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Climate Change: The Journey to Commitments


The adolescence of 17th Century went through a curiously outrageous phase. The inventions and innovations hit the ground running with over-enthusiasm of the rewarding wealth and power. With abundant resources gathered from the colonies and ceaseless power in hand, Europe, like a teenager found running towards the luring rewards of industrialization. The major breakthrough invention during those times was the Steam Engine. The principle utilized coal as the major fuel. This was a revolutionary technology that took no time in penetrating almost every production sector during industrialization and urbanization. The onset of this revolution crowned the coal as the “gold of the century”. It was brought into utility, all for industrial, civil, defense and domestic purposes, as fuel. States and private investors grabbed the opportunity and invested in fuel businesses in coming years.

Albeit this less-thought-upon industrial culture brought advancements, the society was left with several testing aftereffects. Sudden variations in the atmosphere due to smoke, soot, and smog resulted in profound societal and environmental issues. Although many aspects of ecology were affected, most of the biological indicators of the changes wrought by the industrial revolution are related to atmospheric pollution (Bishop and Cook, 1980), giving rise to major epidemics and ecological losses of all times. The extent of smoke and fly ash in the air tainted the tree trunks in the forests resulting in the destruction of epiphytes called Lichens. This phenomenon was studied and reported by the geneticist, William Bateson in 1900, later called as Industrial Melanism. He observed a steep decline in the population of the pepered moth (Bitson betularia) which were in abundance earlier in its niche. Due to the destruction of light-colored lichens on the trees, the light colored moths that camouflaged for protection from predators got exposed on darker tree trunks.

Similar to peppered moth genocide, human sufferings were prominently disturbing. Tuberculosis reported to be the greatest killer in the cities that spread in overcrowded tenements like wildfire.

Climate already was pushed into perils with rising pollution and heating global temperature. In their study, Nerilie J. Abram and others found that in some regions, about 180 years of industrial era warming has caused surface temperatures to emerge above pre-industrial values. Today, climate change and global warming are the most pressing problems, the planet is struggling with. The rise in the sea levels has put the island nations and coastal areas of every seaside teritories in a huge threat. The world has already witnessed the rise in the global temperature from 1.2 degrees to 1.4 degree Celsius.

The Global Attention

l in advance, about the hazards of unsustainable growth. From the times of the Industrial Revolution, till today, every aspect of growth has been achieved by the mankind, but in this blindfolded growth, it took us a century to realize those unbearable costs at which we’ve been counting our achievements. However, our future seems brighter due to tenacious and collaborative efforts by the United Nations along with the scientific community who persuaded the issue on the global platform, resulting in a very fruitful international support at the Paris Climate Convention, 2015. The realization occurred at the first World Climate Conference in 1979 the epicenter of the climate conscience. The global attention, hence got attracted to the alarming climatic status of our planet. In 1988, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) was set up that released the first assessment report at the second World Climate Conference in 1980, collectively called for a global treaty on Climate Change. But the initiative went not smooth enough to gather global support. It was going to demand deep and rigorous diplomatic and scientific negotiations, for which, in 1991, the first meeting of the IntIntellectuals recognized welergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) that conducted a series of dialogs to place the foundations of a global change.

In 1992, Environmental concerns revived in the global conscience with the Rio Earth Summit. Where INC adopted the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) text along with its sister Rio-Conventions i.e. UNCBD (United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity) and UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), which came into force in 1994. With near universal membership, nearly 195 nations ratified the agreement. The ultimate aim of UNFCCC has been to prevent human interference in the climate system. With this began the cascade of conferences and meetings of the Parties that took place every consecutive year, for a decade, in order to mitigate the climate change and to promise a future with a healthier environment. In 1995, the first conference of the Parties (COP 1) took place in Berlin with 3,969 participants globally. The very next year, in 1996, the UNFCCC Secretariat was set up to support the action under the convention. The efforts led to the ‘Kyoto Protocol’, adopted in December 1997, at COP 3. It was in 2005 when the first meeting of the Parties (MOP 1) to the Kyoto Protocol took place in Montreal. This was to push into force, the Kyoto Protocol that was being ignored by some developed countries. In 2007, IPCC released the Fourth Assessment Report and the severity of the Climate Change was forced into the popular consciousness.

