Climatalk Stories of people, places and climate Tue, 25 Oct 2016 14:52:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 IT and housing boom choke Chennai’s last marshland Tue, 25 Oct 2016 14:52:49 +0000 Only a tenth of the original area of Pallikarani marsh is now left after Chennai's industry and housing boom

Only a tenth of the original area of Pallikarani marsh is now left after Chennai’s industry and housing boom


By L Ajith

CHENNAI: As construction and industry boom destroy a rare marshland that feeds groundwater sources and drains floodwaters in this sprawling south Indian commercial hub, conservationists are trying to save a tenth of its original area that is still left.

Located about 20 km south of Chennai city centre, Pallikkaranai marsh is the metro’s last remaining natural wetland, one of the rare ecosystems that India’s National Wetland Conservation and Management Programme (NWCMP) is trying to save.

After reclamation for housing, infotech industries and roads, the marshland has now shrunk to 6.9 square km from its 60 square km recorded in the 1960s.

As a result, now it is impossible to stream and drain flood waters into the marsh during heavy monsoon rains. Buildings, tarmacs and concrete spaces have not only replaced what once used to be wetland, but also flank its edges, preventing natural drainage. So the excess storm water inundates these spaces without seeping into the ground or draining into the wetland and then to the Bay of Bengal that lies adjacent to it. At the same time, without recharge of groundwater aquifers, Chennai and suburbs face severe drinking water shortage.

During the 2015 monsoon season, parts of Chennai were flooded and remained inundated for upto a month after and extreme rainfall events. Experts blamed the disaster on rampant, illegal and poorly designed construction.

Pallikkaranai marsh absorbs its share of water, but it is choked now. Due to dumping of waste and sewage, Pallikkaranai marsh is undergoing a character change besides shrinking to a tenth of its original size, as Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan of the Care Earth Trust explains. To prevent such ecosystem losses, conservation of forests, inland wetlands, and coastal and marine ecosystems need to be integrated into policy and planning, recommend Ritesh Sharma and Shantanu of Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity- India Initiative.

“The consequences of loss of Ecosystem and Biodiversity causes natural disasters like floods and droughts and shortage of crops, fish, and vegetables,” says Ravindra Singh of the German international development agency GIZ.

Wetlands not only prevents floods, but also protect the shoreline, and suck up and store carbon dioxide, thereby reducing greenhouse effect that leads to global warming. Pallikaranai marsh is special, as it hosts several rare, endangered or threatened species. It is home to over 100 species of fish and 136 species of birds, including migratory birds, as Singh notes.

A recent workshop of the Indo-German Biodiversity Programme in Chennai, Ashok Lavasa, IAS, Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that sponsored the event said economic growth and conservation of natural capital should go hand in hand. Both are essential to protect ecosystem services that support human well-being and prosperity.

“India is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world…With only 2.4% of the world’s geographical area, her 1.2 billion people co-exist with over 47,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. Several among them are keystone and charismatic species,” as Lavasa points out. At the same time, the country supports one sixth of the world’s livestock population. In such a context, balancing the needs for now and for future is often a balancing act indeed.

Still, considering the seriousness of ecosystem losses and the hazard exposure, especially with uncertain and changing weather patterns, conservation needs to gain an upper hand in many cases. As Prof Saudamini Das of the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, points out, coastal cities such as Kochi in Kerala or Kolkata and Mumbai that are built on reclaimed water bodies and mangroves are also possibly exposed to a future flash floods. These lessons and warnings should serve as wake up calls.



Lima calls for climate action, and more Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:05:58 +0000 By Ramesh Jalan

In its decision, the Lima Call for Climate Action,  the Conference of Parties (CoP):

•         reiterates that the work of the ADP shall be under the Convention and guided by its principles;

•         recalls the objective of the Convention;

•         recalls all the relevant decisions of the COP, particularly Decisions 1/CP.17, 2/CP.18 and 1/CP.19;

•         affirms its determination to strengthen adaptation action through the protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention to be adopted at COP 21;

•         recalls Decisions 2/CP.19 and X/CP.20 and welcomes the progress made in Lima, Peru, towards the implementation of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage; and

•         notes with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of GHGs by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2°C or 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

