On COP26: Watching Glasgow from Kashmir

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 1Phil Noble/ Reuters

UN Chief’s stark message to world community 

“WE are digging our own graves”, UN Chief António Guterres cautioned the world in Glasgow at the COP26 summit recently. He forewarned world leaders about humanity’s continuous addiction to fossil fuels which threatens to push life and the planet to the brink through continuous global warming.

The UN Secretary General took to the podium with a very blunt opening remark:

“The six years since the Paris climate agreement have been the six hottest years on record. Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink “

Guterres reminded us that sea-level rise is double the rate it was 30 years ago, that oceans are hotter than ever, and parts of the Amazon rainforest now emit more carbon than they absorb.

The situation is disturbing in the Himalayan region as well because glaciers are receding and plastic waste continues to be dumped unscientifically in forests and water bodies. This was also viewed seriously at the COP26 summit. In-fact ,this has been going on for a while now, especially the unscientific waste management and deforestation happening in Kashmir under the garb of development.

Glasgow Pact  

COP which means Conference of Parties is the annual UN climate change conference that has been held for the last 26 years. This summit is attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty that came into force in 1994. This year’s conference i.e COP26 summit came to an end at Glasgow Scotland only a few days back. The conference that was held between 1st to 13th November was hosted in partnership between the UK and Italy. The conference was held a year later than planned due to delays caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.

The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first ever climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce coal, considered to be the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gases. The deal also presses for more urgent emission cuts and promises more money for developing or under-developing countries to help them adapt to climate impacts. But the pledges don't go far enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius.

A commitment to phase out coal that was included in earlier negotiation drafts led to a dramatic finish after India and China led opposition to it. India's Environment Forests and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav asked how developing countries could promise to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies when they still have to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication. In the end, countries agreed to "phase down" rather than "phase out" coal, amid expressions of disappointment by some. COP26 President Alok Sharma said he was "deeply sorry" for how events had unfolded.

Who is Alok Sharma?

Alok Sharma was hardly a household name in Britain, let alone the rest of the world, when appointed to lead the UN climate talks in Glasgow. Born in 1967 at Agra Uttar Pradesh , Alok Sharma is a British politician who served as President for COP 26. He moved to London with his father when he was only 5. Sharma is also the Minister of State in the British Cabinet office. He has been an MP from Conservative party representing the Reading West constituency since 2010. In PM Theresa’s May’s Govt Sharma was the Minister of State for Housing from 2017 to 2018 and then Minister of State for Employment from 2018 to 2019. In 2020 he was appointed to the Cabinet, by PM Boris Jhonson as Secretary of State for International Development. He was promoted to Secretary of State for Business , Energy , and Industrial Strategy in the 2020 cabinet reshuffle. Alok Sharma’s father Prem Sharma was also into politics who was involved in Conservative politics in Reading and became chairman of the Berkshire area of Conservatives.

India and COP 26 summit

At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow earlier this month, Prime Minister Modi said India will achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. This was one of the five major commitments or paanch amrit he made on behalf of India, to mitigate climate change. The rest commitments are as under:

  • India will bring its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030

  • India will bring its economy's carbon intensity down to 45 per cent by 2030

  • India will fulfil 50 per cent of its energy requirement through renewable energy by 2030

  • India will reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the total projected emissions by 2030

By not signing a treaty on stopping use of the coal, halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030 the climate activists and environmentalists in India have been disappointed a lot which put a question mark on the Modi Govt’s climate change policies.

What Nations can do ?

United Nations has set several targets to counter climate change which includes strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. Every country in the world needs to integrate measures into national policies, strategies and planning. They need to improve education and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning. The Himalayan nations like India , Pakistan, Bhutan or Nepal  need to implement the commitments made under the UN convention on climate change (UNCC). The developed countries need to ensure mobilizing  funds from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund (GCF)through its capitalization as soon as possible. The developed or even the developing countries need to promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing states, including focusing on women, youth and marginalized communities.

Declaration on forests & land use 

During the COP 26 summit an ambitious declaration was initiated by the United Kingdom to halt deforestation and land degradation by 2030. This is being referred to as the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use. India did not sign this, as it objected to trade being interlinked to climate change and forest issues in the agreement. The declaration recognises that to meet our land use, climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals, both globally and nationally, will require transformative further action in the interconnected-areas. It was resolved that sustainable production and consumption be ensured and to support small farmers Indigenous People and local communities, who depend on forests for their livelihoods and have a key role in their stewardship.

This has in-fact already been recognized by Govt of India under the Forest Rights Act (FRA 2006 ) but unfortunately the FRA is still not being implemented in letter and spirit in India, as less than 10 % of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers have benefited from this legislation in the last 15 years across  Indian states. The law was extended to J&K post article 370 abrogation and it seems to be an ardent task to see its implementation in this Himalayan region of Jammu & Kashmir.

The Glasgow declaration on forests and land use helps to achieve a balance between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change, and to maintain other ecosystem services. The declaration was signed by 141 nations including the UK, US, Russia and China. These nations have committed 12 billion US dollars in public funds from 2021-25.

Major Highlights of the Declaration:

Conservation: Conserve forests and other terrestrial ecosystems and accelerate their restoration.

Sustainable Development: Facilitate trade and development policies, internationally and domestically, that promote sustainable development and sustainable commodity production and consumption.

Building Resilience: Reduce vulnerability, build resilience and enhance rural livelihoods, including through empowering local communities.

Recognising Indigenous Rights: The development of profitable, sustainable agriculture, and recognition of the multiple values of forests, while recognising the rights of Indigenous. India, Argentina, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are the only 5 20 nations that did not sign the declaration.

Conclusion

Finally, a new global climate deal has been signed at the COP26 climate summit. But at the conclusion of the summit, President of the conference Alok Sharma seemed to 'fight back tears' as the leader apologised for a last-minute change on the wording over coal. At a time when emphasis is put on conservation of forests and strengthening the land use policy, the decisions taken by amending or repealing Jammu & Kashmir’s land laws violates the Indian’s National Land Use Policy 2013. Transferring 24000 kanals (3000 acres) of forest or agricultural land for industrial growth violates sustainable development goals/SDGs (SDG-13). This indeed tantamounts to digging our own graves.


Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback [email protected]

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