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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 15 December 2023

  1. Using Climate Science in Conference of Parties Meetings
  2. Vocational Exposure is the Key to Employability


Context:

Since 1995, when the inaugural United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) took place, there has been a significant transformation in its nature. Initially characterized by formal, exclusive gatherings attended by bureaucrats and technocrats, these events have evolved into lively spectacles resembling carnivals.

Relevance:

GS3- Environment

Mains Question:

COP meetings must use climate science to promote justice and equity. Discuss. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Conference of Parties:

The COP serves as the governing body of the UNFCCC, with representation from all member States of the Convention. Its role involves evaluating the implementation of any legal instruments adopted by the Convention.

Enhanced Participation in Recent COPs:

  • While the official aspects have expanded, with the UN climate secretariat becoming more complex through the addition of subsidiary bodies, working groups, and intricate agenda items, there has also been a surge in participation from various quarters.
  • Activist groups, indigenous communities, businesses of all sizes, consultancies, traders, and a substantial media presence have become integral parts of the proceedings.

Impact of this Shift:

  • This shift can be viewed positively, attributed to a growing awareness of the existential threat posed to humanity by anthropogenic climate change, amplified over centuries of industrialization.
  • Notably, climate denialists, once influential in power circles just a decade ago, now find themselves marginalized and relegated to the darknet, akin to Flat Earthers.
  • Their positions have been filled by newcomers and entrepreneurs from the fossil fuel era who recognize opportunities in advocating for renewable energy solutions.
  • Presently, every country publicly declares its commitment to the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically reduced to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C.

Climate Science:

  • Climate science is the human endeavor to comprehend the natural forces governing the climate. The climate of a planet is influenced by the Sun’s energy reaching its surface, a variable factor dependent on latitude and season.
  • Ultimately, the climate is shaped by the intricate interaction of this energy with the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land masses.
  • The field of climate science is not a recent development. For over two centuries, scientists have been contemplating the factors influencing the Earth’s temperature.
  • This exploration began in the 1820s with the work of the French mathematician and physicist Joseph Fourier, who postulated that the Earth’s atmosphere played a role in trapping heat energy emitted from the planet’s surface.
  • In the 1850s, Irish chemist John Tyndall demonstrated that water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases absorb infrared radiation.
  • By the 1890s, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius illustrated that the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide resulting from coal combustion could lead to Earth’s eventual warming.
  • Today, sophisticated computer models running on supercomputers accurately depict how climate responds to changing conditions.

The Delay in Addressing Major Issues:

  • Despite multiple acknowledgments in COP, there remains a lack of urgency in curbing the use of fossil fuels, the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The fact that it has taken almost three decades for COP to recognize this reality, as outlined in the Dubai Consensus, indicates that political expediency and strategic maneuvering have unfortunately turned climate science into a weapon.
  • Consequently, nations accountable for the majority of human-emitted carbon highlight record temperatures and their correlation with increasing emissions when advocating for emission reductions from developing countries.
  • However, they are unwilling to acknowledge this connection when developing and island nations request financial support as reparations for the damage already caused by climate change.
  • The Loss and Damage Fund, celebrated as a success at COP 28 with commitments totaling $750 million, has been approved with the condition that it should not be construed as compensation for historical carbon pollution.
  • The ‘Loss and Damage’ (L&D) fund serves as a financial instrument specifically created to tackle the irreversible repercussions of climate change that cannot be averted or lessened through adaptation initiatives.
  • Adaptation, being the proactive response to climate change, involves strategic decision-making by communities and nations to ready themselves for and manage challenges posed by climate-related changes.
  • The fund acknowledges and seeks to redress the tangible losses experienced by communities, nations, and ecosystems as a result of the effects of climate change.
  • These losses go beyond financial considerations, impacting fundamental aspects such as human rights, well-being, and environmental sustainability.

Conclusion:

A significant associated worry is that COP meetings are labeled as ‘historic’ solely when they introduce new action-oriented terms like ‘phase out,’ ‘phase down,’ and ‘transition’ in the context of emission reduction. However, they appear mundane when addressing the minimal allocation of funds and technology for the detoxification from fossil fuels. It is crucial for upcoming meetings to employ scientific insights to advocate for justice and equity, thereby bolstering confidence in one of the few functional multilateral processes.



Context:

India’s economic growth, amid a globally imbalanced economy, has sparked optimism. The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 underscores the significance of empowering the youth with skills from an early age, positioning them as essential contributors to a developmental revolution.

Relevance:

GS-2

  • Human Resource
  • Government Policies & Interventions

GS-3

  • Skill Development
  • Growth & Development

Mains Question:

Vocational Exposure will empower the youth to be job-ready, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship for India’s development as a developed nation. Analyse. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Status of Skill Development in India:

  • The initial target was to raise the proportion of formally skilled workers from 5.4% to at least 15% by 2022-2023.
  • The India Skills Report 2022 indicates that the overall youth employability is only 48.7%, falling short of the targeted 109 million workers.
  • The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) data reveals that 86% of those aged 15 to 59 lack vocational training, emphasizing the need for dedicated efforts in skilling and education.

