What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Review of implementation biodiversity action plans went missing, definitions hijacked the agenda of CBD COP

CoP 12 Working Group II

CoP 12 Working Group II

Dispatches from Pyeong Chang, S. Korea

The weather in Pyeong Chang (S. Korea) is very cold. The participants of Conference of Parties (COP) – 12 with their multiple agendas and contestations, counter statements are keeping the negotiation rooms very warm. The parties to convention are extremely thankful to Korean government for warm hospitality irrespective of the fact that everyone is freezing in plenary and working group tents. They are showing their deep gratitude by opening each and every statement they make (intervention as it is called in COP terminology), with ‘we show our gratitude to Korean Government for being a warm host’…blah, blah, blah. I’m sure the Korean government must be tired of listening to the same thing over again and again.  Ah! And then they thank the elected chair and keep reminding her that they will be very supportive.

Last day I was following the Working Group –II (Convention on Biological Diversity) where the first reading of decision draft text was undertaken with discussion on item number: 19 on the agenda of draft text i.e. Article 8 (J).

Article 8 (J) which deals with the traditional knowledge, innovation and practices of convention (on biological diversity) is one of the most contested pieces where agreement was reached over a period of time. Restating it in the archaic language of COP terminology- it has no Square Brackets.  “Article- (8) Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate: (J) Subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices;

In addition to the first reading of draft text, the parties were also supposed to undertake the mid-term review of implementation of Article 8 (J) in their countries. While most countries from developing global south very nicely avoided the review and came up with recommendation of replacing the term ‘Indigenous and local communities’ to  a more ‘appropriate’ term coined by UN Permanent forum of Indigenous Issues  ‘Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’.

For many of us it may not mean anything but for international environmental governance framework every word and term matters. There was visible divide on the issue. While most developing countries preferred the term given by UN forum, Canada raised the red flag. According to Canadian negotiator the change in terminology will open a new Pandora box which initiate more issues and make the discussion longer.

India while supporting the draft text on Article 8(J) actually asked for voluntary commitments according to the needs and local conditions of the country. Sujata Arora who is representing India (negotiator in Working Group II) shared the reason behind the statement and said that the voluntary commitments will give countries space to maneuver depending on the local conditions during implementation. The Article 8 (J) is about indigenous communities sadly, the agenda of representatives of indigenous groups who also give recommendations is dictated by the ones from Americas who are always present in big numbers. That was one of the others reasons of why India took this particular stand. Still Indian stand is questionable irrespective of the fact that one size will or may not fit all. Certain homogeneity in the guidelines for implementation of article will help in evolving monitoring programmes and better comparative studies.

Besides that according to her, India already has very strong provisions like Forest Rights Act which empowers indigenous communities to sustainably harvest the biodiversity produce. The National Biodiversity Authority through which access to the resources and traditional knowledge can be availed is another instrument which India has in place, to implement the given article. The domestic laws like those reiterate that commitments and road map of implementation should be voluntary as per her words.

When asked about the High Powered Committee constituted by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and their proposed amendments for most environmental laws in India, she declined to make any comment and said that she has no right to comment on domestic policies. I find it utterly strange as the domestic policies are going to be linked to international laws and conventions. India- for sure, will use the mentioned domestic instruments during the midterm review of implementation of Aichi Targets- especially in the conversation over Strategy Goal E: ‘Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building’- Target 18 which includes Article 8 (J).

South Africa like India also has domestic legislation and wants the implementation to be voluntary as otherwise if a new language and changes in terminologies is undertaken then they have to change the norms at home, this makes the implementation more tedious.

The proceedings went on. And parties which include India, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Uganda and others were invited by the chair of the meeting to have a separate discussion to finalize whether the Convention on Biological Diversity will use ‘Indigenous and local communities’ or ‘Indigenous peoples and local communities’.

