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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 10 March 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 10 March 2023


Contents

  1. Achieving India’s “carbon sink” goal
  2. South Asia has the resiliency it needs in its human capital

Achieving India’s “carbon sink” goal


Context

  • The commitment to increase its carbon sink by 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030 has not been updated, despite the fact that the other two climate commitments were enhanced in India’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC in 2022.
  • The apparent silence on the third commitment fueled speculation that India would fail to meet this target.

Relevance

GS Paper 3:  Bio-diversity & Environment

Mains Question

How does the concept of “carbon mineralization” aid in the fight against global warming? What are some additional effective carbon capture and storage techniques? (150 words)


India’s Updated NDCs

  • Following the COP26 to UNFCCC in Glasgow, UK, India announced enhanced climate targets, representing the framework for India’s transition to cleaner energy for the period 2021-2030.
  • Article 4 of the Paris Agreement requires countries to submit NDCs every five years, which represent a “progression” from the previous NDC.
    • This encourages countries to improve their self-determined ambition on a continuous basis.
    • The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international climate change treaty that aims to keep global temperature rises this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
    • It also intends to pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • These updated NDCs were prepared after carefully considering our national circumstances, as well as the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC).

Exaggerated Goals for Creating a Carbon Sink

  • According to government figures in 2022, the country’s carbon sink had increased by 703 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, or roughly 120 million tonnes per year, in the six years since 2015.
    • A carbon sink is defined as the total amount of CO2 absorbed and stored by forests and trees.
  • At this rate, however, the target of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030 was unlikely to be met.
  • As a result, the carbon sink target was clearly much more ambitious and difficult than the other two, which had been met approximately eight years before the deadline.
  • Additionally, the rate of increase of carbon stock in India’s forests and tree cover has been increasing, despite the fact that the total carbon stock in 2021 was slightly less than what the FSI projected just two years ago.
  • Though terrestrial carbon sinks in the form of trees are a relatively low-cost way to reduce atmospheric CO2, India lost 371,000 hectares of primary forest cover and 2.07 million hectares of tree cover between 2002 and 2021, according to Global Forest Watch.
  • In addition, India revealed to the UNFCCC in 2021 that it planted trees and improved forest lands across 112,422 hectares between 2015 and 2021, compared to its target of 142,684 hectares.
  • Forests, mangroves, wetlands, peatlands, and grasslands are all powerful carbon sinks that are underappreciated.
  • Furthermore, in a densely populated and historically forest-dependent society like India, dedicating forests for the sequestration role involves trade-offs between diverse stakeholders.
  • Forests, for example, play an ecological role in biodiversity and watershed services; a social role in supporting local communities through non-timber products, fodder, and fuel wood; an economic role through timber; and, most recently, a climate action role through CO2 sequestration.

Ambiguity in Climate Commitment’s Baseline Year

  • The carbon sink target was not precisely defined in 2015; for example, India committed to creating an additional carbon sink through increased forest and tree cover by 2030, but made no mention of the baseline year.
    • That is, it did not specify the year against which this additional 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent carbon sink would be measured.
  • This is in contrast to India’s emissions intensity target, which set 2005 as the baseline year.
  • Furthermore, because the commitment on renewable capacity was an absolute target, no baseline was required.
  • India chose 2005 as the baseline year because, according to the Paris Agreement, countries are responsible for setting their own climate targets, including the baseline year.

Why were aggressive targets sought after?

  • The climate targets were announced in a rush ahead of the 2015 climate change conference because they were deemed critical to the Paris Agreement’s finalisation.
    • While India’s initial targets for emissions intensity and renewable capacity were modest, the carbon sink target necessitated a thorough investigation, which could not have been completed in a timely manner.
  • The Forest Survey of India (FSI), based in Dehradun, pointed out in 2019 that the term “additional carbon sink” in the Indian commitment could be interpreted in two ways: o above and beyond the carbon sink that existed in the baseline year, or o above and beyond what it would be in the target year of 2030 in the business-as-usual scenario.
  • As a result, India sought to eliminate ambiguity regarding the baseline year for the carbon sink target by committing to the 2005 baseline.
    • According to the Environment Minister’s response in Parliament, India has already achieved 1.97 billion tonnes of additional carbon sink compared to the baseline year of 2005.
    • He also added that “the remaining target can be achieved by increasing forest and tree cover of the country through implementation of various central and state sponsored schemes”.
    • However, when India formally submitted its updated international climate commitments to the UNFCCC, the forestry target was left ambiguous once more because India’s formal submission made no mention of the baseline year.
    • Furthermore, if the “additional” in India’s commitment is interpreted as above and beyond business-as-usual levels, meeting the carbon target becomes nearly impossible.
  • As a result, while statements in Parliament are considered the official government position, India can only be held accountable to what is contained in its official submission to the UNFCCC secretariat.

