In Retrospect

Leap with hope

For all its grim parallels to the looming climate change crisis, the pandemic also ended up igniting the hope that blue skies, clean rivers and lower GHG emission are possible

Leap with hope

Moving towards the end, 2020 has left many marks for the history of mankind with COVID-19 being the scariest of them all. This zoonotic disease is also a result of human interferences that altered environmental balance alike climate change which has become one of the biggest threats to mankind on the earth. Though there is no direct evidence that climate change has any influence on the spread of COVID-19, we do know that it does alter the factors that accelerate infections and fatality by influencing transmission, exposure and geographical spread of diseases particularly waterborne, vector-borne and air pollution influenced ones. A very conservative figure of a WHO assessment predicts nearly 2,50,000 additional deaths and USD 2-4 billion direct cost to the health damage per year between 2030 and 2050; majorly due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress.

The lessons

With the vaccines coming as saviour, this crisis may be brought to heel but the question remains — what are we doing to secure the future from such large scale disasters? What are we doing to tackle climate change impacts where the devastation could be far severe, persistent and across various life aspects than what this pandemic has shown?

Time is running out. In the last 100 years, the world has been warmed by nearly 0.6°C resulting in the reduction of nearly 10 per cent of snow cover and 40 per cent of Arctic sea ice thickness. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any preceding decade since 1850. As weather patterns change, extreme weather events become frequent. While these changes affect the world as a whole, it is the poorest and marginalised sections who are the most vulnerable, both during the pandemic and the climate crisis.

2020 has highlighted the urgent need to create a sustainable economic future. It also ignited the hope that a blue sky, clean rivers, reduced pollution and lower GHG emissions are possible.

Ongoing efforts

25 conference of parties (COP) events have happened since 1995, yet the world has failed to arrive at a unified action plan for climate change — mainly stuck on the question whether the developed nations should compromise the luxury or developing nations let the basic need of development go. Not that all the efforts have failed — the Kyoto protocol managed to set the marginal emission reduction targets for developed nations, the Copenhagen accord and the Cancun agreement peered in developing nations to reduce emission rate promising USD 100 billion global climate fund to support whereas, the Paris agreement unified the global effort to limit the temperature increase within 2°C above pre industrial levels and pursuing to limit within 1.5°C increase. The upcoming COP 26, rescheduled in November 2021, is expected to build on this pledge.

India leads

India with its tropical location and vast population has a high threat of climate change. Though the country contributes merely seven per cent of global GHG emission with below world-average per capita emission, it ended the long impasse at Copenhagen and emerged as a global leader with voluntarily announcing 20 per cent reduction in emission intensity of 2005 level by 2020 — the INDC targets reflect. It's a boost to the global fight against climate change that India's INDC target of 175 GW of renewable energy and 40 per cent of total energy share from renewable by 2030, may well be achieved several years in advance.

The new year in the new decade brings many hopes to win the fight. Use of fossil fuel which contributes 25 per cent of total global GHG emission, is becoming unwanted. Hope is going stronger with many improvements in the market with clean energy technology becoming more efficient and economical. This has allowed more businesses to jump on the renewables bandwagon. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that about USD 240 billion was invested in energy efficiency projects in 2018 which also means over 21 million jobs in this sector. In addition,

transportation, the second-largest GHG emitter globally, is seeing significant improvement in the electronic vehicle (EV) market, predicted to cover 50 per cent of passenger vehicles by 2040 whereas agriculture, another biggest GHG emitter, has explored climate-friendly options through regenerative agriculture.

Many multinationals have already pledged to move towards carbon neutrality in the years to come. The post COVID era is expected to drive the nations towards stronger actions and big businesses towards clean, efficient and carbon-neutral operations. Hope is a game changer — we must hope and act.

Views expressed are personal

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