CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006 315
Climate change problem and the controversy
The Kyoto reduction, by itself, is inadequate to achieve a stabilization of climate change by 2100. A continual and larger reduction, similar to that stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol for the 2008–2012 period, will be needed in the future in order to begin to stabilize long-term greenhouse gas emissions. Even if stabilization of greenhouse gases is achieved, global warming will still continue for several decades and sea levels will continue to rise for several centuries. IPCC studies make it abundantly clear, however, that industrialized countries alone cannot achieve this reduction. Even if their emissions were reduced to zero in the near future, the current trends of growing emissions from developing countries alone could force the atmospheric concentration to exceed stabilization levels of 550 ppm. The participation of all countries, including the developing countries such as India, is essential for a successful worldwide effort to arrest the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. What is the best method to justly and equitably distribute the burden of stabilizing climate change among the countries? This issue lies at the heart of much of the ongoing negotiations under the auspices of the UNFCCC. India, the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel in the 1990s, has suggested that the ‘right’ to pollute the atmosphere be apportioned to all countries on the basis of their population. Using this gauge, China and India, the only countries with populations in excess of a billion each, could legitimately emit greenhouse gases to a greater extent, than other countries with lesser population, for some decades. But, as their greenhouse gas emissions today are less than this proposed allocation, they could ‘sell’ some of the ‘rights’ to the industrialized countries.Countries usually propose burden-sharing formulae that favour their economies, and other countries have suggested schemes based on inherited and future emissions, a country’s contribution to temperature change, GDP, and land area and other resource endowments. In the global climate change debate, the issue of largest importance to developing countries is reducing the vulnerability of their natural and socio-economic systems to projected climate change. Their concerns include increasing food security, reducing freshwater scarcity, protecting the livelihoods of forest dwellers, dry land farmers and coastal settlements and reducing health risks. Though there is a visible shift in the global discussions towards adaptation at the Climate Convention-related meetings, the focus continues to be on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptation can complement mitigation as a cost-effective strategy to reduce climate change risks.The impact of climate change is projected to have different effects within and between countries. Developing countries have to carefully evaluate the need for, and the roles of global and national institutions in promoting both mitigation and adaptation programmes. Mitigation and adaptation actions can, if appropriately designed, advance sustainable development and equity both within and across countries and between generations. The pervasiveness of inertia and the possibility of irreversibility in the consequences of the interactions among climate, ecological and socio-economic systems are major reasons why anticipatory adaptation and mitigation actions are beneficial. Thus, the inertia and uncertainty imply that targets and timetables must be fixed for avoiding dangerous levels of interference in the climate system. A number of opportunities to exercise adaptation and mitigation options may be lost if action is delayed1. Factors contributing to climate change – GHG emissions
The global carbon cycle involves interaction among the atmosphere, oceans, soils and vegetation and fossil fuel deposits. The oceans contain 39,000 giga tonnes of carbon (GtC), fossil fuel deposits about 16,000 GtC, soils and vegetation about 2500 GtC, and the atmosphere about 760 GtC2. Since 1850, land-use change is estimated to have released about 136 GtC and fossil fuel combustion,about 270 GtC. Of this, 180 GtC has ended up in the atmosphere, while 110 GtC has been absorbed by growing vegetation and the remainder by the oceans. It is the increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2 that is the cause for concern about global climate change.The combustion of fossil fuels and other human activities are the primary reasons for increased concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Between 1990 and 1999, an estimated 6.3 GtC/year was released due to the combustion of fossil fuels, and another 1.6 GtC/year was released due to the burning of forest vegetation. This was offset by the absorption of 2.3 GtC/year each by growing vegetation and the oceans. This left a balance of 3.3 GtC/ year in the atmosphere3. Controlling the release of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion, land-use change and the burning of vegetation are therefore obvious opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can lessen the projected rate and magnitude of warming and sea level rise. The greater the reductions in emissions and the earlier they are introduced, the smaller and slower the projected warming and the rise in sea levels. Future climate change is thus determined by historic, current and future emissions.Of the six aforementioned GHGs, CO2 accounted for 63%, methane 24%, nitrous oxide 10%, and the other gases the remaining 3% of the carbon equivalent emissions in 2000. Thus in addition to CO2, global mitigation efforts need to focus on the two largest and rapidly increasing GHGs. SPECIAL SECTION: CLIMATE CHANGE AND INDIA