Further adding to the update, South African negotiator emphasized a lot on ‘resource mobilization’ for ‘capacity building’ which if I may take liberty to declare that- it is very cliché term- is in use in environmental governance framework from a long time. It is the most over-abused term under the ambit of which the failure to achieve agreed targets can be clubbed in.

Sadly we shall never have enough resources to implement the given goals, still the clock is clicking and something needs to be done. International environmental governance is driven by the spirit of volunteerism. The environmental governance mechanisms under UN & UNEP are toothless unlike the World Trade Organization agreements where countries can earn legal economic sanctions or boycott if they don’t implement the agreed framework in word and spirit. And that makes the feeble proceedings far more frustrating for those who want to bring change.

If not anything else after following the working groups, by the end of COP 12 I’ll be using a lot of jargons which will be un-understandable for the most around me. I’ll also accomplish the art of complicating the matters further with the spirit of volunteerism.


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De-Mystification of Bio-D COP 12

Dispatches from Pyeong Chang, South Korea

Global Youth Delegation for COP12- Convention of Biological Diversity

Global Youth Delegation for COP12- Convention of Biological Diversity

From Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 three legally binding agreements emerged i.e. United Nations Framework on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological diversity (CBD), and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). UNFCCC is a well known and talked about agreement and framework. Annual event called Conference of Parties (COP) for the same is much awaited for. For the others we know very little, I here will delve on the processes of lesser known Convention on Biological diversity (CBD). Different countries, other constituencies like inter-governmental organizations, civil society groups, representatives of indigenous communities, youth have gathered in highly controversial for massive infrastructure construction in ecologically fragile zone still known very well venue for 2018 Winter Olympics- Pyeong Chang in South Korea. I’m there too and will be here till 18th October, 2014. With the help of Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) – a lot of us got financial support to attend the prestigious COP 12.

While the weather is very cold, everyone from official negotiators to civil society groups- young activists all seem to be very excited and warm. And it is quite impressive to see a balance of Global North and South especially in constituency of Youth which is very different from UNFCCC COPs. In Climate Change negotiations, there are more from Global North than South. The over-representation of North is absurd. At times many of the global north civil society groups have a tendency to hijack the agenda, while here in CBD the numbers are at par with each other.

At a very basic level the negotiations will include midterm review of Aichi Targets which countries have committed for the decade 2011-2020. We are in the October of 2014 and the performance against almost all vague targets is dismissal. Still there is hope. The optimism of achieving some desirable results by the end of 2020 was also reflected in the words of Malta Qwathekana, the CBD primary focal point from South Africa, during the interaction with the Global Youth Delegation. All the negotiations will be circling around provision of ‘adequate predictable resources’ for achieving the stated targets. That’s definitely not good news, as in past too- countries set ambitious targets for the decade 2001-2010 but failed to reach the desired outcomes because of ‘lack of adequate predictable resources’, hope is that we don’t miss another decade in the whirlpool of conflicts over resource mobilization.

During the present two weeks the Meeting of Parties (MOP-1) will begin for Nagoya Protocol focused on access and benefit sharing which was adopted in the year 2010. The Protocol will come in force this year and there will be wider discussion on it. Almost all countries have signed it, excluding three which includes United States of America.  Many suggest that the process for Nagoya Protocol was more efficient and smoother as United States was not a party to it.  There will be other aspects related to biological diversity which will also be looked into during the COP 12.

The high level meeting will start next week. Most important secretaries or environment ministers will be arriving at that time. While all this is going on, as one of the few Indians it makes me feel extremely sad and frustrated over the fact that India will and may play a spoil sport. The apathy of the new government on the issues of environment is very visible especially when the Indian leadership suggests ancient sciences as a mitigation strategy for climate change in United Nations General Assembly and picks up the same old lollypop of historical responsibility without realizing we have more to lose with the inaction. Most of the support mechanisms like Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006), National Forest laws, Environment Impact Assessment under Environment Protection Act and others which India has stated for national implementation to achieve targets have now an endangered future. The new government is pushing for amendments to resolve the concerns of industry and that will make environment, nature pay a heavy price.  While the world will be moving for greener future, we in India shall continue to follow the dirty model of so-called ‘development.’

