India dithers over carbon cut plege amid UN alarm

New Delhi, Nov 3 (IANS) The world must urgently increase its ambition to cut further roughly a quarter of predicted 2030 global greenhouse emissions to have any chance of minimising dangerous climate change, the UN Environment Programme said on Thursday as it released its annual Emissions Gap report.

However, India is mulling over delaying its deadline for coal power operators to cut carbon emissions despite an alarming increase in air pollution levels across the country.

Making it public a day before the Paris Agreement comes into force, the report released in London finds 2030 emissions are expected to reach 54-56 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, far above the level of 42 needed to have a chance of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius this century.

The predicted 2030 emissions will, even if the Paris pledges are fully implemented, place the world on track for a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius this century, say experts.

Waiting to raise the ambition may mean losing the chance to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, allow increase carbon-intensive technology lock-in and raise the cost of a global transition to low emissions.

“We are moving in the right direction: The Paris Agreement will slow climate change, as will the recent Kigali Amendment to reduce HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons),” UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim said, releasing the report.

“They both show strong commitment, but it’s still not good enough if we are to stand a chance of avoiding serious climate change,” he said.

“If we don’t start taking additional action now, beginning with the upcoming climate meeting in Marrakesh (November 7-18), we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy,” Solheim said.

The need for urgent action has been reinforced by the fact that 2015 was the hottest year since modern record-keeping began. The trend is continuing, with the first six months of 2016 all being the warmest-ever recorded. Yet emissions continue to increase, said the UN report.

As the UN releases its report, India’s Central Electricity Authority is, however, mulling over delaying its deadline for coal power operators to cut carbon emissions, says a media report.

Quoting authority’s Chairman S.D. Dubey, the report said the deadline for cutting emissions from coal power plants might be extended by the authority beyond December 2017.

Indian NGO Conservation Action Trust Executive Trustee Debi Goenka said: “It would be tragic if the implementation of these standards is delayed. These standards are long overdue, and there is no need for any new technology.”

“We have already seen pollution levels in Delhi and Mumbai crossing far beyond the maximum limits that the monitoring equipment was designed to handle. It would actually be more appropriate for the government to reduce the implementation period rather than extend it,” he said.

Air quality has dipped to dangerous levels across the country over the last few days.

New Delhi reported pollution levels over 40 times more than the acceptable limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Varanasi crossed well over 30 times the limits.

“Air pollution is a national health emergency in India and cleaning up and phasing out coal-based power plants is an important factor to resolve the crisis,” Greenpeace campaigner Sunil Dahiya said.

As per the Paris Agreement ratified by India on October 2, voluntary commitments taken up by the member countries become legally bindings.

Under the agreement, India committed to reduce the emissions intensity of its gross domestic product by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level.

A new report released by the 1 Gigaton Coalition, a voluntary international framework, shows renewable energy and energy efficiency projects implemented in developing countries from 2005 to 2015 will reduce emissions by almost half a gigatonne by 2020, including action by countries that do not have formal Cancun pledges.

“Internationally-supported projects on renewable energy and energy efficiency are making significant contributions to reducing global greenhouse emissions,” an official statement quoting Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende said.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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