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Why Climate Talks are mostly just that….


  • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for October, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F).
  • The global land surface temperature was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th century average of 9.3°C (48.7°F)—the fifth highest for October on record.
  • For the ocean, the October global sea surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 15.9°C (60.6°F) and the highest for October on record.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–October period (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). The first ten months of 2014 were the warmest such period on record.

International talks to deal with a particularly potent greenhouse gas took a cautious step forward on Wednesday, as India and a host of other countries agreed to “informal discussions.”…Under contention are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — gases that, pound for pound, can trap up to a thousand times more heat than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere..

Indian Environment Minister

Prakash Javadekar, the environmental minister for India — the country that lead the previous opposition — laid out the issues that would have to be addressed to reach a final agreement. These include the way patents, intellectual property law, and other confidentiality agreements prevent India and other developed countries from making full use of new technology, as well as the fact that developed countries like the United States are historically responsible for the vast majority of HFC emissions. The talks, according to Javadekar, would need to be based “on the principle of grace period — that is differentiated responsibility, financial assistance, including that for research and development, technology transfer without the clause of confidentiality.(THINKPROGRESS Posted on November 21, 2014 at 11:08 am).

The above paragraph underscores the classical problem Modern Civilization, based on a flawed capitalistic idea faces. It is impossible for any Nation, to remove from the mindset of the populace  whence from, the elected representative are ultimately chosen to govern; not put profit before people. Our present day Economist along with Social Scientists have a lot of work to do. Undo the mind-set which is attuned to reward and recognize  “Crony Capitalism” as achievements.

No Nation is bereft from it…it’s the hangover from the British Empire. While every Empire be it Roman, Chinese, Mayan or Magadha Empire while expanding and consolidating must have wreaked havoc. The Modern European Empires had the Industrial revolution to help it wound the Earth very dangerously, in the process of acquiring riches. Thus the plunder of Earth resources reached its zenith.The resulting fallout is now known as Climate Change.

While the present Civilization no more address a modern day Business Conglomerate C.E.O as “Emperor”; that Presidents and Prime Ministers of Nations are made and unmade by them are no state secret. And unless the Emperors of today are made aware that they would lose all they have conquered..and also have the possibility of dying a horrible death caused by Ebola, little will change at the negotiating tables of the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change 2015 in Paris.

In 2009 at Denmark the UNFCCC’s COP-15 rode on similar hopes. There was a new President of the USA. An African American and the World Environmentalist hoped spectacular achievements. But…..

On Friday 18 December, the final day of the conference, international media reported that the climate talks were “in disarray” Media also reported that in lieu of a summit collapse, only a “weak political statement” was anticipated at the conclusion of the conference. The Copenhagen Accord was drafted by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa on 18 December, and judged a “meaningful agreement” by the United States government. It was “taken note of”, but not “adopted”, in a debate of all the participating countries the next day, and it was not passed unanimously. The document recognised that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the present day and that actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below 2 °C. The document is not legally binding and does not contain any legally binding commitments for reducing CO2 emissions.

In January 2014, documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by Dagbladet Information revealed that the US government negotiators were in receipt of information during the conference that was being obtained by spying against other conference delegations. The US National Security Agency provided US delegates with advance details other delegations’ positions, including the Danish plan to “rescue” the talks should they flounder. Members of the Danish negotiating team said that both the US and Chinese delegations were “peculiarly well-informed” about closed-door discussions: “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document.” (Wikipedia2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference )

The Paris UNFCCC’s COP-21 meeting will mark a decisive stage in negotiations on the future international agreement on a post-2020 regime, and will, as agreed in Durban, adopt the major outlines of that regime. By the end of the meeting, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by a universal agreement on climate. In order for the agreement to come into effect in 2020, at the end of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, subsequent COP meetings will work on finalizing its details.

On 26 May 2014, Narendra Modi was sworn in as 15th Prime Minister of India.In 2009 the World was enamored by the superb oration of President Barack Obama of the USA. The World today fetes PM Narendra Modi as the Messiah of the economic woe’s that faces India and in the process of transforming India perhaps he would be able to help the World in general.

As an Indian it would make one proud. But, as an ENVIRONMENTALIST one is not so sure. Because much like President Obama, the pressure to perform and uplift the economy quickly, makes Prime Minister Modi to walk the same beaten track. A track trail blazed by Crony Capitalism ! with scant regard other than lip service to Climate Change abatement. And hiding behind cleverly worded text that pass legal scrutiny. Not because of it being legally sound but more so because the legal itself was crafted to suit the escapists.

 A President and a Prime Minister understands Realpolitik !