316 CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006
Contribution of industrialized and developing countries
Historically, the industrialized countries have been the primary contributors to emissions of CO2. According to one estimate, industrialized countries are responsible forabout 83% of the rise in cumulative fossil fuel related CO2 emissions4 since 1800. In the 1990s, they accounted for about 53% of the 6.3 GtC/year, which was released as CO2 from fossil fuel combustion. These countries have contributed little to the release of CO2 from the burning of vegetation, which is largely due to tropical deforestation during this period. According to another estimate, developing countries accounted for only 37% of cumulative CO2 emissions from industrial sources and land-use change during the period 1900 to 1999 (Figure 1), whereas industrialized countries accounted5 for 63%, but because of their higher population and economic growth rates, the fossilfuel CO2 emissions from developing countries are likely to soon match or exceed those from the industrialized countries. Large countries, such as China and India, could match the USA’s year 2000 greenhouse gas emissions within two to three decades. Figure 2 shows that when fossil fuel CO2 emissions alone are considered, due to population and economic growth in the coming decades, the contribution of developing countries as a group will soon overtake the industrialized countries. Historically, the responsibility for emissions increase lies largely with the industrialized world, though the developing countries are likely to be the source of an increasing proportion of future increases. Impacts of climate change: Implications for developing countries Developing countries are faced with immediate concerns that relate to forest and land degradation, freshwater shortage, food security and air and water pollution. Climate change will exacerbate the impacts of deforestation and other economic pressures, leading to further water shortages, land Developing Asia 19% Former Soviet Union 12%
Pacific Asia,Industrial 5%
US & Canada 25%
Mid. East & N.Africa South & Cent ral 3%
Figure 1. Per cent cumulative global CO2 emissions from industrial sources and land-use change during 1900–1999. degradation and desertification. Increasing global temperatures will result in rising sea levels. Populations that inhabit small islands and/or low-lying coastal areas are at particular risk of severe social and economic disruptions from sea-level rise and storm surges that could destroy cities and disrupt large coastal livelihoods.The widespread retreat of glaciers and icecaps in the 21st century will also lead to higher surface temperatures on land and increasing water stress. By 2025, as much astwo-thirds of the world population, much of it in the developing world, may be subjected to moderate to high water stress. Estimates of the effects of climate change on crop yields are predominantly egative for the tropics, even when adaptation and direct effects of CO2 on plant processes are taken into consideration. Ecological productivity and biodiversity will be altered by climatechange and sea-level rise, with an increased risk of extinction of some vulnerable species. Even though the ability to project regional differencesin impact is still emerging, the consequences of climatechange are projected to be more drastic in the tropical regions.This is true for all sectors that are likely to bear thebrunt of climate change – sea level, water resources, ecosystems,crop production, fisheries, and human health.The populations of the developing world are more vulnerableas their infrastructure is not strong and extensive enough to withstand a deleterious impact. Role of developing and industrialized countries in addressing climate change: Mitigation and adaptation
In the global climate change debate, the issue of largest importance to developing countries is reducing the vulnerability of their natural and socio-economic systems to projected climate change. Over time, there has been a visible shift in the global climate change discussions towards adaptation. Adaptation can complement mitigation as a cost-effective strategy to reduce climate change risks. The impact of climate change is projected to have different effects within and between countries. Mitigation and adaptation actions can, if appropriately designed, advance sustainable development and equity both within and across countries and between generations. One approach to balancing the attention on adaptation and mitigation strategies is to compare the costs and benefits of both the strategies. If adaptation of climate change could be carried out at negligible cost then it may be less expensive, at least in the short-term, than any alternate strategy. Of course, there are complications in establishing the benefits of adaptation policies and consequent avoided damages.Further, there are significant co-benefits of many mitigation and adaptation measures, which need to be estimated. The co-benefits could play a critical role in making decisions regarding the adoption of any mitigation or adaptation strategy. The impact of mitigation will only be felt in the long run by the future generations. However, the impacts or benefits of adaptation measures are immediate and felt by the implementers of the measures. The regions implementing the mitigation measures could be different from the regions experiencing its impacts. The current generation of industrialized countries may invest in mitigationmeasures and the main beneficiaries may be the next generation largely in the developing