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India's climate action plan promotes ecologically destructive nuclear power & incineration based waste to energy

Written By Gopal Krishna on Monday, October 19, 2015 | 9:20 AM

Nuclear facilities are unclean, unsafe and an economic liability throughout their life span

October 2, 2015: Government has communicated Indias voluntary Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for the period 2021 to 2030. It has promised to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level ahead of the adoption of the Paris Climate Change agreement in December 2015. Emissions intensity refers to the ratio between gross emissions and a countrys GDP at a particular point in time.

Notably, the implementation of the promises is contingent upon an ambitious global agreement including additional means of implementation to be provided by developed country parties, technology transfer and capacity building following Article 3.1 and 4.7 of the Convention. United Nations UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which India signed on 10th June 1992 and ratified it on 1st November 1993. Under the UNFCCC, countries like India do not have binding Green House Gases (GHGs) mitigation commitments in recognition of their small contribution to the greenhouse problem as well as low financial and technical capacities.

While it is true that both in terms of cumulative global emissions (only 3%) and per capita emission (1.56 tCO 2 e in 2010), Indias contribution to the problem of climate change is limited, the fact is that Make in India kind of initiative paves the for transfer of hazardous and polluting industries to India.

In the aftermath of Fukushima nuclear disaster, while countries are moving away from nuclear energy, India’s INDC shows that it is “promoting Nuclear Power as a safe, environmentally benign and economically viable source to meet the increasing electricity needs of the country.” The fact is that nuclear plants spew cancer-causing pollutants into air and water. nuclear power does not meet “clean energy standard”. It does factor in serious risks of exposure of radioactive radiation. This radiation is toxic, persistent and long lasting pollutant. Nuclear power releases radioactive carbon. They are carbon-intensive to build, since they require enormous amounts of concrete, steel and carbon-based fuels for transport of materials, workers, etc. The nuclear fuel chain necessary to support reactor operations, which consists of uranium mining, milling, processing, enrichment and fuel fabrication, then shipment of fuel to reactors, then reactor operation and hundreds of years of radioactive waste storage results in large amount of unavoidable carbon emissions. The fact of radiation being invisible and odorless cannot be used to refer to it as safe and benign. Such propositions are an exercise in sophistry. INDC has ignored that countries such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Norway have no nuclear power reactors and remain opposed to nuclear power. Germany has announced its plan to close all its reactors by 2022. It disregards the fact that globally, wind power and solar power has been increasing. It feigns amnesia about Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) which underlines that investment in renewable is advisable because renewable energy is likely to account for as much as 77 percent of the world‘s energy demand by 2050.

There is no denying the fact that Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission), which is mentioned in Indias INDC merits involvement of all but the rate at which richer countries are transferring their waste to India in myriad disguises with support from government agencies makes such Mission by government self-contradictory. So far Abhiyan has failed to stop movement of waste from richer localities to poorer localities, from urban areas to rural areas within the country and put a ban on dumping of waste by developed countries. Eve as the country has been crying for cleanliness drive for long, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has failed to go beyond verbal gymnastics. Out of 180 cities that have been monitored in India for SO2, NO2 and PM10 in only two towns Malapuram and Pathanamthitta in Kerala met the criteria of low pollution.

Indias INDC makes a promise about Reducing emissions from waste but government continues to promote waste incineration based thermal power plants which admittedly emits green house gases as per Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC adopted in 1997 besides persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals. India had acceded to the Kyoto Protocol on 26th August 2002. In the first commitment Parties (37 industrialized countries and the European Community) agreed to reduce GHG emissions to an average of five percent against 1990 levels as per the Protocol period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. In the second commitment period from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020 as per "Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol" for Annex I Parties to the Kyoto Protocol who agreed to take on commitments Parties agreed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18 percent below 1990 levels in the eight-year period from 2013 to 2020. But the composition of Parties in the second commitment period is different from the first and there are 38 Parties listed in Annex B in the Doha Amendment that have quantified emission limitation or reduction targets for the second commitment period.

The ultimate objective of UNFCCC and any related legal instruments is that the Conference of the Parties (COP) may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

UNFCCCs text refers to dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system which in reality is an act of industrial warfare against climate and its allied ecosystem whose impact has become glaring. Its continued relevance for the communities of shared fate and global order is linked to the decision by the richest countries to undergo mandatory de-addiction.

