Friday, May 11, 2012

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE ROLE OF DEVELOPED NATIONS


The world since its inception has witnessed change in various forms. One of the most fundamental of these changes has been the balance of power. While the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations held the centre of power in Ancient World, Asia specifically the Indian and the Chinese along with the Turks dominated the world in the medieval centuries. It was domination that Europe resent which made them question themselves. Renaissance as it was called was the new awakening. It was the art of looking inwards and finding the best inside oneself. It developed the spirit of enquiry the scientific spirit. And the field that perhaps benefitted the most was science. The medieval European man became a scientific man. Free from religious dogmas he began to question and unravel the mysteries of science. This scientific temperament gave rise to a spirit of entrepreneurship and a desire to develop a greater say in the world. Trade was its foremost beneficiary and with it came the Industrial Revolution.

Europe was never to be the same again. The small island of Great Britain soon established “Pax Britannica” around the world an empire so vast that the sun never set on it. Other European nations too saw a rapid rise in their authority. The continents of Africa, Asia, Australia and North and South America became colonies of these few powers of Europe. A curious relationship developed among the colonies and the master country. The colonies were responsible for supplying raw materials while the colonizing country began to produce materials. As industries grew the per capita income of these nations rose manyfold. The erstwhile rich kingdoms like India, China etc became mere supplier of raw materials while they saw their colonial masters’ progress like never before. The era of the true modern man had begun and with it began the story of rapid inequality. As the colonial powers rose in power and pelf the colonies began to sink deeper and deeper. There was no scientific development in these nations, no rapid development of industries no means of innovation. All this was part of the strategy of the colonial masters to maintain the gap between the colonies and the master. And at the turn of the 20th century the world was divided into two big camps the developed and the developing nation.

The erstwhile colonial powers of Europe had been joined by a few other nations like USA and Australia alongwith the rest of European Europe. The colonies were the developing nations .Post WW2 most of them gained independence in one big wave yet they had nothing in their economy which could support them. Industries, scientific parameters etc almost everything was lacking in these nations. Different scholars of the world have tried to explain the connotations of developed and developing in different forms, yet broadly the historical connotations perhaps best serve our purpose while discussing the contours of climate change today.

As mankind stepped into the 7th decade of the 20th century global scientists began to notice certain turbulence in the environment around us. We had taken to plundering the world for so long that we had forgotten the consequences of this plundering. A new term emerged in scientific circles “climate change” with its major consequence being global warming. Put simply global warming was a rise in the average temperature of the earth by 2-4 Celsius. Such a rise could cause havoc on sea levels with the sea levels rising rapidly and threatening the very existence of the coastal nations of the world. Yet the term climate change was not holistic enough with global warming. The effects of climate change would produce other hazards as well including irregular rainfall pattern, rapid freezing and so on. In short the delicate balance on which the Earth hinges stands to be dislodged thus perhaps damaging the entire Earth and with it mankind.

For long Development has been considered the hallmark of progress. Development can be attributed to two major sources nature and technology. Nature’s concept of development is based on abundance like air, water land etc. Technology’s concept of development has largely been around scarcity like expensive medical treatment. Thus this very basic difference in nature led to the emergence of conflict between technology and environment. In this conflict technology has successfully created havoc on the environment. Thus in the quest for this development nature has been harmed the most. While almost all nations of the world joined this mad run it was the developed nations who ran this show for almost 3 centuries plundering and destroying the earth.

It was with these issues in mind that the world leaders began to sit for discussion on climate change. Development shifted its focus from merely technological poweress to “sustainability”. In 1982 the Brundtland Commission gave its famous report “Our Common Future “.In it sustainable development was defined as a dynamic process designed to meet today’s needs without compromising on the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.”In short it was using the interest provided by nature without endangering the capital of nature. It was this very definition based on which the world leaders met again in 1988 to sign the UN Declaration on Climate Change.