countries. The choice between mitigation and adaptation strategies has spatial (geographic) and emporal (different generations) dimensions.An optimal mix of mitigation and adaptation strategies may elude the climate negotiations due to the spatial and temporal dimensions, as well as the differing perceptions of industrialized and developing countries.Under the Kyoto Protocol and UNFCCC, developing countries have insisted that Annex-I countries demonstrate commitment by promoting mitigation measures domestically and provide resources for adaptation measures in developing countries7. However, over emphasis on adaptation might inhibit concerted mitigation actions by the Annex I governments, as adaptation measures are implemented and rewarded locally. Consequently, thereis no incentive to participate in international negotiations,if a country considers itself to be able to fully adapt to climate change8. UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol
In the 1980s, the scientific evidence linking GHG emissions
from human activities with the risk of global climate
change started to arouse public concern. The United Nations
General Assembly responded in 1990 by establishing
the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for Framework
Convention on Climate Change. The UNFCCC held in
1992 at Rio de Janeiro adopted the framework for addressing
climate change concerns. The key goal of the
Convention is ‘stabilization of GHG concentration in the
atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level
should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow
ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure
that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development in a sustainable manner’9. Acknowledging
the global nature of climate change, the Climate
Convention calls for the widest possible cooperation by
all countries and their participation in an effective and
appropriate international response, in accordance with
‘their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions’.
The UN Conference of Parties held in Kyoto in 1997
adopted the Kyoto Protocol as the first step towards addressSPECIAL SECTION: CLIMATE CHANGE AND INDIA
318 CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006
ing climate change. The Protocol shares the Convention’s
objective, principles and institutions, but significantly strengthens the Convention by committing Annex I Parties to
individual, legally-binding targets to limit or reduce their GHG emissions. To achieve the goals of the Climate
Convention, the Kyoto Protocol broke new ground by defining
three innovative ‘flexibility mechanisms’ to lower
the overall costs of achieving its emissions targets. These
mechanisms enable Parties to access cost-effective opportunities to reduce emissions or to remove carbon from the
atmosphere in other countries. While the cost of limiting
emissions varies considerably from region to region,
the benefit for the atmosphere is the same, wherever the
action is taken. Much of the negotiations on the mechanisms
have been concerned with ensuring their integrity.
The three Kyoto mechanisms are as follows:
· Joint Implementation (JI) under Article 6 provides for
Annex I Parties to implement projects that reduce
emissions, or remove carbon from the atmosphere, in
other Annex I Parties, in return for emission reduction
· Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) defined in Article
12 provides for Annex I Parties to implement
projects that reduce emissions in non-Annex I Parties,
or absorb carbon through afforestation or reforestation
activities, in return for certified emission reductions
(CERs) and assist the host Parties in achieving sustainable
development and contributing to the ultimate
objective of the Convention.
· Emissions Trading (ET), as set out in Article 17, provides for Annex I Parties to acquire certified emission
reduction units from other Annex I Parties.
Among the above three mechanisms, only CDM is relevant
to developing countries such as India. Developing
countries could view CDM as an opportunity not only to
attract investment capital and Environmentally Sustainable
Technologies (ESTs) but also to implement innovative
technical, institutional and financial interventions to
promote energy efficiency, renewable energy and forestry
activities that contribute to sustainable development. Projects specially designed and implemented in developing
countries under CDM, leading to carbon emission reduction
or sequestration will receive payments from institutions
and agencies in Annex B (Annex I countries with
commitment to reduce GHG emissions) countries for
every tonne of carbon emission avoided or sequestered.
CDM has been a contentious issue with diverse perceptions10. According to one perception, it provides an opportunity
for developing countries to access modern ESTs
and receive financial incentives to overcome the barriers.
According to another perception, developing countries
may lose the low cost mitigation options to industrialized
countries, while leaving behind only more expensive ones
to pursue, should they take on commitments in the future
to limit their GHG emissions. Further, countries using
CDM, to the extent of their dependence on this mechanism,
need not reduce fossil fuel CO2 emissions domestically
and their national GHG emissions, instead of
declining, may remain stable or even increase.
Why should India be concerned about climate
India is a large developing country with nearly 700 million
rural population directly depending on climate-sensitive
sectors (agriculture, forests and fisheries) and natural resources (such as water, biodiversity, mangroves, coastal
zones, grasslands) for their subsistence and livelihoods.