Hoping for sanity to prevail! With the mixed feelings looking forward to the COP-12 on Convention of Biological Diversity which formally begins tomorrow.


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Oracle of the Oriental: Gandhiji

Could Gandhiji predict where the emissions-producing industrial world will lead us to? Did he know we will poke holes in the Ozone, bleach & finish up the corals, irrigate fields with acid rain, cause floods or cloud bursts or hurricanes every month somewhere in the world? Why did he have to warn us that India will be made a nation of homeless people as a result of driving people out of villages by building dams, ports, industries, highways & SEZs out of them?

How could he a century before the world cup of climate change (read COP15, 2009) warn the world against unrestricted industrialism & materialism? (read Hind Swaraj, 1909). He rejected western development as a culprit back then and today we are talking of polluter pays principle, historical responsibility to highlight western world’s share in the problem.

Did he actually predict all this? Was he an Oracle?

From his writings and speeches, it seems he was simply making an attempt to show the path of harmony with nature. He was emphasizing on the importance of pure air, clean water, and nutritious food to the vitality of each person’s body.

Let’s dig deeper.

He was saying all this at a time when colonial rule was influencing India/Bharat/Hindustan to veer from its ancient systems of living. He profusely criticized and rejected with examples the western technology driven lifestyles that know no limits. Many other Eastern Hemisphere countries also have ancient civilizations with similar values like India. Gandhiji was speaking from age-old wisdom of all these cultures.

Gandhiji could create a whole movement out of charkha, swaraj, salt, fast. These are the keywords of the movements of today as well – people in the west want to buy things made locally, the current government has launched Make-in-India campaign.

Everything Gandhiji did or say had a flipside meaning as well – he hinted at what could/will go wrong. He pointed out what could go wrong if:

We don’t respect & cater to the needs of our people in the non-urban areas aka villages, forest dwellers – led to resistance movements, slums
We don’t respect the limits of nature – led to climate tipping points, species extinction
We don’t value gifts of nature, that is, free & clean air, water, abundant food – now we pay for water, we pay for cleaner air (by buying homes in expensive, cleaner places), we fight over resources (state & clan disputes)
We consume more than we need – carbon footprint has now become a buzzword
We trade our values of decentralized self-reliance with centralized mass production – everything we need now has to be transported to us and we need to pay for it, thus, money assuming supremacy over everything else.
Gandhiji articulated the India of his dreams wherein he thought for the welfare of every form of life. All his virtues gained him the title, Father of the Nation or Bapu. We might add one more title to his name, Oracle of the Oriental.

Let’s make our life rather than a status update our message.


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How The Last Week Turned Out To Be One Of The Saddest Weeks In The Environmental History Of India

Mr. Modi’s recent speech, which received a standing ovation from the Indian delegation in a largely empty United Nations General assembly, is a representation of our collective ignorance. The popularly elected Prime Minister hinted that yoga is a way to mitigate climate change. One is not sure whether he was ridiculing the threat of climate change or mocking the ancient science of Yoga. This is not the first time Mr. Modi has shown his ignorance about climate change. His past statements are well documented where he declared that climate is not changing, our lifestyle is.

A request out of utter humour was posted on the Indian Youth Climate Network Page – “Our sincere requests to our ‘popular’ Prime Minister- please don’t make unnecessary linkages. Yoga is good for health but definitely not a strategy of mitigating climate change. Changing in lifestyle as you stated is needed and should start from your own very self, maybe you should learn from your counterpart in Uruguay. Too much to ask for, is it?!” received absurd responses, which were later removed by the admin.

Many of them actually made connections between yoga and climate change mitigation. According to one of the commentator, yoga helps to still the mind, and that ways we can face climate change. Most people who read it were not able to make any sense of it. It shows our collective ignorance and failure of scientific understanding.

