Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Climate Policy watch is now habit forming

Climate change has been denied, labelled as a myth and a political manoeuvre, or synergised with individual weather events.

While there has been a marked turnaround in the stand of climate deniers and sceptics, it has definitely been used as a political tool by the U.S. to bring pressure upon fast developing nations. Albeit, in the wake of the Copenhagen fiasco of December 2009, it remains to be seen how much the U.S. Policy makers can succeed in their delaying tactics. President Obama has got into the habit of clinging to the arm of one muse or the other, the latest being the BP oil spill. Climate scientists however continue to be doubtful about any future global consensus, despite U.S.‘s recent flip to a hangdog stance.

It is also amazing how stand-alone weather changes are often cited as proof of climate change existence or nihility. It is actually ‘natural variability’ that comes to play, and adapting to this in the long run will help insulate communities against the variable impacts of climate change.

While the U.S Government still dithers on a meaningful climate and energy policy, extreme weather events are wreaking widespread havoc all over U.S. and the world at large.

Political leaders whether in India or U.S. need to connect the dots between these unprecedented weather events and rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, as warned by climate scientists for long. In fact as the leading emitter of CO2, U.S. needs to get out of “lobbying politics” and effect measures immediately, keeping on mind that measures taken eventually would bear results only at a future date.

Dr. James Hansen has unveiled his own set of proposals in the People‘s Climate Stewardship, wherein he advocates a steadily increasing fee on carbon at source - wells, mines and ports of energy, so clean energy becomes competitive with fossil fuel within a decade. He envisages, revenue from these would be returned to citizens to offset the higher energy costs.

With an eco conscious tech savvy Minister at the fore of the Climate Change policy making, India could very well emulate some of these proposals while drawing inspiration from our Vedic heritage, that has always advocated a sustainable green way of life.. Why wait for a global consensus or a joint accord when we can make our own choice for a better tomorrow. move away from fossil fuels to more advanced levels of sustainable self-sufficiency?

On the national climate front, there is plenty of ongoing drama with many States even failing to come up with an appropriate State Action Plan on Climate Change despite repeated extensions from the Centre. Notwithstanding, there are a couple of States like Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh that are much advanced in their forward planning, climate monitoring and policy making on the ecological front. Of course, they also happen to be the States already affected by climate change, occupying one of the most eco-fragile regions of the country. One can easily draw the conclusion, that a State does not need hand-holding by the Centre or reprisals for non-submission of documentation, if its intentions to do pro-active work exists, as exemplified by the State of Sikkim. On the other hand, the series of decisions on the part of the Sikkim Government on the hydel projects front is a looming disaster with possibly high fallouts that I shall talk about in my further blogs.

The ENVIS centres nationwide are in particular doing commendable work, in research and think-tank policy implementation, taking into its fold community participation at both micro and macro levels, besides publication and information dissemination.

It is to be seen how 2010 unfolds vis-à-vis climate change policy making and implementation, both in India and the US, the principle emitter. The poser put forth by Climate Revolution that reveals lack of strategy on the part of Indian Government to push the West on climate is actually not much of a shocker. Anyone who has followed the events closely the past two years would know that each time India has taken an aggressive stance, it has been met with a backlash or 'ostrich' attitude on the part of the West.

It is simple.

Till the U.S. Government can get around the strong oil and energy lobbyists, there can be no meaningful climate and energy policy. However, the British Government with its UKCIP initiative has jogged miles ahead with its climate mitigation strategies. What is then stopping India from pursuing its own climate and energy policy at hard-liner levels independent of what the West is up to?

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