Further, the adaptive capacity of dry land farmers, forest
dwellers, fisher folk, and nomadic shepherds is very low10.
Climate change is likely to impact all the natural ecosystems as well as socio-economic systems as shown by the
National Communications Report of India to the
The latest high resolution climate change scenarios and
projections for India, based on Regional Climate Modelling
(RCM) system, known as PRECIS developed by
Hadley Center and applied for India using IPCC scenarios
A2 and B212 shows the following:
· An annual mean surface temperature rise by the end
of century, ranging from 3 to 5°C under A2 scenario
and 2.5 to 4°C under B2 scenario, with warming more
pronounced in the northern parts of India.
· A 20% rise in all India summer monsoon rainfall and
further rise in rainfall is projected over all states except Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, which show a
· Extremes in maximum and minimum temperatures are
also expected to increase and similarly extreme precipitation also shows substantial increases, particularly
over the west coast of India and west central
Some of the projected impacts of climate change in India11
are as follows:
The hydrological cycle is likely to be altered and the severity of droughts and intensity of floods in various parts
of India is likely to increase. Further, a general reduction in the quantity of available run-off is predicted.
Simulations using dynamic crop models indicate a decrease
in yield of crops as temperature increases in different
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CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006 319
parts of India. However, this is offset by an increase in
CO2 at moderate rise in temperature and at higher warming,
negative impact on crop productivity is projected due
to reduced crop durations.
Climate impact assessments using BIOME-3 model and
climate projections for the year 2085 show 77% and 68%
of the forested grids in India are likely to experience shift in forest types under A2 and B2 scenario, respectively.
Indications show a shift towards wetter forest types in the
northeastern region and drier forest types in the northwestern region in the absence of human influence. Increasing
atmospheric CO2 concentration and climate warming
could also result in a doubling of net primary productivity
under the A2 scenario and nearly 70% increase under the
Simulation models show an increase in frequencies of
tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal; particularly intense events are projected during the post-monsoon period. Sea
level rise is projected to displace populations in coastal
zones, increase flooding in low-lying coastal areas, loss
of crop yields from inundation and salinization.
Malaria is likely to persist in many states and new regions
may become malaria-prone and the duration of the
malaria transmission windows is likely to widen in northern
and western states and shorten in southern states.
Globally, about 1900 Mha of land are affected by land
degradation, of which 500 Mha each are in Africa and
the Asia-Pacific and 300 Mha in Latin America. Climate
change leading to warming and water stress could further
exacerbate land degradation, leading to desertification.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
(UNCCD) aims to address the problem of land degradation,
which is linked to climate change.
It is important to note that the climate-sensitive sectors
(forests, agriculture, coastal zones) and the natural resources (groundwater, soil, biodiversity, etc.) are already
under stress due to socio-economic pressures. Climate
change is likely to exacerbate the degradation of resources
and socio-economic pressures. Thus, countries such as
India with a large population dependent on climate-sensitive sectors and low adaptive capacity have to develop
and implement adaptation strategies.
Contribution of India to global GHG emissions
and build up – Past, current and future
In recent years, the development planning in India has increasingly incorporated measurable goals for enhancement
of human well being, beyond mere expansion of
production of goods and services and the consequent
growth of per capita income. Many developmental targets14,15 are even more ambitious than the UN Millennium
Development Goals16; several of which are directly
or indirectly linked to energy and therefore to GHG emissions. India holds over 1 billion people, i.e. over 16% of
global population. Endowed with coal, India’s energy
system has evolved around coal. India’s share in global
CO2 emissions is still very small (Table 1).
The contribution of India to the cumulative global CO2
emissions from 1980 to 2003 is only 3.11%. Thus historically and at present India’s share in the carbon stock in
the atmosphere is relatively very small when compared to
the population. India’s carbon emissions per person are
twentieth of those of the US and a tenth of most Western
Europe and Japan (Figure 3).
Table 1. Share in global CO2 emissions (%)
United States 23.04 23.06
China 10.41 14.07
Russia1 9.67 6.38
Japan 4.54 4.79
India 2.63 4.07
Germany2 4.24 3.35
Canada 2.19 2.39
United Kingdom 2.76 2.24
Italy 1.91 1.85
France 1.80 1.63
Rest of World 38.61 36.17
1Russia 1990 numbers are for 1992.
