UN Framework Convention on Climate Change  

This multilateral instrument on climate change was adopted at the 1992 Earth summit in Brazil also known as UN Conference on Environment and Development. All subsequent negotiations on climate change for both adaptation and mitigation were adopted on the framework created by UNFCCC. Due to inadequacies in the convention the Kyoto Protocol was framed that binds nations with targets and thus commits them to climate change. It was adopted in 1997 but came into effect in 2005.

KP thus commits industrialized nations to binding targets as it recognizes them as important factors responsible for climate change due to the 150 year old process of industrialization. Its central principle was "Common but differentiated responsibilities". Overall target was to have5% emission reduction compared to 1990 over a five year period from 2008-2012.

KP Framework:

Greenhouse gases like Carbon dioxide became a new commodity and developed countries were given binding emission reduction targets. Flexible market mechanisms were introduced to aid developed countries in meeting their targets. These allowed countries to buy credits from others who had met their targets and had exceeded them. KP market mechanisms were Clean Development Mechanism, Joint Implementation and Emission Trading.

Joint Implementation

This allows a country under Annex - B i.e. developed country to launch an emission reduction project in another developed country and thus earn emission reduction units equivalent to 1 ton of CO2. Thus both the countries can jointly work to reduce emissions. The host country shall benefit from technology transfer and foreign investments and the country shall be able to meet its Kyoto commitment.

Clean Development Mechanism

The developed country with a binding target shall implement an emission reduction project in a developing country. The Certified emission reduction units earned through these shall be counted in its target achievement. Each CER shall be equivalent to 1 ton of CO2 emission.

Carbon Trading

Carbon trading occurred in two types i.e. emission trading and offset trading. The emission trading or "Cap and trade" mechanism allows a country to get credits for meeting its emission targets and exceeding them. It is based on the principle of Targets assigned to Developed countries under KP where they can emit only a fixed amount of emission or carbon equivalents. This carbon equivalent is earned if a country reduces emission. e.g. if a country has target of 100 tons CO2 emission which means it can emit 100 CO2 units so it can earn credits by emitting less CO2. The offset trading allows carbon saving projects to earn credits by using emission saving technology. Hence if a power plant emits 8 tons of carbon and limit is 4 tons then it needs 4 units of CER to meet its target. This it can do by saving emissions or investing in a emission free project like wind power plant. The credits earned from that can be used to meet its own commitment and if extra is earned then it can sell it in market.

In the Bali summit held in 2007 it was proposed to include even developing countries like India and China, after 2012 when the KP ends, under compulsory targets as their emissions to were increasing. Due to no agreements on this as developed and developing countries were in discord this wasn't enforced.

Green Climate Fund

This was setup in 2010 during the Conference of Parties 16th session in Cancun. COP is an annual summit of signatories of UNFCCC. The fund was to act as a financial mechanism of the UNFCCC. It would have a board that would administer it and a trustee for asset management. The GCF would finance programs and projects in developing countries related to adaptation and mitigation of climate change. The interim trustee of the GCF was World Bank. The 2% of the amount obtained from CER was transferred to the Adaptation fund of GCF to finance adaptation related activities in developing countries.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation's and forest Degradation's REDD and REDD+

This is a global endeavor to incentivize developing countries to better manage, protect and save the forests to help in climate change. REDD+ goes beyond just forest conservation and incentivizes sustainable management of forests and increasing forest stocks. Thus countries that undertake initiatives for reducing emissions and sustainable management of forest resources can benefit from funds. Thus a country can be rewarded for increasing its forest cover and tree cover. The local community that participates in achieving this can benefit by obtaining more forest resources and also monetary benefits from funds received under REDD+.

Global environment facility was created by World Bank in 1991 with support of UNDP and UNEP. The aim was to create a financial mechanism for funding of environment related projects as per the mandate of UNFCCC. This would be responsible to COP i.e. signatories of UNFCCC. The fund focuses on climate change mitigation projects.