In 1988 the UNGA adopted a resolution. It was formulated by UNDP and WHO and mandated setting up an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) a focal body for all research activities pertaining to climate change in the world. In 1992 the Rio summit was held in Rio Di Jenario. Here the world adopted a legal document “UNFCC” for the first time which had legal backing.

The UNFCC hinges on a few fundamentals that dominate climate negotiations today. The first and the foremost is the PPP (Polluter must Pay Principle).In this case since the developed nations had plundered and polluted the world for so long they must legally by held responsible for the degenerate state that the earth is in today. The developing countries too accepted  its responsibilities in the fight against climate change under the Common but Differentiated Responsibilities pattern. These talks stressed on the relative capability of various nations to fight the battle against climate change. Developed nations were urged to help the developing nations in the fight against climate change.

On the basis of this UNFCC the Kyoto Protocol came into being. Signed in 1997 it came to vogue in 2005.The world was divided into Annexure 1 and Annexure 2 countries. Developed nations comprised Annexure 1 countries while developing nations comprised of Annexure 2 countries. The Annexure 1 countries were allocated quota of emissions which was made legally binding on them. Annexure 2 countries had no legal binding. Carbon trading became a tool for climate dealing. Carbon trading took place in two ways emission trading and offset trading. When an Annexure 1 country had to sell its unused emission counts to a non Annexure country it fell under the ambit of Emission trading. If an Annexure 1 country exceeded its emission targets then it had to mitigate or balance this target in another country by providing the other country with technology and financial resources. When such a trading took place between two Annexure 1 countries it was called Joint Implementation (JI) and when such trading took place between an Annexure 1 country and an Annexure 2 country it was termed CDM (Clean Development Mechanism).The Kyoto Protocol would lapse by 2012 and the world would need a new global definition by 2016.And this is where the problem starts.

Since 2011 post Copenhagen Conference the Developed nations have been arguing that they have lost too much in the fight against climate change when 80% people of the planet(the developing nations) have been kept out of it. Developing nations argue that subsequent protocols on climate change must be universally accepted rather than following the common and differentiated responsibilities dictum. Developing nations have consistently denounced this stand considering it treason on part of the developed nations to move back from their own world. As the world continues with its mudslinging we must ask do the developed nations really need to stall climate change talks over this. The answer would perhaps be a subtle No.

The development that man has witnessed is the result of a process that started in the developed world. For three centuries they ran their factories and their workshops and their transports. Hence historical pollution by these nations can’t be denied. When these nations used technology though efficient was not environment friendly. The same technology that is being used now developing nations is environmental friendly in nature. Thus non efficient use of resources by the developed countries in the early times have also contributed and further depleted the environment .Hence the theory that universal pollutants must pay does not hold must ground. This is because polluting the environment is a relative term and the rate at which the environment has been depleted by the developed countries by far exceeds the developing countries in terms of time and efficiency lag.

Developed nations have a higher emission rate than the developing nations. While emission per capita in US is 20t it stands at 4t in developing nations like India. Hence even in present circumstances the developed nations contribute more towards polluting the environment. The developed nations are more responsible for global warming and more responsible for continued global warming.

Developed states obviously have more wealth to employ in the fight against climate change. These countries have greater financial resources available to them. Developing countries too have the fight against climate change but they have a lesser obligation since the amount of finances available to them is not comparable to the finances of the developed nation. Hence with greater financial resources the developed nations must take the lead in fighting climate change.  

Developed nations have to be responsible to set up green economies. Developing countries with their limited resources are not capable of setting up their green model .The Developed countries have the responsibility of setting up green economies so that the developing nations will follow suit. Developing nations like China and India are very much concerned with their development and their capacity to compete with the developed world. With significantly greater poverty they have far lesser flexibility to tamper with their competitiveness and growth models vis-à-vis the developed nations. They won’t undoubtedly make the first move of going green until the developed world goes green first, assuring them that their competitiveness will not be jeopardized. In a position of greater economic flexibility developed nations must take this step first.