The term Realpolitik is sometimes used pejoratively to imply politics that are coercive, amoral, or Machiavellian. Something that has become norm is the past century

BUT…

it is politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.

We already know the way, what is needed is the political will. And to give strength to the political will It is also the duty of the citizens of the Nations which are today poised to impact what text would be written at the end of CoP21 to help their Head of State –

One is to show the way,

Yes! Trillions.For insects and plankton however tiny have life.
Summer flower blooms in hot, sultry November
Nov 30 2014 : The Times of India (Mumbai) Richa Pinto Mumbai:
Greens Worried As Unusual Weather Seems To Have Confused Nature.A Nerul (Navi Mumbai) resident was recently surprised to see a flower that generally blooms in the month of March in his backyard a few days ago. With the October heat phenomenon stretching till the last few days of November this year, it looks like even nature seems to have got confused.

But, to make people notice the change we have to make it into a Financial Change issue. Lets see how it has impacted the finance or if we use the politically sensitive word “budget” of the common man.To understand this we must understand the average Indian mind.

While Mumbai has been witness to a peculiar warm October, which meteorologist consider as “normal”; November sees temperature with in the 20’s. A high of 29°C to a low of 24°C can be experienced. This is more or less the temperature which allows the budget concious middle class to shut down & cover up their Air-Conditioners as the ambient temperature required for a good-night sleep is naturally available. However this November the hum of AC’s can be heard around the city at night.

This has an immediate impact on their monthly budget, which leaves them confused and angry while trying to make ends meet. At the same time the power companies have to cope with prolonged power shortages due to peaking of demand, thus their is more planned “load-shedding” in the rural areas to compensate for the same. Which leaves the already short-changed rural folks more disenchanted from the system and government of the day.

Should such climate anomalies continue…elected governments may fall. And the opposition would also not want to put their head into the chopping block.

This last piece of information hopefully would help change the mindset and manner of those who choose to “dedicate their lives in the service of the people.”…be that India or the USA !

 

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UNEP -SBCI Quebec 2014 – things it needs to do.


UNEP-SBCI 2014 Annual Meeting & Symposium on Sustainable Buildings.will be held on May 12th & 13th. The symposium will focus on the role of the buildings sector on the road to Paris 2015.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP-21) will be held in Paris in late 2015, at which member states are expected to sign the next global climate agreement.  

The building sector must be mobilized to help deliver action and achieve climate mitigation.  The symposium will include Technical sessions highlighting Carbon/energy/resource efficiency metrics, and Policy sessions focusing on necessary mitigation actions, including panels of industry representatives and city officials.

 While we all understand that the building sector is one of the primary focus area. And by now the sermon – “the building industry uses 40% of the energy and produces nearly 60% waste” has become a clique; so much so that we find builders/developers who having broken, mauled and pillaged every rule in the book to degrade the environment give speech in “green conferences” which are extremely “prestigious” & have support form “venerated” media house, after sponsoring generously for it.

It happens all around the World. An accepted part of “business promotion and networking”. At times promoting sustainability reaches level so bizarre that they are a complete anti-thesis to sustainable practice!

Habitat can’t be sustainable unless all factors surrounding it change.

And if we speak India centric, do we have the wherewithal to achieve such feat it terms of mindset and political will?  For example; how does one pacify the ever growing automotive industry, especially when the luxury segment of imported cars are also making a bee-line into India to say that “Hey! let’s take a walk. It’s sustainable you know ?”

To sum it up, there needs to be a balance between aspirations and reality. We have to understand that unless there is a holistic approach, piecemeal solutions would not even make a dent in our effort to remain within the 2 degree target.

So let’s look at Solutions one by one which needs to be made into a practice within a time-frame. And if that can happen before the UNFCCC – COP in Paris 2015 all the better.

Building Design:

While design is an artistic expression. If one walks around any city of India, the buildings neighbouring each other are most often than not similar to each other in form and function. A few outward frills don’t actually make a building unique.

To rest the doubts of those who differ, there is only one Taj Mahal, Leaning Tower of Pisa…the Guggenheim..rest are copies of the masterpiece. Every time.

Now having established this fact, lets take the pledge to ask for a master competition of architects and designers to show case the best sustainable buildings that can be built, across all climatic zones. Let this competition be held by the UNEP- SBCI / UNDP.

As all the projects would by default would more or less be sustainably designed, there need not be a winner but a grade which makes the projects viable based on cost inputs.

Now put them up for auction. Countries would then send in their representative companies which have a shown an inclination to build green to bid for the designs.