India was founded by its makers to promote scientific understanding. Constitution starts with the declaration of ‘we the people’ and not with invocation of God or Almighty, or any particular religious or spiritual tradition. It seems that as Indians, we have missed the point altogether. We have failed to inculcate scientific values and prefer giving copies of Bhagvad Gita to everyone. While we have low understanding of science, we have become over-obsessed with technology. Let me make myself clear here – technology doesn’t always translate into science, rationale or logic. There are differences which we will not get into now.

Let’s move back to environmental governance and ignorance of the political class in India. A day before the Prime Minister’s visit to New York UN Assembly, Mr. Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change sang the old raga of ‘historical responsibility’ of emissions and just made a fool of his very own self in the UN summit on Climate Change called by Ban Ki Moon. The variability in climate will not cause natural disasters in historically responsible developed nations alone. For the weather patterns, these artificial nation state boundaries mean nothing. We all need to take firm commitments, whatever we can afford. And India has a vast potential to take shared responsibility on her shoulders. We have an opportunity to take a leap from the dirty polluting model of development. A pragmatic view is what we are lacking in our leadership. This is something which we need to remind our Environment Minister of….

The piece is originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and is continued here.-


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Agents of Change (IYCN) Helping Educate Students About Climate Change

by Manish Gautam*

Climate Change is a buzzword these days, although one can notice its absence in the English and other vernacular newspapers, education syllabuses and other general discourses, except in the scientific community in India (however due to its jargon language and closed room discussions it does not often grab the attention of the laymen). The question that might occur to anyone is what exactly is ‘this’ climate change and what we mean by climate change knowledge. It consists of definition of (human induced) climate change, the scientific findings supporting that the climate change occurring today is chiefly due to human activities, and it is important to take action timely otherwise the sustenance in this world would be difficult in near future. The main accused of this climate change are greenhouse gases that have been emitted mostly due to human activities (industries, agriculture, etc.), and the primary stress that every scientific study assessing the impact of climate change is to mitigate emission of these gases[1].

The UN summits and other global venues where climate change is being discussed, the developed and developing nations are often at the tug of war on who should be blamed for this 21st century scare. Montreal protocol, Kyoto protocol and other agreements, however, gave an optimistic picture that the future might be better; the agenda of economic growth being at the helm, lately, in developing countries such as India and China are rendering Climate Change issue as less important [2]. Despite the hesitation and seemingly inaction at the world stage, India, however, has keenly started its own set of programs to deal the Climate Change. It has already deployed a national action plan on Climate Change, and the (in)famous words also made their entry to the latest five year plan (12th FYP-Planning Commission). Some states also have followed suit and laid out state level action plans. The scientific communities, NGOs, and other citizen groups are also coming forward to set the action in the right course [3].

‘Agents of Change’, a flagship program of IYCN and into existence since 2008, is determined to disseminate knowledge and information on Climate Change and create awareness among the Indian youth about the issue. The Agents of Change have continuously made their presence at the past CoPs representing the Indian youth and appealing to the leaders of nation-states to adopt measures to curb the carbon emissions, and to combat the Climate Change problem [4].

On the onset of the next CoP in Lima, December 2014, the youth organizations worldwide once again are preparing themselves to mark their presence and let their voices heard. Indian youth are also not behind and they are, in the form of AoCs (IYCN) are doing their homework. The Climate Catalysts workshop, that took off in August 2014, and had its first workshop in Hyderabad city, has been empowering youth through these workshops. The two-day workshops have climate change science, global negotiations summary and policy reviews, interactive sessions with green entrepreneurs and sustainability practitioners, and group discussions among participants to understand the issue along with India’s role into climate change on its menu. The outcome so far – Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh – has been encouraging and the responses from the participating youth are making AoCs to achieve its goal of spreading knowledge on Climate Change.