2Germany 1990 numbers are for 1991.
Source: Based on data from USDOE27.
USA Canada Russia Germany UK Japan Italy France China India
Ton of Carbon / Person
World Average: 1.07
Figure 3. Per capita carbon emissions from energy for the year 2003 (ref. 27).
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320 CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006
The endogenous responses generated to achieve the
‘development goals’ are the key factors shaping the economic growth, endogenous technological change and
consumption preferences that drive the energy and emissions
trends. The goal of providing universal access to
electricity, for instance, from the present fifty-five per
cent coverage, has vital implications for development and
greenhouse gas emissions. The policies to achieve ‘development goals’ could deliver double dividends17 for
economies that are below the production frontier. In India’s case the recent history and the trends show that the
economic reforms are enlarging choices that are delivering
double dividends, as is evident from the declining
trend of energy, electricity and carbon intensities of the
Indian economy (Figure 4).
Cost of addressing and not addressing climate
change for India
India has potential to supply substantial mitigation at a
relatively low price. Major opportunities exist both on the
supply and demand side of energy, in case of carbon
emissions. There are also low cost opportunities for mitigation of methane and nitrous oxide. As Table 2 shows,
in the short-run, till the Kyoto Protocol period, substantial potential of mitigation of carbon, methane and nitrous
oxides exist at costs below $30 per tonne of carbon
equivalent (or $8 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent),
which is below the prevailing price of traded carbon in
European market. In the long run, the results of the modelling exercises show that India, between 2005 and 2035,
could supply cumulative 5 billion tonne of carbon equivalent mitigation from the energy options at price below
$10 per tonne of carbon equivalent (Figure 5). The low
mitigation cost potential is also evident from the sizable
CDM projects being proposed from India in recent times.
Together with mitigation, UNFCCC also emphasizes
adaptation; its Article 4(4) exhorting to assist particularly 0
1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 2025 2030
Past Trends Future Projections
Figure 4. GDP intensities of energy, electricity and carbon for IA2 scenario (ref. 30).
vulnerable developing country parties in meeting the costs
of adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change.
The ‘Marrakech Accords’ have established the Adaptation
Fund as an instrument for implementing this requirement
in the future. The ‘Buenos Aires Programme of
Work on Adaptation and Response Measures’ adopted by
COP10 in 2004, aims to step up the implementation and
funding of targeted adaptation activities, as well as activities to address the impact of the implementation of response
measures, in developing country parties.
These measures notwithstanding, adaptation has received
less attention than mitigation in the climate regime. Adaptation is a private or local public good, whereas mitigation
is a global public good. The individuals or communities
bear the risk wherever there is undersupply of adaptation
measures. Adaptation costs are the insurance payments
and the costs of not addressing adaptation are the damages
from unmitigated climate risks.
India is a large developing country with diverse climatic
zones. The livelihood of vast population depends on climate- sensitive economic sectors like agriculture, forestry
and fisheries. The climate change vulnerability and impact
studies in India18 assume high degree of uncertainty in
the assessment due to ‘… limited understanding of many
critical processes in the climate system, existence of multiple climatic and non-climatic stresses, regional-scale
variations and nonlinearity …’. The costs of not addressing climate change or to adapt to it are very uncertain, but
their welfare consequences are enormous. Early actions
on adaptation therefore are prudent and consistent from
the viewpoint of ‘precautionary principle’.
The future regime architecture can reduce the climate
burden by giving greater emphasis to adaptation, e.g. via
an Adaptation Protocol, whereby mandatory funding by
industrialized countries could support adaptation activities in developing countries. Additional policy options like
2 3 4 5 6 7
Carbon Mitiga tion (Billion ton Carbon )
Marginal Cost ($/Ton of Carbon)
Figure 5. Carbon mitigation supply curve for India for the period 2005–2035 (based on modelling exercises reported in refs 30–32). SPECIAL SECTION: CLIMATE CHANGE AND INDIA
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006 321
Table 2. Mitigation options, potential and costs
Mitigation potential 2002–2012 Long-term marginal cost
Greenhouse gas Mitigation options (million tonne) ($/tonne of carbon equivalent) Carbon Demand-side energy efficiency 45 0–15
Supply-side energy efficiency 32 0–12
Electricity T&D 12 5–30
Renewable electricity technologies 23 3–15
Fuel switching – gas for coal 8 5–20
Forestry 18 5–10
Methane Enhanced cattle feed 0.66 5–30
Anaerobic manure digesters 0.38 3–10
Low methane rice varieties Marginal 5–20
Cultivar practices Marginal 0–20
Nitrous oxide Improved fertilizer application Marginal 0–20 Nitrification inhibitors Marginal 20–40
Source: Chandler et al.28.
support for adaptation planning and implementation,
creation of a public–private insurance mechanism and
alignment of climate funds and development assistance
can be deployed for gaining added benefits.