•         In paragraphs on advancing the work of the ADP and elaborating a negotiating text for the 2015 agreement, the COP:

•         confirms that the ADP shall complete the work referred to in Decision 1/CP.17, paragraph 2, as early as possible in order for COP 21 to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties;

•         decides that the protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties shall address in a balanced manner, inter alia, mitigation, adaptation, MOI and transparency of action and support;

•         underscores its commitment to reaching an ambitious agreement in 2015 that reflects the principle of CBDRRC, in light of different national circumstances;

•         urges developed country parties to provide and mobilize enhanced financial support to developing country parties for ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions, especially to parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, and recognizes complementary support by other parties;

•         acknowledges the progress made in Lima in elaborating the elements for a draft negotiating text as contained in the annex to the decision, including a footnote that states: “These elements for a draft negotiating text reflect work in progress. They neither indicate convergence on the proposals presented nor do they preclude new proposals from emerging in the course of the negotiations in 2015;”

•         decides that the ADP will intensify its work, with a view to making available a negotiating text for a protocol, other legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties before May 2015; and

•         requests the Secretariat to communicate the negotiating text, referred to above, to parties in accordance with provisions of the Convention and the applied rules of procedure, while noting that such communication will not prejudice whether the outcome will be a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties.

•         In paragraphs on INDCs and their communication, the COP:

•         notes that the arrangements specified in this decision in relation to INDCs are without prejudice to the legal nature and content of the INDCs of parties or to the content of the protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties;

•         reiterates its invitation to each party to communicate to the Secretariat its INDC towards achieving the objective of the Convention;

•         agrees that each party’s INDC towards achieving the objective of the Convention will represent a progression beyond the current undertaking of that party;

•         also agrees that the LDCs and SIDS may communicate information on strategies, plans and actions for low GHG emission development reflecting their special circumstances in the context of INDCs;

•         invites all parties to consider communicating their undertakings in adaptation planning or consider including an adaptation component in their INDCs;

•         reiterates its invitation to all parties to communicate their INDCs well in advance of COP 21 (by the first quarter of 2015 by those parties ready to do so) in a manner that facilitates the clarity, transparency and understanding of the INDCs;

•         agrees that the information to be provided by parties communicating their INDCs, may include, as appropriate, inter alia, quantifiable information on the reference point (including, as appropriate, a base year), time frames and/or periods for implementation, scope and coverage, planning processes, assumptions and methodological approaches including those for estimating and accounting for anthropogenic GHG emissions and, as appropriate, removals, and how the party considers that its INDC is fair and ambitious, in light of its national circumstances, and how it contributes towards achieving the objective of the Convention;

•         reiterates its call to developed country parties, the operating entities of the financial mechanism and any other organizations in a position to do so to provide support for the preparation and communication of the INDCs of parties that may need such support; and

•         requests the Secretariat to publish the INDCs as communicated on the UNFCCC website and prepare by 1 November 2015 a synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the INDCs communicated by parties by 1 October 2015.

•         The COP also decides to continue the technical examination of opportunities with high mitigation potential, including those with adaptation, health and sustainable development co-benefits, in the period 2015-2020, by requesting the Secretariat to organize a series of in-session TEMs that:

•         facilitate parties in the identification of policy options, practices and technologies and in planning for their implementation in accordance with nationally-defined development priorities;

•         build on and utilize the related activities of, and further enhance collaboration and synergies among, the TEC, the CTCN, the Durban Forum on capacity-building, the CDM EB and the operating entities of the financial mechanism;

•         build on previous TEMs in order to hone and focus on actionable policy options;

•         provide meaningful and regular opportunities for the effective engagement of experts from parties, relevant international organizations, civil society, indigenous peoples, women, youth, academic institutions, the private sector, and subnational authorities nominated by their respective countries;

•         support the accelerated implementation of policy options and enhanced mitigation action, including through international cooperation; and

•         facilitate the enhanced engagement of all parties through the announcement of topics to be addressed, agendas and related materials at least two months in advance of TEMs.

•         The COP also requests the Secretariat to update, following the TEMs, the technical paper on the mitigation benefits of actions, and on initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition, compiling information provided in submissions from parties and observer organizations and the discussions held at the TEMs and drawing on other relevant information on the implementation of policy options at all levels, including through multilateral cooperation, and to disseminate the information, including by publishing a summary for policy makers.