Conclusion

  • India’s policies, and especially their implementation, must be in sync in order to meet climate targets and achieve climate justice, as well as establish a formal baseline.
  • It could also broaden the scope of its carbon sink goal to include mangroves and peatlands, as well as raise the target for carbon sequestration.
  • An ethical approach involving local communities to reach reasonable compromises through a democratic governance process should also be enabled.

South Asia has the resiliency it needs in its human capital


Context

  • Over the past few years, South Asia has experienced a number of crises, including pandemics, economic downturns, and extreme weather phenomena.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic alone has had a significant impact on the area, endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions of people and reversing decades of progress in development.
  • Governments in South Asia must implement urgent policy changes and make investments in human capital in order to foster resilience and safeguard the welfare of future generations.

Relevance:

GS Paper-2: Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger; Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, and Human Resources.

Mains Question

Discuss the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on South Asia’s human capital and the pressing need for resilient policy. Make suggestions for actions that could be taken to raise the calibre and quantity of human capital in the area. (250 Words)


Unutilized resource

  • A resource that is underutilised is South Asia’s population, which is both its greatest resource and its biggest waste.
    • The region could benefit from an enviable high demographic dividend with nearly half of its population under 24 and more than one million young people expected to enter the labour force every month until 2030.
      • Low Productive Potential and Stunted Growth: Over one-third of the world’s stunted children live in South Asia.
    • A child born in the area today can currently anticipate reaching only 48% of their full productive potential by the age of 18.
      • Growth in Human Capital and Regional GDP:
      • Growth in South Asia’s human capital has the potential to double the region’s per-worker GDP.
    • The region must increase both the quantity and quality of its human capital in order to realise its potential demographic dividend.
      • Resources: Governments in South Asia typically spend just 1% of GDP on health care and 2.5% on education.
    • The average across the globe is 3.7% for education and 5.9% for health.
    • It will be difficult to increase human capital in the area without sufficient funding and government spending on health and education.
  • Impact of COVID-19: o The COVID-19 pandemic has driven an additional 35 million people in South Asia into extreme poverty. o The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the region’s human capital, including decreased access to health care and education, an increase in child labour, and decreased productivity.

Rise in Learning Poverty

  • One of the COVID-19 pandemic’s most significant effects has been a rise in learning poverty, with children in South Asia suffering significant learning losses as a result of closing schools and ineffective remote instruction.
  • Learning poverty in South Asia has increased from 60% to 78% as a result of the region’s longer average school closures (225 days compared to 141 days globally), with the poorest and most vulnerable children falling further behind.
  • For instance, in Bangladesh, the learning loss of the poorest students was 50% greater than that of the richest students.
  • Students in South Asia could lose up to 14.4% of their future earnings because several nations still exhibit scant to no signs of recovery.

Interventions that could change things

  • Low-cost and simple education programmes: Despite the difficulties, research suggests that even low-cost and straightforward education programmes can result in significant skill gains.
    • In Bangladesh, for instance, attending an extra year of preschool resulted in significantly higher scores in literacy, numeracy, and social development.
    • In Tamil Nadu, extra remedial classes after school for six months allowed students to make up about two-thirds of the learning that had been lost due to 18 months of school closures.
    • A phone tutoring programme increased students’ basic numeracy by 30% in Nepal.
  • Importance of scaling up interventions: o Even with constrained government budgets, scaling up these interventions should be a no-brainer given the high returns to human capital, the significant losses caused by the pandemic, and the region’s vulnerability to a variety of shocks.
  • Pre-crisis support systems: o On a global scale, nations that have pre-crisis support systems in place can better protect their citizens during the crisis.

Agile and resilient systems for human development

  • Systems for human development that are flexible and resilient must take into account that human development is multifaceted and interdependent in order to be successful.
  • The World Bank study emphasises the pandemic’s effects on young people and the need for flexible, resilient, and adaptable human development systems.
  • Such systems should be able to quickly adapt to changing conditions and recognise the overlapping relationships between health, education, and skill development.
  • Human development systems that are adaptable and flexible can better withstand shocks in the future and guarantee the continuity of vital services like healthcare and education.

Utilize data and technology

  • Data and technology can assist nations in preparing for upcoming shocks.
    • A well-functioning system should guarantee that crucial services like healthcare and education continue to be provided even in times of emergency.
    • The system must be adaptable enough to change and address pressing needs.
    • Effective service delivery depends on coordination across sectors.
    • Data and technology are essential to the delivery of services and should be used wisely.

Conclusion

South Asia faces a challenging future. The next crisis could arrive at any moment. A strong human development system could give South Asia the resilience it needs to thrive in a world that is becoming more unstable by minimising the harm and assisting in protecting lives and livelihoods.


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