Addressing climate change and sustainable
Sustainable development has become part of all climate
change policy discussions at the global level, particularly
due to adoption of Agenda 21 and the various Conventions
resulting from the UNCED-1992. The generally accepted
and used definition as given by the Brundtland
Commission is ‘development that meets the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’19. Sustainable development
has become an integrating concept embracing economic,
social and environmental issues. Sustainable development
does not preclude the use of exhaustible natural resources
but requires that any use be appropriately offset. This
concept is not acceptable to many developing countries
since it seems to disregard their aspirations for growth
and development. Further, sustainable development cannot
be achieved without significant economic growth in
the developing countries20.
Three critical components in promoting sustainable development are economic growth, social equity and environmental
sustainability. The question often asked is, should
the current economic growth (GNP, employment, etc.) be
sacrificed for long-term environmental conservation? Policy
makers in developing countries often perceive a tradeoff
between economic growth and environmental sustainability.
However, there is a growing evidence to show
that environmental conservation for sustainability of
natural resources is not a luxury but a necessity when
considering long-term economic growth and development,
particularly in the least developed countries. The
decline and degradation of natural resources such as land,
soil, forests, biodiversity and groundwater, resulting from
current unsustainable use patterns are likely to be aggravated due to climate change in the next 25 to 50 years.
Africa, South Asia and some regions of Latin America
are already experiencing severe land degradation and
freshwater scarcity problems21.
There are many ways to pursue sustainable development
strategies that contribute to mitigation of climate
change. A few examples are presented below.
· Adoption of cost-effective energy-efficient technologies in electricity generation, transmission distribution,
and end-use can reduce costs and local pollution in
addition to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
· Shift to renewables, some of which are already costeffective, can enhance sustainable energy supply, can
reduce local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
· Adoption of forest conservation, reforestation, afforestation and sustainable forest management practices
can contribute to conservation of biodiversity, watershed
protection, rural employment generation, increased
incomes to forest dwellers and carbon sink
· Efficient, fast and reliable public transport systems
such as metro-railways can reduce urban congestion,
local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
· Adoption of participatory approach to forest management, rural energy, irrigation water management and
rural development in general can promote sustained
development activities and ensure long-term greenhouse
gas emission reduction or carbon sink enhancement.
· Rational energy pricing based on long-run-marginalcost
principle can level the playing field for renewables,
increase the spread of energy-efficient and renewableenergy
technologies, and the economic viability of utility
companies, ultimately leading to greenhouse gas
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322 CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006
Several initiatives are being pursued to measure and report
an entity’s progress on sustainable development. An
example is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design (LEED) – a US Green Building Council organization
that uses 69-point criteria to award a certificate at platinum, gold and other levels to buildings. Criteria include
sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere,
materials and resource use, indoor environmental
quality, and innovation and design process. As part of
this international process, hundreds of buildings have received certification worldwide, including several in India
some of which have received the platinum rating.
Another example is the Global Reporting Initiative
(GRI), which is a multi-stakeholder process and an independent institution whose mission is to develop and disseminate
globally applicable Sustainability Reporting
Guidelines. These guidelines are for voluntary use by organizations for reporting on the economic, environmental
and social dimensions of their activities, products, and
services. Started in 1997, GRI is an official collaborating
centre of the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) and works in cooperation with UN’s Global
The motivation for using the above types of reporting
criteria is diverse. In a recent evaluation of GRI, 85% of
the reports addressed climate change, and 74% of respondents identified economic reasons and another 53% ethical
reasons for reporting their company’s performance to
GRI. India’s ITC Limited, for example, has won a platinum
LEED rating for its Gurgaon building, and also reports its
sustainable development performance to GRI as a carbonpositive corporation, i.e. it sequesters more carbon than it
Over time, as indicators and measurement tools become
available, the pursuit of sustainable development is
moving out of academic discourses, and being put into
practice increasingly by institutions and private industry.