A recent study carried out by the MATCH think-tank under the aegis of the Oxford Climate Policy Change group discussed the contribution of historical GHG (Greenhouse Gases) emissions to the climate change levels. To calculate these correctly further parameters were introduced including timeframe, the time of emissions considered and the countries to be considered in this regard. They chose the time horizon as 1980 and the time was covered inside the Kyoto Protocol era .Historically industrialized countries (Annexure 1) contributed a stunning 54% of the total global pollution in this timeframe. When seen on country level US contributed the most at 19.4%, followed by the EU25 which stood at 14% contribution to the global pollution. While the LDC/AOSIS (Least Developed Countries/Association of Oceanic Small Island states) stood at 4.7% the share of India stood at 3.2%. Hence even in the Kyoto Protocol era the developed countries continue to litter the environment.

Thus from the historical deliverance, the empirical evidence and the persistent global scenario it is obvious that the developed countries must continue to spearhead the campaign against climate change. As the world readies itself for a new world order post Kyoto Protocol, the impetus especially falls on the US  which had refused to sign the Kyoto protocol. Being the global leader and the largest global polluter US must lead the campaign against climate change this time. Developed nations and developing nations must continue working under the UNFCC mandate established in 1992 to combat climate change and make this world a greener and a better place.

A THEOLOGICAL IDEA CALLED INDIA


India as a democracy has been a guiding beacon to the world since its birth as a free nation. The values enshrined in the Indian constitution have for long given hope and aspirations to its citizens and stood as an example to the world. The “rule of law” espoused by the British system and the concept of “natural rights and justice” espoused by the USA have gone a long way in shaping the Indian constitution. But to reduce the Indian constitution to these fundamentals would be a great mistake; the edicts encompassed in the Indian constitution have gone much beyond that.

One of the basic fundamentals on which the Indian constitution stands on is the concept of secularism. At the backdrop of independence with the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan there was a strong clamour to declare India a “Hindu republic”. The makers of the Indian constitution alongwith the government rightly decided against this and choose to declare India a democratic secular state instead. The Indian constitution while standing steadfast on its secular credentials however does not negate religion instead it chooses to stay at an equal distance from all religions. Thus the constitution of India while believing in secularism has never neither negated the need of religion in private space nor interfered too much in it with state action. This principle has held India a country of multilateral hues together for the past 60 years.

However in recent times we have witnessed a rapid transgression of this space by the theological right. The space that was left open for the society to fill in by the Indian constitution is being taken over by the theological right .This theological right of any religion invariably produces polarized reactions among other communities thus jostling for space in an invertible rat race which eventually damages the fabric which holds the country together. It is in light of this argument that the recent Rushdie and Taslima affair should be discussed and analysed.

Literary critics have often argued that the “The Satanic Verses” cannot be counted among Rushdie’s best works but it was undoubtedly the one which brought him the greatest fame. But the fundamental debate in the “Rushdie affair” which was to take place in the literary annals instead chose to be battled in the streets. The Iranian government which issued a fatwa on him long back has perhaps since forgotten the whole Rushdie affair but a section of people with vested interests in India continue to rattle the issue perhaps with the hope to gain public visibility and mileage. It is one thing to act as a custodian of a religion but it is something entirely else to act as the custodian of the collective intelligence of the community. And it is the later that the theological right seems to be interested in. Instead of perhaps inviting Rushdie to a debate and engaging him on the finer points of religion and popular discourse they choose to take the streets which resulted in the lost of lives. The fact that in 1990 Rushdie had published an essay In Good Faith to appease his critics and issued an apology, in which he reaffirmed his respect for Islam, has been conveniently ignored.