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(Dr Ramesh Kumar Jalan is the Resource Person and Moderator of the Climate Change Community of Practice, Solution Exchange, UNDP, New Delhi)

Gore at Lima: “We are designing the future of human kind.” Fri, 12 Dec 2014 18:45:51 +0000 By Ramesh Jalan

Lima Climate Action High-Level Meeting took place on Thursday, morning. The ADP contact group on item 3 briefly convened in the morning and was then suspended pending consultations among negotiating groups on the way forward. The contact group reconvened late in the afternoon but agreement could not be reached on how to move forward. Informal consultations took place throughout the day under the COP and CMP. An informal stocktaking plenary took place in the evening. Later in the evening the ADP contact group convened shortly for the ADP Co-Chairs to present a revised draft decision text, which parties agreed to discuss on Friday morning.

LIMA CLIMATE ACTION HIGH-LEVEL MEETING : COP 20/CMP 10 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal noted that the conference hall was illuminated with the Nazca Lines accompanied by text inviting participants to “create,” “connect,” “act” and  “transform.” He highlighted that non-state actors are already finding solutions, and asked how their initiatives could be scaled up and how collaboration with them could be improved.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the ambitious initiatives and actors that came together at the September UN Climate Summit. Noting that action begets ambition, he said actions now will set a strong foundation for Paris.

IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri highlighted key messages from AR5, saying the pursuit of efficiency and equity will drive the most cost-effective solutions.

Underlining that there is general agreement that the solution to climate change lies in economic transformation, Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group, Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, noted that while “the economics are compelling, the politics remain challenging.”

Al Gore, former US Vice President, said that in Lima and Paris “we are designing the future of human kind.”

COP/CMP JOINT STOCKTAKING PLENARY :  Highlighting Thursday, 11 December, as the last day for all outstanding issues to be resolved, COP 20/CMP 10 President Pulgar-Vidal urged parties to move the negotiations forward. He invited Ministers Edna Molewa (South Africa) and Edward Davey (UK) to conduct ministerial outreach on long-term finance and the GCF. ADP Co-Chair Kumarsingh highlighted the lack of consensus amongst parties on how to proceed with textual negotiations.

Pulgar-Vidal emphasized the need to take decisions to capture the achievements of this COP and invited parties to table constructive proposals, urging them not to leave Lima “empty handed.” He assured parties of a transparent and party-driven working process. Pulgar-Vidal noted the need for a strong decision on upfront information required for INDCs and pre-2020 actions, and a draft negotiating text containing a variety of views on elements of the 2015 agreement.

After nearly two weeks of intensive deliberations, many felt deflated as, on day 10 of the COP, the ADP seemed to lose momentum, with over 50 pages of bracketed text and no agreement on the way forward in sight.

Some wondered if the contours of the Lima outcome had started to become visible. Inspired by the positive spirit of the morning high-level meeting on climate action, one delegate mused: “maybe, like the Nazca Lines, we just need to climb up the hill to see the full picture.”

With the likelihood of a sleepless night dawning on the delegates, many felt that the clear direction given by the COP/CMP President had inspired them to climb up the steep hill ahead.

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(Dr Ramesh Kumar Jalan is the Resource Person and Moderator of the Climate Change Community of Practice, Solution Exchange, UNDP, New Delhi)


Lima: High-level statements, ministerial roundtable Wed, 10 Dec 2014 12:03:20 +0000 By Ramesh Jalan

One Tuesday (Dec 9th) morning, the opening ceremony of the joint COP/CMP high-level segment took place, and high-level statements were delivered throughout the day. In the afternoon, a ministerial roundtable on climate finance convened. Throughout the day, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) contact group on item 3 focused on a draft Conference of the Parties (COP) decision. Informal consultations under the COP and meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol CMP also took place during the day.


On behalf of President of Peru Ollanta Humala, COP 20/CMP 10 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment, Peru, opened the high-level segment, noting the generation of a positive “Lima spirit” and stressing the need to “raise this spirit to achieve the outcome the world is expecting from us.”

