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India’s CAMPA at odds with new IPCC report

Context:

The Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N. expert body, states that not degrading existing ecosystems in the first place will do more to lower the impact of the climate crisis than restoring ecosystems that have been destroyed — a finding that speaks to an increasingly contested policy in India that has allowed forests in one part of the country to be cut down and ‘replaced’ with those elsewhere.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why is afforestation contested?
  2. Why do natural ecosystems matter?
  3. Comparison of Ecosystems and Renewable Energy: IPCC Report Findings

Why is afforestation contested?

  • India has committed to adding “an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5-3 GtCO2e through additional forest and tree cover by 2030”, as part of its climate commitments to the U.N.
  • Afforestation is also a part of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), which is chaired by the Environment Minister.
  • When forest land is converted for non-forest use, such as building a dam or a mine, the land loses its historical ecosystem services and cannot support biodiversity.
  • According to the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, project proponents who wish to convert forest land must identify and pay for other land to afforest. The afforested land will then be managed by the forest department.
  • However, there is controversy over whether the afforested land is truly equivalent to the original forest land in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Additionally, some critics argue that the afforestation process can be mismanaged, leading to monoculture plantations that do not support biodiversity or local communities.
Why does CAMPA matter?
  • The money paid sits in a fund overseen by the CAMPA.
  • As of 2019, the fund had ₹47,000 crore.
  • The CAMPA has come under fire for facilitating the destruction of natural ecosystems in exchange for forests to be set up in faraway places.

Why do natural ecosystems matter?

According to experts, natural ecosystems are important for various reasons, including:

  • Carbon sequestration: Natural ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands are effective at sequestering carbon, which helps to mitigate climate change.
  • Biodiversity: Natural ecosystems support a wide range of species and provide habitats for plants and animals. Loss of these ecosystems can lead to the extinction of species and disrupt the balance of ecosystems.
  • Local livelihoods: Many communities rely on natural ecosystems for their livelihoods, such as through agriculture, fishing, and forestry.
  • Hydrological services: Natural ecosystems play a critical role in regulating water flow, preventing soil erosion, and maintaining water quality.

Experts caution that replacing natural ecosystems with single-species plantations or other developments can have negative impacts on these ecosystem services and may take many decades to recover. Therefore, it is important to prioritize the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems in climate and conservation efforts.

Comparison of Ecosystems and Renewable Energy: IPCC Report Findings

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report evaluated various options for mitigating climate change and compared the potential of ecosystems and renewable energy. Here’s what the report found:

  • Mitigating Potential: The report found that solar power has the highest potential for mitigating climate change after reducing the conversion of natural ecosystems. Wind power was ranked third-highest.
  • Conflicts with Solar Parks: While solar power has significant potential, many solar parks in India have triggered conflicts with local communities due to land-use limitations and increased water consumption.
  • Impact of Wind Farms: A 2018 study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution found that wind farms in the Western Ghats had reduced the abundance and activity of predatory birds, leading to an increase in the density of lizards.
  • Cost Comparison: The IPCC report noted that reducing the conversion of natural ecosystems could be more expensive than wind power but still less expensive than ecosystem restoration, afforestation, and restoration, for every GtCO2e.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024
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