupta, Nidhi Hanji, Sandhya Sundarrajan & Yashaswini Sundar ][Disclaimer: Environment Justice Matters (EJM) is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended for commercial use, and Environment Support Group (ESG) does not derive any profit from its dissemination. We make no warranties or guarantees regarding the accuracy, completeness, or suitability of the information provided. Readers are encouraged to verify any information independently before relying on it. ESG shall not be held liable for any errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. All photographs used in EJM are sourced from the internet.
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