That some 200 countries, including the worst offenders vis-à-vis greenhouse gas production ~ China, the United States and India to wit ~ have affixed their signature to the new rule book seeking to make the world a little more of a breathable place, should, at first glance, please everyone.
Yet, one cannot help but feel that there is something hypocritical about governments signing something just to keep up appearances over reaffirming commitments to the 2015 Paris climate accord while postponing key commitments on how emissions would be reduced.
Climate change, regrettably, continues to remain the domain of fighting environmentalists while it should have been a universal concern. That it is not so is because the average person, coughing and wheezing he/she may be, does not care to understand that neither livelihoods nor lives can be sustained under these noxious conditions.
The targets achievable in Katowice, Poland, thus should have been far greater but clearly could not be so because “countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line”, to quote one expert. The world has certainly not “woken up to the dire consequences of global warming” so very clearly spelt out by the UN Panel on Climate Change.
The price of governmental dilly-dallying over redressal has meant that global warming is hastening hastily with many more disasters in the offing; the California wildfires on the one hand and the mighty hurricanes on the other are just the initial warnings that nature has delivered to the world’s richest nation and the worst offender.
USA’s performance at the climate change tables has been “schizophrenic” with its president “pushing coal and dissing science” while the country pushes for “strong transparency rules”. There is an equal element of hypocrisy in the Indian position because nothing within the country suggests that environment is a serious concern with the government.
Indeed, ease of doing business has always trumped environmental concerns and the proposed Rs 50 trillion investment in infrastructure by 2022 pays scant attention to safeguarding the environment from further degradation that such investment will cause.
Indeed, the sustained dismantling of the legal regime around the environment, even through executive fiat, has made a mockery of the climate change concerns and indeed of the Indian citizen, many facing irreversible ecological and economic loss and turned into veritable environmental refugees.
While infrastructure is critical, ‘development’ should be informed by science instead of being made a matter of science versus corporate greed. As the IPCC has recently concluded, global warming can be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, compared to pre-industrial times.
However, doing so would mean shifting the paradigms of economic development and overhauling the global economy with a shift away from fossil fuels. The numbers are clear: global emissions from fossil fuels must be cut by half by 2030 but even amidst all the back-patting in Poland, it is not certain that end will be achieved; the gap between claims and concerns too yawning for comfort.