Inter Government Panel on Climate Change

It was formed in 1988 by a UNGA resolution on a proposal made by WMO and UNEP. The WMO and UNEP then implemented the IPCC and it has its current headquarters in WMO, Geneva. The IPCC provides governments with scientific information on climate change. Though the IPCC doesn't conduct research but it assesses the latest research on climate change by reviewing technical and scientific reports. The review process is aided by governments of all countries. These reports are then useful for understanding climate change impact on environment, economics and livelihood. Reports are thus policy neutral and yet important for policy making.

National Green house gas inventory program: The guidance provided by this program is useful for estimating the quantity of emissions and removal of GHG's by each country.      

Graded response plan for Combating Air Pollution

This was submitted by the Environment Pollution Control Authority, mandated by Supreme Court. The guidelines for the action plan laid down by this authority after consultation with all states are:

  1. When the level of PM 2.5 reaches 100 microgram/cubic meter the measures to be taken are mechanised sweeping, water sprinkling along roads, smooth flow of traffic by the police, ban on firecrackers, PUC norms and stopping landfill fires has to be done.

  2. If the pollution levels persist then the emergency will be declared and odd even rule shall be enforced, ban on construction activity and stopping trucks from entering city limits unless carrying essential items.

The concentration of pollutants shall be monitored by SPCBs and IMD and communicated to EPCA. 16 agencies like the Urban Local Bodies, Government Departments etc have to work in coordination to ensure implementation.

The EPCA action plan shall ensure that measures are taken effectively and no knee jerk response is there. However the existing rules have to be enforced strictly to ensure that pollution remains under control.

EPCA was set up by the Ministry of Environment ,Forests, Climate Change under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 for the NCR [Delhi] region. It was reconstituted in 2016 due to SC orders.

Miscellaneous Facts

World Meteorological Organization

WMO has 5 regional bodies which name the cyclones in their respective regions. The regional office for the Indian Ocean is at Indian Meteorological Department, Delhi. The countries in this region have to prepare a list of names. The rules for deciding these names can be set by the country on its own. Local names are preferred and controversial names are avoided. If a storm has been very disastrous then its name isn't reused.

Q.Consider the following statements:
1. The Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme was launched during 1996-97 to provide loan assistance to poor farmers.
2. The Command Area Development Programme was launched in 1974-75 for the development of water-use efficiency.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (UPSC CSAT 2015)

  • 1 only

  • 2 only

  • Both 1 and 2

  • Neither 1 nor 2

Ans . B

  1. The government of India launched Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Program (AIBP) in 1996-97. This program was launched to give loan assistance to the states to help them a few major irrigation projects which were in advanced stage of completion.

  2. The Command Area Development Programme was launched as a Centrally-sponsored scheme in 1974-75 with the main objectives of improving utilization of irrigation potential and optimizing agricultural productivity and production from the irrigated areas by integrating all functions related with irrigated agriculture.

Q.Which one of the following is associated with the issue of control and phasing out of the use of ozone-depleting substances? (UPSC CSAT 2015)

  • Bretton Woods Conference

  • Montreal Protocol

  • Kyoto Protocol

  • Nagoya Protocol

Ans . B

  1. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer) is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion.

  2. Bretton Woods conference relates to IMF and World Bank. Kyoto Protocol is about cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. Nagoya protocol is about benefit sharing from the gains by genetic resources.

Q. With reference to technologies for solar power production, consider the following statements:
‘Photovoltaics’ is a technology that generates electricity by direct conversion of light into electricity, while ‘Solar Thermal’ is a technology that utilizes the Sun’s rays to generate heat which is further used in electricity generation process.
Photovoltaics generates Alternating Current (AC), while Solar Thermal generates Direct Current (DC).
India has manufacturing base for Solar Thermal technology, but not for Photovoltaics.
Which of the statements given above is / are correct? (UPSC CSAT 2014)

  • 1 only

  • 2 and 3 only

  • 1, 2 and 3

  • None

Ans . A

  1. Sunlight energizes and causes electrons in the photovoltaic semiconductor to flow , creating an electrical current. Photovoltaic devices convert optional radiation into electricity.

  2. Several solar thermal systems can collect and transform radiant energy received from the sun into high temperature thermal (heat) energy , which can be used directly or converted into electricity.

Chapter Review

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