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres highlighted that “the Inca calendar says this is the season for planting and the science calendar warns us we are running out of time,” stressing “it is for us to plant here in Lima the seeds of a more secure, just and prosperous world for all.”

President of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly Sam Kutesa said “business as usual” is not an option and pointed to “a glimmer of hope” provided by the knowledge that taking action now and transforming to carbon-neutral, climate-resilient economies can reduce adaptation costs tomorrow.

Noting “this is not the time for tinkering but for transformation,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that in order to keep the global temperature rise under 2°C, “all parties must be part of the solution, and all societies must be engaged.” He called on parties to, inter alia: deliver a balanced and well-structured draft text as a solid foundation for negotiations in 2015; reach a common understanding on the scope of INDCs; and address climate finance.

The high-level segment then continued with statements from other heads and deputy heads of state and government, ministers, and other heads of delegations.


COP 20/CMP 10 President Pulgar-Vidal opened the session, encouraging parties to consider, inter alia: whether current institutions are working adequately; the level of transparency and predictability of climate finance; and responsiveness to the needs of developing countries. He urged ministers to launch a concrete roadmap to build a robust climate finance architecture and achieve coherence across institutions.

Alonso Segura, Minister of Finance, Peru, identified factors for consideration, including: improved operational measures to increase access to finance; coherence of reporting to allow comparability; financial management based on the principles of transparency and predictability; participation of the private sector; and scaling up the capacity of existing financial institutions.

Hussein Alfa Nafo, SCF Member, presented key findings and recommendations from the first biennial assessment by the SCF.

Noting that the GCF is “ready to disburse,” Hela Cheikhrouhou, GCF Executive Director, identified recent milestones, such as pledges reaching US$10 billion.

Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson, GEF, identified climate finance as critical for the global climate agreement and catalyzing actions on the ground. Highlighting the potential to leverage funds, she noted the need to use public resources as effectively as possible.

Co-Facilitators Edna Molewa (South Africa) and Ed Davey (UK) called on parties to discuss how to move towards an articulated vision for climate finance.

Many countries welcomed the initial GCF resource mobilization, with some, including the EU, GERMANY, SPAIN and FINLAND, describing their contributions to various climate-related funds. AUSTRALIA announced her country’s pledge of AUS$200 million to the GCF over four years.

BELGIUM announced it will contribute €51.6 million to the GCF and called for the GCF to fund transformative activities in LDCs and vulnerable countries.

CHINA said it was “imperative” to define in Lima a roadmap to mobilize US$100 billion per year by 2020. MEXICO suggested finding ways to utilize the GCF for promoting technology transfer.

DENMARK highlighted the role of transparency in aiding learning. INDIA called for greater creativity from developed countries to mobilize innovative sources of finance, such as pension funds.

The NETHERLANDS called for carbon pricing, redirecting investments from “brown to green,” and highlighted activities of the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance.

The REPUBLIC OF KOREA urged collaboration between the GCF and SCF, and noted the role of the private sector in mobilizing finance.

The US noted, inter alia, activities of the donor coordination group on climate finance and ongoing work to improve access to existing financial flows. Highlighting the adaptation finance gap, MALI called for greater transparency and common methodologies.

FINLAND identified the revenue from the EU-ETS as its source of financial support. EGYPT said climate finance should be related to the global temperature goal, and called for identification of needs, priorities and necessary enabling environments.

LUXEMBOURG emphasized that public finance at the national and local levels has a vital role to play in mobilizing private investment.

BOLIVIA supported introducing a “compound index of country participation,” based on historical responsibilities, ecological footprint, capabilities and state of development.

INDONESIA outlined her country’s “small” contributions to the GCF in the context of South-South cooperation and encouraged other developing countries to make pledges as well.

COLOMBIA emphasized that ensuring linkages between financial institutions under the Convention will be crucial in the new climate agreement. ZAMBIA called not only for pledges but also that they be “honored, timely, transparent and predictable.”

On institutional linkages, the PHILIPPINES called for harmonization and for integrating a monitoring system with monitoring indicators and feedback mechanisms.

The arrival of ministers for the high-level segment, marking the beginning of the shift to a more “political” negotiating mode, characterized the eighth day of COP 20. As is often the case, the high-level engagement was met with both perceptible excitement and apathy.

