Press Statement By SAPACC

Climate Crisis


[South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis [SAPACC] is a rainbow coali-tion of South Asian trade unions, farmer’s & women’s organisations, youth, fisher-folk, scientists, scientists, and people who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis. Following is a press statement issued by SAPACC on No-vember 4, 2022]

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) have caused an observed average global warming of 1.1oC above pre-industrial temper-atures. That anthropogenic emissions are causing global warming is known since 1896.

Failure of the climate agreements
Intergovernmental agreements have failed. The Kyoto Protocol was to reduce developed countries’ emissions by 5.2% by 2012 over the base year 1990. Consumptive emissions of these countries instead increased by 14.5%. To meet the =1.50C warming ambition, current emissions must be halved by 2030-35, and the world should become net carbon zero by 2050-55. That implies that emissions must be reduced by >7% per annum (pa) for the next 30 years. But emissions have been growing by 1.2% pa. Our current emissions trajectory will cause an unbearable global average warming closer to 3oC by 2100 that will have catastrophic con-sequences for the environment and human society. India and the world are witnessing accelerated im-pacts-such as this year-at barely 0.8oC and 1.1oC average warming, respectively.

The low ambition of the largest GHG emitters, the odds at which climate science and policy are, and the failure of the market mechanisms, have together created an unenviable situation where we have 8 years left to halve our emissions. Instead of analysing the fundamental causes of climate change and its remedies, the 2021 Glasgow Conference of Parties (COP) 26 spent much time framing rules for the Paris Agreement’s market instruments that are akin to the failed ones under the Kyoto Protocol. The primary discourse in the COP meetings has ignored the fundamental role that anthropocentrism and privatization of nature have played in history in sanctifying and en-couraging unbridled growth that is at the root of social inequality and unsustainability.

Winners and losers
Developed countries with 16% of the global population today have consumed 69% of all fossil fuels expended since the industrial revolution began. Developing countries constitute 84% of the world’s population today, but their consumption of fossil fuels was 31%.

Developing countries are in a Catch22 situation. If they burn more fossil fuels to “develop,” they will contribute significantly to warming. If they control their emissions they will remain permanently backward in comparison to the developed countries. Even if the entire remaining carbon space is given to developing countries, they cannot achieve the material standards of developed countries.

The extreme vulnerability of South Asia
South Asia is one of two regions that already is, and will be most affected by climate change. It has a quarter of the world's population but emitted only 3.6% of the global cumulative emissions. The primary risks to South Asia are:

Sea level rise: By 2100, about 20-25% of Bangladesh’s land mass will be lost to sea level rise, creating 50 mil-lion Bangladeshi climate refugees by 2050. By 2100, Maldives, an archipelago of ~1,200 low-lying islands with a population of 500,000, will be under the sea.

Water stress: Snow and glacier melt contribute a significantly higher amount to the total dis-charge in the Indus (60%) and the Amu Darya (70%) in comparison to the Ganga and the Brah-maputra (9-21%). In a warming world, the discharge of the Indus, and the Amu Darya will de-crease significantly, causing large parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan to become severely water-stressed and drought-stricken in a few decades.

Glacial lake outburst floods: As glaciers melt, the volume of water in glacial lakes below many Himalayan glaciers will increase and burst their moraine dams, causing GLOFs, whose impact will be felt for up to 150 km downstream. Villages, fields and everything else in a GLOF’s path will be washed out. With climate change, the frequency of GLOF occurrence is expected to increase in the Himalayas.

Extreme weather events: South Asia saw extremely hot March-April months this year, with temperatures soaring 4-5oC above normal. South Asia also had very heavy precipitation that killed 3,700 persons in floods that occurred in almost all South Asian countries. A third of Pakistan was flooded in July-August, affecting 33 million people, killing >1,500 people, putting half a million people in relief camps and causing a property loss of $40 billion.

India will be impacted by many types of climate change-related events—sea level rise, GLOFs, extreme weather events (abnormally high temperatures or precipitation), floods, drought, cyclones, significant crop yield losses, erratic rainfall, heat stress, etc. A large number of extreme weather events have occurred in India in the last 15 years, indicating that more of them are likely to happen in future.

SAPACC’s demands
Considering the grave situation described above and the time for correction is very short, SAPACC calls upon the President of COP 27, the United Nations General Secretary, and all nations to declare a climate emergency imme-diately and consider implementing the following measures to move towards a sustainable, equitable and peaceful society:

Sustainability: Developed nations must pledge to become net carbon negative in consumption emissions by 2030-35 to create space for developing nations to decarbonise by 2040-50. Decarbonisation must focus primar-ily on: a) Mitigation focussed on the reduction of consumption levels in the Global North, and supply-side management leaving >90% of the remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground; b) Sequestration focussed on Nature Based Solutions that centre climate and social justice. In addition, decarbonization strategies must es-chew failed, untested, hypothetical market-based solutions and techno-fixes. Through these means, gross glob-al consumption should be reduced to sustainable levels, the measure for which should be a quantifiable justice-centric sustainability index.

Environmental justice: a) Responsibility for loss & damage: Nations/regions should take responsibility for climate change impacts attributable to them—displacement, property loss, etc—in proportion to their cumula-tive emissions (emissions from 1750-to date); Developed countries should deliver promised climate finance in time; b) Sharing benefits and risks equally: All people of the world should share equally the wealth created by GHG emissions as well as the risks caused by them. Humans have no property rights over fossil fuels as it is nature that made them.

Equity: The maximum/minimum ratio for income/energy consumption for all people in the world should be=5.

Environmental restitution: Degraded land, water, air, and to the extent possible, biodiversity should be resti-tuted to their pre-industrial period quality.

Decentralization, democratic, transparent climate governance: As people’s involvement is essential for tackling the climate crisis, climate governance should be decentralized and democratized, governance infor-mation should be in the public domain, and people’s assemblies set up worldwide to allow people’s voices to be heard and reflected in climate decisions.

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Vol 55, No. 21, Nov 20 - 26, 2022