Necessity of Skill Development in India:

  • The current focus is on initiatives aimed at enhancing skills, particularly through the Skill India Mission, to build ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047.
  • Education now extends beyond traditional institutions due to market changes and digital progress.
  • Gaining skills aligned with market demands not only offers promising job opportunities to the youth but also forms a solid foundation for ‘Viksit Bharat’.
  • With a demographic advantage, India must harness this potential by establishing the capacity and infrastructure for skilling, reskilling, and upskilling both existing and new workforce entrants.
  • Upskilling the youth is essential for increased income, higher profitability, and enhanced productivity in the economy.

Government Initiatives in this Regard:

  • The NEP has set a clear goal to raise the gross enrolment ratio in higher education, including vocational education, to 50% by 2035.
  • This involves adding 3.5 crore new seats to higher education institutions (HEIs) with a focus on flexible curricula, integrating vocational education with mainstream education, and enabling multiple entries and exits with suitable certification.
  • The establishment of Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs) aims to provide top-quality education, comparable to IITs and IIMs. The commitment extends to providing vocational exposure to at least 50% of learners through school and higher education by 2050.
  • The vision is for every child to learn at least one vocation and be exposed to several more, leveraging India’s vast education network.

Evolution of Vocational Education Policy:

  • The Kothari Commission report in 1966 was among the early initiatives to advocate for curriculum diversification at higher secondary levels through vocational courses.
  • Subsequently, the National Education Policy of 1986 aimed at enhancing the organizational and management structure of vocational education.
  • It proposed vocationalization at both secondary and higher education levels, introducing Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW) as a distinct subject in secondary classes and vocational degree courses at the higher education level.

National Education Policy 2020:

  • Addressing challenges on both the demand and supply sides of vocational education, NEP 2020 seeks to mitigate them. On the supply side, it promotes:
  • Conducting proper skills gap analysis and mapping of local opportunities.
  • Aligning vocational courses with specific areas for a more structured approach.
  • Emphasizing the credit-based National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF), initiated in 2013.
  • Assessing prior learning to reintegrate dropouts from mainstream education by aligning practical experiences with the NSQF.
  • Aligning vocational occupations with international standards set by the International Labour Organisation.

On the demand side, NEP 2020 proposes:

  • Integrating vocational education programs into mainstream education gradually.
  • Fostering respect for labor and highlighting the significance of various vocations, including Indian arts and artisanship.

Key Provisions in NEP 2020:

Vision for Balanced Education – Socially meaningful and aspirational:

  • Eliminating harmful hierarchies and silos between different areas of learning.
  • Reimagining vocational education for competency building.
  • Promoting inclusive, interoperable, interdisciplinary, and outcome-based education.

21st-century Capacity Building:

  • Holistic and multidisciplinary education for well-rounded individuals.
  • School internships for skill appreciation and craft-centric learning.
  • Professional development of teachers.
  • Job market orientation with multiple-entry and exit options.
  • Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and alignment with International Standards.
  • Emphasis on technological development and student entrepreneurship.

Way Forward:

  • However, achieving these goals requires sustained efforts, steadfastness in implementing reforms, and investments in setting up skill centers in every high school nationwide.
  • Providing skill training to our youngsters is crucial to nurturing an interest in entrepreneurship. This exposure will familiarize them with cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, drones, the Internet of Things (IoT), Real-Time Analytics, and more.
  • Given that automation and data exchange are central to the fourth Industrial Revolution, known as Industry 4.0, it becomes essential to equip our young minds with the relevant training. While some may choose careers in the government and services sector, the majority are likely to explore opportunities in the thriving manufacturing and service sectors in our country.
  • While some efforts have been made to restructure skilling programs, the underlying issue has not been effectively tackled. For example, the introduction of the Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana (GKRY) by the government in 2020 to address skilling and unemployment issues arising from reverse migration did not yield the anticipated results.
  • Numerous reports suggest that GKRY’s market demand-driven skilling initiatives fell short of success and did not reach the targeted beneficiaries. This points to a systemic problem impacting India’s talent ecosystem. Consequently, instead of merely categorizing youths as ‘Labharathi’ (Beneficiary), the focus should shift towards equipping them with the necessary skills to transform into ‘Kamarathi’ (Workman).
  • Addressing the informal sector, which employs 93% of India’s working population, requires engagement through online and offline channels, with Common Service Centers (CSCs) aiding last-mile reach.

Conclusion:

Ultimately, industry stakeholders, including the government and private sectors, must contribute to instilling cognitive skills, a growth mindset, cultural intelligence, and digital literacy. This collective effort will empower the youth to be job-ready, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship for India’s development as a developed nation.


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