The Jaipur Literary Festival was pushed to the background and the entry of Salman Rushdie became the focal point. Finer details like Salman Rushdie issuing an apology or the fact that as a PIO card holder he doesn’t need permission to enter his motherland were conveniently ignored. The Government which should have steeled up to the threats and ensured a safe passage instead buckled under pressure and facilitated in the removal of Rushdie’s entry in the festival. Such directions do not auger well for a democracy. Instead of urging the Islamic communities to read, understand and question for themselves the Islamist theologians have taken upon themselves to be the vanguards of the Muslim thinking. In the process they have perhaps conveniently swept aside that Islam commands “read” as the first word in the Holy Koran(Verse 96:1)

The case of the removal of Ramanujan’s essay on Ramayana is equally bizzare. The Hindu right has believed in the concept that Ramayana and Lord Ram can be defined only on the basis of Ramanand Sagar epic serial. In the process they brushed aside the centuries old storytelling traditions, the cultures of the tribes and their beliefs. Ramanujan in his essay had discussed the 300 different versions of Ramayana and tried to analyse it from an academic and social point of view. It was almost a pathbreaking approach towards understanding the epic “Ramayana”. Yet the “right” refused to buy these arguments .It did not gel well with their notion of Lord Ram which has stemmed from a hysteria called Ramanand Sagar’s “Ramayana”.

Modeled on a western concept of one religion one god and one book and in their earnest search for this unity; the “right” perhaps forgot that Hinduism is modeled on diverse gods and this diversity is its beauty. Hinduism cannot be defined by the western connotations of one book and one god, the theological or rather the religious right choose to ignore this. And in the midst of all these discussions and the opinion of learned authors like Romila Thapar the Delhi University buckled under pressure and removed the essay from its syllabus. An issue which was perhaps to be debated and discussed on historical and academic levels became a muscle power show where eventually academic search for truth buckled under pressure and gave in.

Numerous other incidents the Taslima Nasreen affair, the Rohington Mistry affair have illustrated that the space in India for ideological discourses is fast shrinking .In the hope of attaining political mileage or perhaps even visibility the “right” have put onto themselves to question each and every thought that has evolved and is evolving and earmark and ban those which do not “conform” to their notions.

Ideological space is necessary for the growth of a nation and a society. Sometimes it may transgress into convenient social customs (Taslima Nasreen) and sometimes into the religious domain. Yet in the ideological fermentation of a society this is indeed necessary and important. Every system evolves from time to time and this system must be questioned for it to change and developed. If Copernicus or Galileo would not have chosen to defy the Church in their quest for ideas perhaps the world would have been a worse off place. But they choose to defy the norms and involve themselves in discourses which not only changed the society but changed the world.

A thought, an idea, a book or a painting can never challenge an institution like religion. There is no question of The Satanic verse standing out as a threat to the almighty God or for that matter Ramanujan’s essay challenging the existence of Lord Ram. However what it does is it encourages others to think and question and reaffirm their beliefs. Ideological thoughts and ideas need to be defeated by counter ideology and counter thoughts and not by banning them as heresy. This is because when we do the latter we stagnate the society. A student challenging Ramanujan’s essay will never see the light of the day because there is no essay to counter in the first place itself. The right chooses to take away this space by muscle power in the process throttling down their version of history, religion and society down the throats of the masses. The idea must be not to encourage thoughts which hurt religious sentiments but to encourage questions. History has shown that a society that has asked itself questions on religion, history and society has developed better foresight and better understanding of the world around them. Modernity or progress does not come in terms of food habits, dressing sense or the way people interact it comes in the form of the ideas that we discuss and analyse, modernity and progress is a state of mind.

Society and religion are two intrinsic fundamentals of a man which have for long coexisted in the Indian imagination. Thus our concept of religion very often defines our concept of society. The right often talks about a golden Indian past and cultural heritage. This Indian cultural heritage boasts of the Khajuraho temples, an epic scientific research called the Kamasutra or perhaps the foremost example of affirmative state action of a socialist state when the Mauryan rulers gave pension to the prostitutes of the country once they became old. While not going into the ideological questions of “good” or “bad” in the present context; one wonders whether any of these would have been possible today. In the quest for modernity have we perhaps yielded our ideological reasoning to conformity of a common “rightist” past?