At COP 13, Parties agreed on the Bali Road Map that charted the way towards a post-2012 outcome in two work streams – the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperation Action (AWG-LCA) and the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex | Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) that were to complete their work by 2009 and present the outcome to the COP15/MOP5 in 2009. In Copenhagen, countries submitted countries submitted emissions reduction or mitigation pledges. With clarification of certain diplomatic issues, Cancun Agreement was drafted and largely accepted at the COP 16. Followed by the Durban Platform, for Enhanced Action in 2011 (COP 17) which was held in Durban, South Africa to establish a new treaty to limit carbon emissions, Further, several important decisions were taken in Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol that was adopted at COP 19 including advancement of the Durban Platform, The Green Climate Fund and the Long Term Finance, the Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and the Warsaw International Mechanism for the loss and damage.

Source: United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change

The pillars of the process to negotiate the international climate agreement in the Paris was built on the Durban Platform for the Enhanced Action. In Lima, the ground rules were scheduled to be agreed in Paris in 2015 in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). INDC is an agreement to address the challenge towards climate actions that the countries will initiate to determine their contributions in the context of their national priorities, circumstances, and capabilities with a global framework that drives collective action towards a low-carbon and climate resilient future. This was to publicly outline what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take under a new international agreement.

The Agenda of Solutions encompasses cooperative initiatives from governments and non-government organizations - the civil society in a broad sense. The Agenda:

· presents solutions that exist now and that can be expanded,

· gives credibility to the emissions reduction and adaptation targets presented by the countries in Paris,

· shows how these targets are underpinned by action plans and investment strategies clearly identified by the various economic actors.

The submission of INDCs became pre-requisite for Paris 2015 Climate Conference. The efforts put in by the international community of scientists, NGOs, and climate change activists had led to certain positive and historical outcome.

The Paris Agreement asks all the countries to review their INDC every five years from 2020. They will not be able to lower their targets and will not be encouraged on the raising of the same.

Thus, the “INDCs are the primary means for governments to communicate internationally the steps they will take to address climate change in their own countries. INDCs will reflect each country’s ambition for reducing emissions, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities.”

In short, the success of Paris 2015 hinged on INDCs, in particular the INDCs of countries that consume lots of energy and emit a lot of greenhouse gases. The top 10 emitters and the list descends from China, US, EU, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, Canada to Mexico- the tenth.

The INDC, based on its national circumstances, development stage, sustainable development strategy, and international responsibility, outline the targeted actions by 2030.

Source: World Resource Institute.

Here is a glimpse of INDC gist of top 5 emitters.

China INDC

Considering the level of emissions and increasing pollution in China, The Chinese INDC gives following formulations targeting 2030:

· achieving the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and making best efforts to peak early;

· lowering carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level;

· increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20%; and

· Increasing the forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters on the 2005 level.


The American INDC begins by stating the commitment of United States to the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution.

· The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below its 2005 level in 2025

· To make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%.



In the Paris Agreement 2015, the EU presented the INDC on behalf of all the 28 Members States (including UK at that time). But Brexit has compelled the EU to calibrate its INDC. The UK on the other hand, has to present its own contribution. Presented few days after the referendum, the fifth carbon budget covers emission reduction for the period 2028 to 2032. The British government confirmed its set emissions mitigation target of 57% which is already higher than the emission reduction of the EU INDC. But thinkers assume that the UK, amidst economic and political instability, might move climate policy down the priority list.

India INDC

“India has a long history and tradition of harmonious co-existence between man and nature. Human beings here have regarded fauna and flora as part of their family. This is part of our heritage and manifests in our lifestyle and traditional practices. We represent a culture that calls our planet Mother Earth.”, proclaims India's INDC in the beginning.

Regarding per capita emissions, India’ INDC asserts, “India, even though not a part of the problem, has been an active and constructive participant in the search for solutions. Even now, when the per capita emissions of many developed countries vary between 7 to15 metric tones, the per capita emissions in India were only about 1.56 metric tones in 2010…


If the world indeed is concerned about its new investments to be climate-friendly, it must consider the opportunity provided by a country like India where economic growth could be achieved with minimum levels of emissions by employing new technologies and finance for achieving low carbon growth.”