Notably, industrialized countries have committed to implementing quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020. Developing countries like India are supposed to prepare Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) that are in line with their national development objectives. NAMAs aim to reduce their emissions below business as usual by 2020.

Ahead of Paris climate meeting by end of 2015, worlds biggest polluter of GHGs, China has already submitted its voluntary INDC to the Secretariat of UNFCCC. Now that India too has submitted its INDC comparisons between its commitment and similar commitments by China, USA and EU will occupy the centre stage.  The other top polluters, USA and EU have already submitted their INDCs. Paris agreement on climate is significant for dealing with climate crisis from 2020 onwards.

China aims to achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030. It plans to lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60 % to 65 % from the 2005 level. If China complies with these commitments, it would emit some 16-17 billion tones of GHGs instead of emitting 22 billion tonnes in 2030 in a business as usual scenario. In 2030, Chinas per capita emissions is likely to be about 12 tonnes.

Such announcements by the top polluters are far from what is required based on scientific evidence in order to limit global temperature rise by 2°C. There was a need to cut emissions to the tune of 70 % below 2010 levels by 2050 to be on the path of limiting 2°C temperature increase.

France is hosting the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21) from November 30th to December 11th, 2015. COP21 aims to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

The 2015 agreement will only come into effect and be implemented from 2020. The Doha Amendment covers the pre - 2020 period, which is critical in the overall mitigation effort to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2° C above pre - industrial levels.

Notably, China has entered into an agreement with the USA wherein it has agreed to match its emissions with that of the USA at an enormous 12 tonnes per capita per year in 2030, thus, appropriating the carbon space between them. This in a situation wherein corporations have emerged as the state and in another case, state is the corporation. The state of affairs in most countries is moving in the same direction because of the regulatory capture by the corporations.  

On the other hand, satisfying their energy demands on the face of lopsided economic growth the Asian countries have increased their emissions solely depending on thermal powers. Coal-based power provides 40 per cent of global electricity. It emits one-third of global carbon dioxide. This is contributing to climate crisis. China has become the largest CO2 emitters in the world followed by India, which is responsible for 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per person per year. Over 65 per cent of Indias power generation comes from coal. But coal mining is destroying forests, water sources and livelihoods of the poorest.

Notably, Chinas total GHG emissions are likely to be 16-17 billion tonnes and its per capita emissions would be 12 tonnes by 2030. On both counts, it is four times larger in comparison to India.

The submissions by top polluters who also happen to be top profit makers has not made arrangements to pay the ecological debt that global north owes to the south. The fact remains that there is north in the global south-the elite of the southern countries like India who appear to have seceded and joined the elite of the global north clouding decision making based on common but differentiated historical responsibility. 
Under the current global economic system, the commodifying and monetizing of nature is not only interfering with climate and allied ecosystems but is also depriving resource dependent communities of their rights. Besides this it is also attracting private and public corporations to control natural resources. This has created an episteme that blindly bulldozes technical and market solutions as real solutions.  

For all the living species, human civilization and for all existing institutions, demand of artificial persons, the business enterprises is exceeding the planet's bio-capacity to a dangerous level. Some estimates suggest that it has already exceeded by 20 percent.

For several years, the formal initiatives to mitigate and adapt to impacts of climate change has largely been unsuccessful because of an embedded insincerity of the institutions involved. They fail to decode the shared fate in the global village which is faced with climate induced emergencies and disasters. So far the existing institutions have failed to make corporations in general and transnational corporations in particular liable for dangerous anthropogenic interference. These artificial persons continue to enjoy the privilege of limited liability despite being guilty of endangering human ecosystem which is the substratum for the existence of living beings.

Notably, the First session of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)s intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises with respect to human rights is drafting a treaty for mandatory regulation of TNCs and other enterprises. Such initiatives underway since 1970s are germane to the efforts to combat TNCs contribution in causing global warming.   

India’s INDC missed the opportunity of taking an ethical leadership by submitting a new, non-market, climate finance mechanism is needed to support the formalization and expansion of mitigation and technology transfer as a genuine solution to combat the propensity of promoting free trade in carbon at the cost of climate system.  

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org
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