2017 was a year that witnessed one of the severest adverse climate change impact episodes. India -- being one of the most threatened countries globally from Climate Change and global warming -- saw the environment wreck havoc on people’s lives.

We are witnessing droughts in Tamil Nadu (considered severest in 140 years) and Marathwada. 2017 saw uncommonly heavy downpours in Mumbai and Chennai. Some unlikely places such as Mount Abu (Rajasthan) saw unprecedented rains. In a single day of July 24, 2017 Mount Abu got 770mm of rain, which is more than its average for an entire monsoon month. In five days 2,116 mm of rains fell on Month Abu, making it the heaviest episode of rain in 300 years in the hill station, causing devastating floods.

USA, the Caribbean and Central America were battered by major hurricanes in quick succession, named Irma, Maria and Harvey. 2017 saw an extremely active Atlantic Hurricane season as the USA experienced a phenomenal 218 storms in 2017. Harvey is now considered the costliest Hurricane ever in USA history measuring up a $200 Billion in damages. Bringing down 1,539 mm of rain on Florida, it was also the wettest tropical cyclone on record in US. The World Meteorological Organisation stated that the quantity of rainfall from Harvey had very likely been increased by climate change.

California in the United States is also having to deal with the largest wildfire in the state ever with 2,72,000 acres of forest land scorched. According to some, Climate Change is also a factor in causing civil wars in Africa and Syria.

“It is not that these climatic catastrophes did not happen earlier, but now their intensity is severe and their frequency is heightened due to the impact of Climate Change. Also, these episodes of extreme weather conditions causing heavy rains in one part of the country and severe drought in another, are also attributed to the Global Warming and Climate Change,” says Aditya Pundir, Country Manager, The Climate Reality Project, India.

The findings of the recent Climate Science Special Report, made by four US Government agencies and experts from across the country concluded that If we want to stay under 2 degrees Celsius of warming, the window to do that is closing in the next couple decades. The two degree is the target set by the United Nations. The report finds that the world can only continue to spew carbon into the air for approximately another 23 years at the present rate before the limit of 2 degree is likely to be breached. The melting of the Polar ice caps is causing the rise in sea level with the global sea level having risen by about seven or eight inches since 1900, with three of those inches coming in the last 25 years. This will intensify.

Other than the numerous climate change impacts events recorded across the globe in 2017, the single most significant impact that could make the fight against Global Warming difficult is the withdrawal of Trump’s America from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change of 2015. The impact of the USA’s withdrawal in real terms is still debatable but it certainly made big news and raised concerns. Even the war-ravaged Syria has become a party to the Paris Agreement. USA stands in isolation.

Though today there is much more global acceptance of the Climate Change and Global Warming, caused by emissions of Green House gases and burning of fossil fuel, as a problem facing the humanity today, the question is, are we doing enough to deal with this calamity?

The recently concluded 23rd edition of Conference of Parties (COP 23), in Bonn Germany, saw the continuing of the tug of war between the developed countries and the developing countries on the issue of fixing responsibilities for Climate Change. The UN climate summits, called COP (Conference of the Parties) are global conferences, in the course of which action for climate policy is negotiated. The developed countries are now committing to only voluntarily set emission reduction targets. But still they are undermining the concept of ‘Historical responsibilities’ for the decades of putting greenhouses gases into the environment. The demands of developing countries in this direction has not made much headway.

A major step in the COP 23 was the launch of the “Powering Past Coal Alliance”, led by UK and Canada. More than 20 countries joined the alliance such as Mexico, Finland, Italy and Ethiopia. It aims to get 50 members by this time next year. But it does not commit the signatories to any coal phase out date. Also, the signatories merely need to restrict the financing of coal power stations and do not need to stop it.

India accounts for 4.5 percent of global greenhouse gases. India needs to cutdown on its carbon emissions by switching to solar power and other cleaner energy sources. Narendra Modi government does not have a very encouraging record when it comes to working for the environment but climate change is a reality to which the Indian Prime Minister has responded positively. Having volunteered to set stiff emission targets, India is today working to increase its capacity of alternative clean fuel, such as solar energy and wind energy.

As the amount spent on fossil fuel continues to be a huge chunk of India’s total import bill India wants to be independent of its dependency on fossil fuel.

Pundir thinks India is moving in the right direction in the matter. Says he, “Paris in 2015 was the turning point when India took on the baton silently to lead the world in fighting Climate change. The current clean energy policy, the new electric vehicles policy and International Solar alliance are steps in right direction.”

Dr Ram Boojh ( UNESCO ) says that India has to grapple with the issue of rapid development while dealing with its energy issues. Says he, “The fact is development is energy centric. It is a challenge India has to take. On the other hand, India cannot also bear the cost of the adverse effects of Climate Change. India has to work much more in developing its capacity in alternative energy sources generation.”

The good thing is that as for as solar energy is concerned grid parity has been achieved in India with the prices going down by 400 to 500 percent.

The Indian Government has announced its aim to attain complete electric mobility by 2030. Accordingly, in India, major car manufacturers have jumped into the band wagon of making electric cars.

Climate Change battles in 2018

The city of Katowice in Poland is the next stop as far as the fight against climate change is concerned in 2018. It is going to be the venue for COP 24.

2018 will be another important year for international climate diplomacy as nations move forward to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement – indeed 2018 is when governments are expected to reach some key milestones.

But things are not going to be easy. By some estimates a total of 2 Billion Tons of fossil fuel is still in the reserves of some global giants which they are itching to put in the market in the next few years.

COP 24 will be a meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol and the Conference of Signatories to the Paris Agreement. In December 2018, for the first time, the climate summit will take place in Katowice, Poland. About 20 thousand people from 190 countries will take part in the event, including politicians, representatives of non-governmental organizations, scientific community and business sector.

A lot need to happen in COP 24 to keep the Paris Agreement on track. Tougher negotiations are expected between developed and developing countries from years 2018 to 2020. One major issue is the Pre-2020 climate action. As the Paris Agreement applies only post 2020, the developed world has to carry some action before 2020, which they have not done, such as the $100 Billion to be brought in as climate finance by 2020, as agreed in 2009. Also taking of steps to reduce emissions. Developing countries feel that the meeting of the Pre-2020 commitments was a key part to building trust. The developing countries though want to peak global emissions by 2020 that is why the insistence on Pre 2020 climate action by developed countries is important.

The coming year 2018 will also see discussions between the developed world and developing world, on calculations of loss and damage due to natural disasters, demand for compensation by suffering nations particularly island nations and those located in the tropics and having huge coast lines (such as India). The fact is today Mumbai represents the highest concentration of human population in the world threatened by rising sea levels due to Climate Change.