During the run up to the Copenhagen climate change conference the blogosphere had been brimming with pro-climate deal news with several countries announcing carbon reduction measures and record size green energy power projects being announced almost every week. The climate change skeptics had taken a backseat, so to say. But after the climategate incident the argument between the skeptics and believers got ignited once again. The stakes are high this time as representatives from about 190 countries meet in Copenhagen to discuss new climate treaty.
But one does not need to believe in climate change to support the potential climate deal which is scheduled to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012. The climate deal means much more than just carbon cuts, carbon trading and adaptation fund. A scientifically sound climate deal would bring many other positive changes for the environment, economy and the society.
No one can challenge the concept of sustainable development, the world needs no scientists or intergovernmental panel to tell you that sustainable development is the most efficient way for an economy, a country, a country or a household to work and grow.
What the proposed climate deal would do is that it would lay down certain minimum standards of emission outputs which various countries would be legally bound to achieve. These standards, as we have seen, would be connected with each country’s own predictions and projections about their future economic growth rates. Sustainable economic growth would not only help the environment but would also result in better and more efficient use of resources, which includes both energy and non-energy resources, so that they are available for the future generations.
Forest conservation is among the central issues at Copenhagen. We can expect a formal agreement on the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation since there is widespread consensus on the issue. Although the REDD credit scheme is quite complicated its underlining goal and principle is to make forest conservation a profitable exercise thereby reducing deforestation.
Implementation of this scheme would open up forest conservation as a revenue source for many developing and poor countries in South America and Africa. Indonesia and Brazil have already tightened rules on forest logging while many African nations are receiving aid from European countries for forest conservation. The deal would no doubt increase forest cover in many countries.
New, and hopefully, tougher emission cuts would force the existing fossil fuel based power plants to work more efficiently and thus levels of polluting agents would decrease. Once the deal is in place countries would have to upgrade their air quality standards. United States’ EPA made significant changes to the air standards followed under the Bush Administration and is planning to declare carbon dioxide a ‘public danger’. Last month India upgraded its air quality standards for the first time in 15 years and indicated that its air quality standards would soon match those followed in the European Union.
Better resource utilization would also help the poor and needy get access to the relatively cheap resources since the renewable energy sources will continue to be costlier than conventional fuels. The poor cannot wait for the scientists to achieve cost parity between electricity generated from solar, wind and coal, natural gas.
The World Bank, in a report earlier in the year, justified India’s tough stand against mandatory emission targets as it intends to invest heavily in rural electrification, broadly based on coal fired power plants, over the next few decades. With India’s goal of reducing carbon intensity by 24 percent by 2020 it becomes important that the existing power plants become more efficient thereby giving the new power plants meant for rural electrification some leeway as far as cost of production is concerned.
The race for new energy resources could very well lead to direct confrontation between countries. We have seen the sudden increase in the attempts of Arctic countries to lay claims to the vast undiscovered energy reserves of Greenland. There are possibilities of international confrontations for sharing of water resources as some areas of the world experience prolonged droughts.
The climate deal would boost investment in renewable energy infrastructure which is vital for achieving energy independence. The Europeans have learned the importance of energy independence after Russia’s arm-twisting tactic brought Europe’s gas supplies to a standstill. In order to insulate the economy from the rising fuel prices and not to become victim of an international power showdown each country must endeavor to achieve complete or partial energy independence.
These concepts are extremely important for building an equal society with equal opportunities for all, for maintaining a healthy economic growth rate and safeguarding national interests. We must remember that carbon cuts are merely a part of the climate deal. Reducing our carbon outputs would bring many other positive results with it which are beneficial to the environment and the society as a whole.
Image Credit: Conor Dupre-Neary via flickr (Creative Commons license)
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.
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