Updated: November 3, 2021 7:10:55 am
A pledge to make a 30 per cent cut in global methane emissions by 2030, and another to arrest and reverse deforestation by the same year, kept the momentum going on the second day of the climate change conference in Glasgow on Tuesday after India’s five-point climate agenda had provided the thrust on the opening day.
Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential that is more than 80 times that of carbon dioxide, even though it remains in the atmosphere for significantly lesser time as compared to carbon dioxide.
Methane is the second non-CO2 greenhouse gas that has been targeted for reduction. In 2016, the world had agreed to cut down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which are used extensively in the air-conditioning, refrigeration and furniture industries. HFCs are even more dangerous than methane in terms of their warming potential.
However, unlike the agreement on HFC reduction, which was made under the Montreal Protocol, Tuesday’s action on methane, which accounts for about 17 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, is not a structured or formal agreement.
As of now, it is just a joint pledge made by a group of countries — not a decision taken by all countries at the climate meeting. And its implementation would be the responsibility of individual signatories.
The pledge to arrest and reverse deforestation by 2030 was also made in the same manner. Over 100 countries have signed on to it, but it is not a formal agreement. However, these pledges are being seen as a major step forward — which, if implemented fully, could have a significant impact on slowing down the steady rise in temperatures.
The 30 per cent cut in methane emissions, specifically, has the potential to prevent 0.2 degree Celsius of temperature rise by the middle of the century.
India has not signed up to either of the two pledges. One of the major sources of methane emissions happens to be agriculture and livestock, because of which it is a very sensitive subject in agriculture-dependent economies like India. Some other major emitters of methane, like Russia and China, too have not signed up. China and Russia are part of the deforestation pledge, though.
Pledges like these are not uncommon at climate meetings, but none of the earlier efforts have been sustained for long. At least on deforestation, multiple such pledges or coalitions have been built. The one on methane emission reduction, which has come at the initiative of the United States and the European Union, is the first of its kind.
India was, however, the prime mover behind two other initiatives launched at the climate meeting on Tuesday — the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS), and the One Sun One World One Grid.
IRIS, which is aimed at strengthening infrastructure in small island states so that they are more resilient against climate disasters, is the first major programme of the Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), which was launched by India two years ago.
The One Sun One World One Grid is an action plan of the International Solar Alliance, an India-led initiative, that seeks to create a common solar grid at the global level.
Both these initiative were launched in the presence of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has shared the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on multiple occasions in the last two days, and several other world leaders. One Sun One World One Grid has received the backing of at least 80 countries.
But these were not all. Several countries have announced important revisions in their climate action plans.
Brazil has said that it was willing to advance its net-zero target year from 2060 to 2050. China promised to come out with a detailed roadmap for its commitment to peak its emissions in 2030 and also for its 2060 net-zero target. Israel announced a net-zero target for 2050.
Some financial commitments were also made, most notably by the host UK government which announced a 3-billion-pound commitment to fund green investments in developing countries, including US$ 1 billion specifically for projects in India under the UK-India Green Guarantee initiative.
The series of major announcements from countries has already given Glasgow possibly the most productive opening two days for any climate meeting. But these are individual promises of countries and not a result of negotiations that are still to gather steam. With the heads of states and governments flying home on Tuesday, negotiators would take centrestage from Wednesday, trying to resolve the differences of countries on a host of issues, the most prominent being the rules for the new carbon markets under the Paris Agreement.
Prime Minister Modi flew back to India on Tuesday night after the headline-grabbing visit to Glasgow, during which he also held a series of bilateral meetings with other leaders.
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