The trend is likely to strengthen globally as nations come
to recognize the limits on access to and development of
Future direction of addressing climate change at
global level and implications for India
The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ends
in 2012. Given the relatively short period to its termination, participating countries have been engaged in several
dialogues within the UNFCCC auspices and elsewhere
about post-2012 commitments on emissions reductions
and adaptation measures. The discussion at these dialogues
ranges from mandatory economy-wide targets to
sector-specific ones on all countries, to bilateral and/or
multilateral agreements to voluntarily reduce GHG emissions. Industrialized countries, except notably US and
Australia, already have agreed to adhere to economy-wide
targets, and they are keen to continue such an approach
post-2012. Others have proposed sector-based approaches
that require adoption of voluntary carbon intensity targets
for the energy and major industry sectors in all countries.
Key questions include: how are sectors defined, how does
the voluntary target setting process unfold, are there separate benchmark targets for new and existing facilities
within a sector, when and how are reductions generated
that can be sold, how will sectoral benchmarks be part of
an Annex I country target? Studies22,23 have tested the use
of tools and voluntary approaches for benchmarking energy
efficiency and carbon intensity in a variety of industrial
sectors in both industrialized and developing countries,
and these could form the basis for setting verifiable sectoral targets. A key to making a sector-based approach
attractive to developing countries is to create financial
incentives to adopt such a target. A combination of technology finance and CDM/trading revenues could serve as
one basis for making such targets attractive to developing
Addressing adaptation in a post-2012 international climate
regime could be done through the use of insurancebased
approaches, mainstreaming and innovative financing
mechanisms. There is a growing interest in evaluating
the role that innovative insurance mechanisms and other
risk-spreading activities may offer in addressing adaptation needs24. These options can be structured so that they
both help address impacts ex-post, and thereby expedite
recovery efforts, and encourage participants to take anticipatory actions that help reduce their vulnerability. Insurance
can spread the risk of potential climate change
impacts through public–private risk transfer mechanisms,
weather-derivatives, catastrophe bonds and microinsurance.
The implications for developing countries with
nascent insurance industries, however, need to be better
The ability to adapt to climate change is intertwined with
sustainable development and poverty reduction in both a
positive and negative sense. In the positive sense, enhancement of adaptive capacity entails a variety of similar
actions to sustainable development and poverty reduction
(e.g. improved access to resources and improved infrastructure). On the negative side, sustainable development
and poverty reduction can be hampered by the impacts of
climate change. Further, some sustainable development
activities could make countries more susceptible to climate
change (so-called maladaptation). Some climate policymakers
and development policymakers have supported
the need to ‘mainstream adaptation’ – where adaptation responses are considered and integrated into sustainable
development and poverty reduction processes. While in
general, most agree that this is an important aspect of adaptation response, its implications for on-the-ground actions
need to be addressed.
Since early 1990s, international efforts have created
the climate change regime, the centre piece of which is
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CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006 323
the UNFCCC and its instruments the Kyoto Protocol and
the Marrakech Accords which details rules for the implementation of this protocol and the existing commitments
under the UNFCCC relating to funding, capacitybuilding
and technology transfer. These currently existing
multilateral instruments by themselves are not adequate
to meet the twin challenges of mitigation and adaptation.
They do, however, provide a basis for further development
of the multilateral regime, if advantage is taken of
the political momentum generated by the entry into force
of the Kyoto Protocol. The regime development has now
reached a crucial stage where continued progress is necessary in order to consolidate the results achieved so far
and reduce uncertainty as to the future direction of climate change policy.
In view of the considerable time and effort invested
over the past fifteen years in developing a global climate
policy regime, it is logical for international cooperation
to build on the existing framework. Whereas the regime
architecture has in-built flexibility to create efficient
emissions mitigation markets, the current framework has
remained mired in controversies; it is not universally accepted and has created fragmented mitigation markets
that are not cost-effective. Robust and efficient regime
architecture would require wider participation and more
decisive progress towards achievement of the agreed ultimate objective.