While some made bold, emotionally-charged statements, others retreated to familiar red lines and oft-heard positions. Still, some hoped that the presence of ministers could help finally bridge the “substantial gaps” remaining in several areas, and build badly needed “trust and reassurances,” under the ADP.

Many delegates felt the need for greater and sustained political engagement was becoming palpable.

A veteran negotiator declared a meeting to be convened by the President of the UN General Assembly on 29 June 2015 “a great idea” and seemed unperturbed about adding yet another meeting to the dense climate agenda for 2015. Concerns over “overloading” negotiators were mirrored in the ADP contact group where a procedural decision to work on the basis of “alternative” paragraphs instead of brackets made one delegate exclaim: “my eyes are hurting already from keeping up with all this new text, and I am not sure we have agreed on a single paragraph yet.”

As nominations for bodies under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol started to filter in, some delegates remarked that it was good to have a breath of “fresh air.” Others welcomed the arrival of process veterans, hoping they can provide time-trusted guidance and a change of pace. In the last week of the Lima COP, it is all hands on deck, with input needed from ministers and from current and new co-chairs alike

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(Dr Ramesh Kumar Jalan is the Resource Person and Moderator of the Climate Change Community of Practice, Solution Exchange, UNDP, New Delhi)

Lima: Climate scientists discuss risk amid uncertainty Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:43:45 +0000 By Ramesh Jalan

On Wednesday  a side event at the Lima Climate Change Conference focussed on challenges of making climate projections and linking damages from extreme weather events to changing emissions. Moderated by Leo Hickman, Met Office Hadley Centre,  UK, the event titled Climate Change Science Update: The Challenges for Robust Decision Making, also discussed risk management in the face of uncertainty; and the ethics of loss and damage.

Peter Stott, Met Office Hadley Centre, explained that attribution science that takes into account human activity can be used by decision makers in national planning processes. He described the science, highlighting that scenarios from the “real world” are compared to scenarios from a climate not influenced by human activity.

Elizabeth Kendon, Met Office Hadley Centre, described high resolution spatially-detailed models which help to illustrate climate change events, noting that these will better predict change over time. She said the results of the models are currently being used in the UK to help provide better information to decision makers on potential future risks.

Petra Tschakert, Pennsylvania State University (PSU), US, noted that the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) considers multidimensional vulnerability, explaining that this is linked to social frameworks where the more vulnerable have less capacity and fewer opportunities to adapt. She highlighted new qualitative modelling based on quantitative data, as well as value judgements, to demonstrate scenarios where adaptation is possible.

Nancy Tuana, PSU, explained that as different countries set standards on dealing with climate risk, they should consider that there are value judgments embedded in both the science and the politics of climate change. She underscored gathering information on what the wider community values, and then engaging with the decision makers to model various scenarios that should be considered when creating strategies to manage risk.

Allen Thompson, Oregon State University, spoke on ethics, loss and damage, and event attribution, calling for loss and damage to be considered as separate from adaptation as, among others, residual loss and damages occur beyond the limits of adaptation. Speaking on climate justice, he noted that event attribution raises the “specter of liability,” further noting that claims for compensation often rest on “distributional justice.” He said that building institutions will require unprecedented levels of international repair, and that moral repair involves victim identification and making amends.

Claudia Murray, University of Reading, gave examples from Latin America of mitigation measures in natural resources and urban planning and development. She described rural indigenous communities forced to migrate to urban areas where governments provide them with sub-standard housing and living conditions. She attributed the mushrooming of these unsustainable housing blocks to “bad politics” and the construction industry lobby, and called for better land policies as well as more effective tools to distribute the value of natural and urban resources.

In the discussion, participants considered:

  •   The measurement of large-scale changes in relation to local changes in climate;
  •   Value judgements as part of target-setting; the place for geo-engineering in risk discussions;
  • Shifting the discussion from adaptation to survival;
  • The importance of user-friendly science for communities; and
  • The need to understand the political situation in order to present the most influential science to decision makers.

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(Dr Ramesh Kumar Jalan is the Resource Person and Moderator of the Climate Change Community of Practice, Solution Exchange, UNDP, New Delhi)