Thus a Green Building Developer would have say 3 design typologies which it would have bid and won, and would have the right to build the same for the next 5 years or more exclusively. He would also have the right to modify the design; thus giving employment to the local artisans, based on site conditions. As long as it remains within the original intent of being a sustainable building.

For example the builder group in Mumbai can buy a high-end, a mid-end and a cost-effective design and apply them in each project as his trade mark.

So each year, there is a design competition, making industry thrive and along with it the allied products to improve. Market forces would soon find innovative ways to percolate it down-wards.

Just as the OSCARS and Miss Universe, the Best Singer…etc etc.

Burying the mundane and celebrating excellence. And this would be the ultimate praise to the Planet. As it would win every time.

The Auto-mobile Industry:

While it has been sometime for the electric car making its début in India.It is already searching its place amongst the dinosaurs !

If we were to see any residential/commercial building advertisement on TV. One would find a fossil fuel guzzling super -luxury Car stopping right at the porch and out comes the doting husband/father from work. The advertisement would further state that the super-luxury villas have 2+ car parking space, the + indicating a Super bike?

Can a developer risk making homes which truly follow the concept of New Urbanism? It is easy for one to say that integrated township must be developed. But would it be possible to have townships which uses the concept of “new urbanism” without seriously jeopardizing the aviation/auto-mobile industry and other directly related industries like Iron & Steel, Cement Etc? ( more -Principles of New Urbanism ).

REVA Electric Car

We can’t have a beautiful township across the bay if the marina is polluted with yacht waxed to a shine..while laying a oil slick which the dark waters of the wharf hide. We can’t have a quite neighbourhood if helicopters of the rich keep landing on roof-tops.

We can’t use our bicycles if cars jostle for space amongst auto-rickshaws, motor-bikes, hand pushed trolley and Ox-pulled carts…a speciality we still see in “amchi” Mumbai (English: Our Mumbai).

Thus the first thing for the government to do would be to change the symbols of progress in advertisements. If one makes walking or bicycling fashionable, the electric car chic! Society would gravitate towards it.

The Cement, Iron & Steel Industry:

Capitalism is such that even if there’s space to grow in one sector, one would want more from the world. Both Steel and Cement can thrive while GFRG – Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum takes over the traditional methods of building walls. This must be reinforced, else we can’t reduce the GHG in the Building Sector.

Rapid Wall

It’s time for the Rapid-wall concept to thrive.  Giving a fair chance for the middle class to live in better homes than they normally get. And at an affordable price too.

For GFRG does not require your traditional water-proofing, cement plaster, block-work or even internal finishing with Plaster of Paris, because PoP is essentially Gypsum powder. And the walls can come up in 40% less time. With no cracks, warping or faulty plumb-line.

And as it is extremely lightweight and durable, use of steel and shuttering can also be reduced to some extent. In fact more than what the regular PMC consultant would advise on.

The Media:

Pick any advertisement on a residential complex/ office tower. What is the first thing one notices that it would be in a extra-glossy page/paper.
Excerpts from EARTH TALK From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine– It’s no secret that glossy coatings on magazine covers make pictures really “pop” and attract the eye, thus helping publications compete for attention on ever more crowded newsstands.The basic glossy finish of a magazine cover or inside page is usually built into the paper itself at the time of manufacture, and is typically made of either clay or calcium carbonate.“The calcium is lighter,…“But it drives the destruction of mountain tops in Vermont and elsewhere in order to get at the mineral.”….(read more) To know further how harmful the glossy paper can be read –Better Paper.

In the age of the cell phone, the archaic way of advertisement still exist, thanks to the petroleum lobby, which would love to keep producing the paints & varnishes required to print, making the virgin wood extract, already moulded into paper to reek out more toxic into the ground as the glossy brochure gets tossed to the ground, post having roasted peanuts by the road-side. Yes! in India, the “raddi -paper” as we call old news print and other printed materials mostly sold to the local scrap dealer ends up becoming the cheap satchel in which pea-nuts and other tit-bits are sold. These paper can’t be easily recycled to make hand-made paper etc. Thus pose some damage to the environment when discarded.

While there are many more factors which can be added to this, I would pause this conversation with a note to

Public Empathy:

Mumbai University hacks trees off its own ‘bat’, BMC threatens action -The varsity has hacked 15 trees on its Kalina campus as the noise made by the colony of bats residing on their branches allegedly disturbed a faculty member.

If the seat of education which is supposed to teach living in harmony with Nature, can harbour such intolerance, Mumbai as a Sustainable City has a long way to go.

And the task of UNEP Quebec 2014 is cut out for them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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