While the ecological and environmental issues pertaining to India have been at the center of the discussions at the workshops, the youth have started to perceive the issue of Climate Change and to understand it as an imminent threat at national and regional level. The workshops are the groundwork for the Agents to present the youth’s opinion in the dialog of climate change at CoP. Amid the news of increasing levels of CO2 emissions, population growth, and action-inaction of the nation states to make the vulnerable future resilient, the information and knowledge can prove to be a powerful tool to fight for a livable, sustainable world.

*Manish Gautam is a researcher @Indian Institute for Human Settlements and member of Indian Youth Climate Network

1.https://unfccc.int/essential_background/the_science/items/6064.php

2.http://www.vox.com/2014/9/25/6843673/india-climate-change-stance-emissions-rise-30-years

3.http://www.c2es.org/international/key-country-policies/india/climate-plan-summary, http://envfor.nic.in/ccd-sapcc

  1. http://iycn.in/


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Exposing The Hypocrisy Of Modi Government On Environmental Issues

It is highly recommended that the new government change the name of “Ministry of Environment and Forest” to “Ministry of Environment and Forest Clearances”. The interview of Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, in a news daily on 10th September is a reflection of the same. When the “honorable” minister was asked about the biggest achievement of his ministry, he proudly stated that the ministry has deleted the word ‘delay’ from its system and gives speedy approvals (to everything). What I inferred from it was that the ministry has changed its mandate from ‘environment protection’ to ‘environment clearance’ , and that is the achievement of 100 days of honeymoon.

This comes after our very own PM’s statement on climate change. According to him, it is not climate which is changing, it is humans who have changed. And for the same reason, a meagre Rs. 100 Cr. have been set aside for climate change adaptation.

Yes Mr. Prime Minister, humans have changed a lot, and through the change in their lifestyle, they have made climate far more variable than ever before. But probably our leadership is not aware of that. A day before the interview, in the same newspaper, it was mentioned that the carbon intensity of India has increased by 0.7% in 2013. None of these are good symptoms. We know that the agenda of our government is dictated by few obese merchant households, for whom, nothing matters other than profit. Still, people had some hope from the right wing, as they regularly give sermons on how ‘eco-friendliness’ is a part and parcel of our religion, culture and society.

The piece was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and is continued here


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These ‘Green Entrepreneurs’ Are Our Saviours In The Climate Emergency

Informal economy! I’m not sure whether any of the readers have had heard the term ‘informal economy’ ever before. As far as I know, the term is not there in school syllabus. It is apparently absent from Bachelors’ courses too. Informal economy workers are everywhere. Let me also make one thing very clear, that informal economy workers are neither illegal nor illegitimate children of the republic. It is definitely not the other name of black market.

Informal economy, at very basic level, means the economy or sectors which are not regularized or recognized by the state or other state actors. Most of the developing economies are known for large scale informalities in various sectors. South Asia, particularly India, is no different. According to the Employment & Unemployment Survey 2004-05, 84.7 % of Indians work in the informal economy, a majority of those are women and many fall in the category of youth. A street vendor selling vegetables, a cobbler repairing shoes, domestic help, waste picker collecting –sell-able or recyclable waste, agriculture labourer, carpenter and many more are all informal economy workers. They are the backbone of Indian economy. Their contribution to GDP is rarely acknowledged.

Most informal economy workers are poor, marginalized and in context of India, belong to erstwhile lower castes. They live in informal settlements which are disease prone, with no proper water and sanitation facilities. Their access to social, educational and nutritional security is lowest amongst most social groups. In recent years, a few welfare measures like right to food and right to education have come up, but they are too short of addressing the cores issues which make masses vulnerable.

In the troubled times like the ones we are living in, another monster is standing at our door. The monster is Climate Emergency. The nation-states have not taken any stringent action to mitigate the climate crisis. Instead, they agreed to have a 2 degree C rise in temperature without even knowing what it implies. This means that they have agreed to more floods, droughts, irregular rains and falling agriculture production.

The article was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and can be read here.

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