India’ INDC outlines the case for the right to develop for all nations, “The desire to improve one's lot has been the primary driving force behind human progress. While a few fortunate fellow beings have moved far ahead in this journey of progress, there are many in the world who have been left behind. Nations that are now striving to fulfill this 'right to grow' of their teeming millions cannot be made to feel guilty of their development agenda as they attempt to fulfill this legitimate aspiration. Just because economic development of many countries in the past has come at the cost of environment, it should not be presumed that a reconciliation of the two is not possible.”

The INDC then points out that the mitigation of climate change must go beyond commercial interests, “If climate change is a calamity that mankind must adapt to while taking mitigation action withal, it should not be used as a commercial opportunity. It is the time that a mechanism is set up which will turn technology and innovation into an effective instrument for global public good, not just private returns.”

The INDC makes a strong case for India to rise to its rightful place in the world. It states, “India accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area, but supports around 17.5% of the world population. It houses the largest proportion of global poor (30%), around 24% of the global population without access to electricity (304 million), about 30% of the global population relying on solid biomass for cooking and 92 million without access to safe drinking water.

India has a lot to do to provide a dignified life to its population and meet their rightful aspirations.

Key commitments of India’s INDC.

· Reducing the emissions by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level.

· Achieving about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low-cost international finance including from Green Climate Fund (GCF).

· Creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

And for good measure, the INDC adds, “The successful implementation of INDC is contingent upon an ambitious global agreement including additional means of implementation to be provided by developed country parties, technology transfer and capacity building following Article 3.1 and 4.7 of the Convention.”

And that, “a preliminary estimate suggests that at least USD 2.5 trillion will be required for meeting India's climate change actions between now and 2030.”

Russia INDC

The Russian INDC says that Russian boreal forests have global significance for mitigating climate change. Russia accounts for 70% of boreal forests and 25% of the world's forest resources. Rational use, protection, maintenance and forest reproduction, i.e. forest management, is one of the most important elements of the Russian policy to reduce GHG emissions. It seems not enough on part of Russia towards mitigating climate change. Without reducing emissions it is not possible to keep the global temperature below 2 degree Fahrenheit Being the part of top 10 emitters Russia is expected to contribute on the front yards.

Challenges Today

The future depends on the global political will. Recent issues of climate change denial have dwindled the hopes. It took two decades and a half to achieve an encouraging success in a positive direction. The international competition for economic and political power has infected the leadership with the fetish of development that surely overlooks sustainability. The Paris action, if not sufficient enough, could at least have developed a global conscience which in turn has raised a race of becoming a most sustainable nation which is healthy. In this view, Countries like Netherlands and Switzerland, Denmark have taken bold steps to keep sustainability at a sincere position on their priority list. But recent US leadership has become a serious concern. Climate-change denial has untethered the anchor of political will.

However, amidst western walk-away from the commitments, India, among the developing nations, has emerged as a leader for the cause. Emissions on a per capita basis bring contributions to climate change down to an individual level. Looking at this metric, the order of our top 10 emitters changes considerably. Among the top 10 absolute emitters, only two have per capita emissions that are below the world average. Canada, the United States, and Russia emit more than double the global average per person. On the other end of the spectrum, India’s per capita emissions are only one-third of the global average.

Most of the agricultural countries are the prime sufferers of climate change as poor is the most vulnerable to natural hazards. Keeping a balance between development and emission gap, however, will prove to be a brainstorming challenge for India.



Abram, N. Mcgregor, H. Tierney, J. Evans, M. Mckay, N. et al. Early onset of industrial-era warming across the oceans and continents. Nature. Nature Publishing Group, 2016, 536, pp.411 - 418.

Bishop, J. A., Cook, L. M. (1980). Industrial Melanism and the Urban Environment. Advances in Ecological Research. Retrieved from

Earth Institute (2015, December). What is the U.S. Commitment in Paris?. Retrieved from

Florence School of Regulation (2016, July ). The Impact of Brexit on Climate Policy: The EU and the Paris Agreement -Retrieved from

Industrial Melanism. (2017, April 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:15, August 3, 2017, from http://en.wikipedia,org/w/indwx/.php?title=indistrial_melanism&oldid=777874597

Mengpin Ge. Friedrich, J. Damassa, T. (2014, November 25). 6 Graphs Explain the World’s Top 10 Emitters. World Resources Institute. Retrieved from’s-top-10-emitters

UN. IARC Course Content. Road through Paris: Introduction. Retrieved from June 17, 2017

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Calendar. Retrieved from August 6, 2017


Author is a Development Professional

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