A least resistant and operationally efficient approach is
to find interfaces through which climate change needs are
integrated with the routine policies, measures and activities which are undertaken daily and sizably by governments
and different stakeholders. Countries and stakeholders
craft strategies to achieve own goals and objectives, numerous elements of which are amenable to contribute
climate goals at little or no cost and sometimes even with
positive gains. For developing countries, the climate benign actions are best driven as a part of the sustainable
development priorities derived from the Millennium Development Goals and concretized in national development
goals and targets. This approach is well articulated in India’s Initial National Communications11: ‘Since the goals
of sustainable national development are favorable to the
issue of climate change, the achievement of these goals
would accrue a double dividend in terms of added climate
change benefits. The cascading effects of sustainable development would reduce emissions and moderate the adverse
impacts of climate change, and thereby alleviate the
resulting loss in welfare’.
For developing countries, enhancing the economic well
being of their citizens remains an urgent and pressing
goal. To the extent the new climate architecture would be
perceived as a barrier to this, it would be resisted and
would fail to garner wide support so necessary for economic
efficiency and co-ordination to derive multiple
benefits. For coming decades, the GHG emissions per
citizen from most developing countries would remain
significantly below those in industrialized countries. For
most developing countries, this is the century when majority of their citizens are likely to first experience economic
prosperity. The next climate regime would succeed
to the extent it would create instruments that align to sustainable development goals, activities and processes in
The science of climate change: role for Indian
Climate change is a fast emerging science involving
physical, biological and social sciences. There has been
an explosion of literature on climate science and policy.
There are three broad categories of scientific assessment
as adopted by the IPCC:
· The science of climate change; climate modelling and
projections (Working Group-I).
· Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate
change (Working Group-II).
· Mitigation and policies (Working Group-III).
Institutions in the industrialized countries largely dominate research on climate science and policy, particularly
climate modelling and projections. Developing countries
such as India should take leadership in all the above three
types of assessments. The participation of scientific community from developing countries is still limited. For example,
the total number of Indian experts participating in
the Assessment Report-4 of the IPCC is 5 out of 142 in
Working Group-I, 9 out of 178 in Working Group-II and
7 out of 160 in Working Group-III.
India has completed four nationally coordinated assessments
of climate change projections, impacts and mitigation;
the first being the climate change studies supported
by the Asian Development Bank, the second being the
ALGAS (Asian Least-Cost Greenhouse Gas Abatement
Study) supported by the Global Environment Facility
(GEF), the third being climate impact assessment study
conducted under the Indo-UK collaborative project and
the latest being the National Communications supported
by the GEF. Interestingly, the Ministry of Environment and
Forests coordinated all the collaborative efforts. The National Communications was one of the successful national level
coordinated efforts involving 131 teams from research
and educational institutions, covering all the three aspects of climate change; climate projections, impacts and adaptation, and mitigation11. The National Communications
project has promoted a network of research teams and institutions in India, to address various aspects of climate change.
Large developing countries such as India should have
long-term Research and Development (R&D) groups
working on various aspects of climate change science,
particularly the modelling aspects of GHG emissions sceSPECIAL SECTION: CLIMATE CHANGE AND INDIA
324 CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 3, 10 FEBRUARY 2006
narios, climate projections, climate impacts, integrated
assessments, adaptation and mitigation.
Some of the critical scientific issues that need to be addressed include the following:
· Many uncertainties continue to limit the ability to detect, attribute and understand the current climate
change and to project what future climate changes
may be, particularly at the regional level. Further,
there is a need to link physical climate-biogeochemical
models with models of the human system in order
to provide better understanding of possible cause–
effect–cause patterns linking human and non-human
components of earth systems3.
· Improved understanding of the exposure, sensitivity,
adaptability and vulnerability of physical, ecological
and social systems to climate change at regional and
· Evaluation of climate mitigation options in the context
of development, sustainability and equity at regional,
national and global level in different sectors
(energy and non-energy)26.
· To develop sustainable and equitable international
protocols, mechanisms and financial arrangements to
promote mitigation and adaptation to achieve the
goals of Article 2 of the UNFCCC.
India is a large developing country with nearly two-thirds
of the population depending directly on the climatesensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forests.
The projected climate change under various scenarios is
likely to have implications on food production, water
supply, biodiversity and livelihoods. Thus, India has a
significant stake in scientific advancement as well as an
international understanding to promote mitigation and
adaptation. This requires improved scientific understanding, capacity building, networking and broad consultation
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and Forests for supporting the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad in conducting research on climate change under several programmes, including the National Communications project.