Changing with climate change

Trump’s reversal is an opportunity to reframe climate change as a social and not a physical problem

mukul

Mukul Sanwal | April 20, 2017


#global emissions   #USA   #energy supply   #climate change   #Donald Trump   #air pollution  



In 2050 the USA and China would each have contributed around 16 percent of global cumulative emissions, while India’s share will be a mere eight percent even though it would be the second largest economy. This would require the country to become rule-makers and not just rule-takers to ensure that major emitters do not shift the problem to others.

At India’s insistence, the Paris Agreement includes a reference to “climate justice”. Now, taking advantage of US president Trump’s withdrawal, it should reframe the global concern in terms of human wellbeing, sharing responsibility and prosperity and reducing energy consumption. 

In 2050, three-quarter to two-third of the global population, GDP and emissions of carbon dioxide will come from cities. This global trend requires reframing of the 25-year-old approach to equity based on historical emissions to the use of energy and the prevention of emissions as urbanisation spreads around the world. Energy will be at the core of the future discussion as global emissions have been flat for three years because of changing patterns of energy consumption. 

Trump’s executive order reversing former president Obama’s climate policies, justified in terms of ‘energy independence’, will have limited impact on global emissions. Out of the five long-term strategies submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat by March 31, three are from G7 countries, which in 2009 decided to reduce aggregate emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. While Germany’s long-term strategy indicates its intent to approach greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality by 2050, the plans of the US do not explicitly identify when the countries’ emissions would reach net zero. Obama’s Clean Power Plan was designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from electricity by 32 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels and the initiative has been in legal limbo since the supreme court stayed the order.

While Trump was signing the executive order, on the other side of the world the municipality of Beijing was releasing its plan for a greener city by 2030. The plan has three components. First, make 80 percent of commuting ‘green’ by extending the subway from the current 574 km to 1,000 km and cover 42 percent of downtown commuting (in Delhi phase IV will cover 434 km) and ensure 12.6 percent of commutes are by bicycles. Second, increase the green area to 45 percent of the land area of the city. Third, reduce the average concentration of PM 2.5 to 35 microns. They have asked for public comments, while analysts are sceptical about Trump’s actions, as well as those of Obama. 

Global trends

Use of coal is already stabilising in the major emitting countries. Conventional power generation investment has essentially come to a halt in Europe, with recent investment in renewable-based and nuclear power capacity now largely covering electricity demand growth, two-third of China’s demand growth in 2016 was supplied by renewables and in North America in 2016 natural gas-fired generation exceeded coal’s share of the US electricity mix on an annual basis.

At the global level, energy consumption and economic development have been decoupling, with gross domestic product increasing by more than 90 percent between 1990 and 2014, while total primary energy supply grew by 56 percent. In this period energy intensity decreased by approximately 20 percent between 1990 and 2014; with the decrease in developing countries three times that in the developed countries. 

The global middle class

In 2015 for all developed countries, energy efficiency was responsible for 80 percent of the reduction in energy consumption. Overall, transport is the largest end-use sector (35%), followed by manufacturing industry (23%) and the residential sector (21%). With rapid urbanisation in developing countries, the end-use sectors are emerging as responsible for the major share of global emissions, as in the developed countries. 

There is going to be a faster expansion of the middle-class than at any time in history. By 2030, it is estimated that in the global middle class there will be 380 million in India, 350 million in China and 120 million in the rest of Asia, compared with 130 million in the rest of the world. This population shift will double consumer spending to $30 trillion and one-third of GDP growth will take place in Asia, with impact on energy end-use. The planning of cities to support public and shared transport and energy efficient buildings will be a key element in reducing the carbon-footprint of these countries and at the global level.

Trump’s withdrawal provides India the opportunity to shift the focus of long-term emission reduction strategies in the climate negotiations and at the national level to energy demand in the largest end-use sectors, the causes of the climate problem, rather than focus on emissions, which are the symptoms. 


Sanwal is a former director of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat.

(The article appears in the April 16-30, 2017 issue of Governance Now)

 

 

Comments

 

Other News

Thus ends the Chidamba-Run!

The arrest of Palaniappan Chidambaram, former union minister of home & finance, by the CBI, albeit after his much dramatic disappearance and reappearance, has brought an end to his long run from the arms of law. As a finance minister, being at the other end of the law, the former ministe

What Imran’s rant against RSS tells us about Modi’s Kashmir policy

An unintended consequence of the inversion of Article 370 and the division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories is the curious revival of Pakistan’s interest in Indian history and sociology. For the first time in decades, a Pakistan prime minister made the Rasht

On a Personal note with actor Neeraj Kabi

Neeraj Kabi, a critically acclaimed self-taught actor, theatre director, and acting teacher, has worked in Odiya, Hindi and international cinema, theatre, television and web series. In 2014 he was honoured with the best actor award at the 4th Sakhalin International Film Festival for his role in the fil

Talking to Trump, Modi hits out at Imran’s anti-India rhetoric

Prime minister Narendra Modi has told US president Donald Trump that Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s “incitement to anti-India violence” was not good for peace in south Asia. Modi and Trump had a telephonic conversation – their first since the Aug 5 move to chang

Paediatricians call for junking unhealthy food

As children are consuming more and more fast foods and sweetened beverages are becoming, leading to obesity and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) has come out with guidelines on such substances. The dietary guidelines under its nutrition chapter

Modi’s forward-looking I-Day speech lays down 5-year agenda

Contrast prime minister Narendra Modi’s first Independence Day speech in 2014 with his latest, the first in the second term, and you know the difference. His first speech was less about future and much about the basic needs like Swachch Bharat (clean India). His speech on Thursday, on the other hand,



Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter