About: the world this week, 31 October to 6 November 2021, warming up to climate change – the heat is on humankind to save the Planet; let’s do it with G20, COP26, with a new star called Hydrogen…among other things, while India drums its plans.
Weather is what we experience every day: and we watch and soak-up the predictions of, the day, the week, month, and the year, to plan adventures outside the safety of our cozy homes. Climate is the average weather in a place over many years. Climate Change is a shift in these average conditions – deeply studied by Scientists and other Masters of the climate change game, all over the world. Their study results tell us about the health of our Planet: whether it’s overworking itself in the gym to keep those toned, tiered, economy packs of countries in shape or whether it’s mostly in bed, under the blankets, and wearing ice caps.
It’s a fact that temperatures across the world are shooting-up because of human activity caused climate change now threatens every aspect of human life. If left unchecked, Earth-the only Planet in the Solar system known to support life – will experience catastrophic warming, with worsening droughts, greater rise in sea levels and mass extinction of living species. We face a gargantuan challenge, but there are potential solutions.
The sinister climate change we are now experiencing is caused by us humans using oil, gas, and coal to get various things done in our homes and factories, and for transport. When these fossil fuels burn, they release greenhouse gases – mostly that much maligned guy called, Carbon Dioxide (CO2)- which trap the Sun’s heat and cause the Earth’s temperature to rise.
The world is now about 1.2C (degrees centigrade) warmer than it was in the 19th Century. And the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by about 50%. Temperature rises must slow down if we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, and global warming needs to be kept under 1.5C by 2100, say Scientists – that’s the target, which we all need to own up. Remember, if we keep burning ourselves at the current pace we are looking at a whopping rise of 2.7C by the end of the century. That would be Hell!
One of the effects of climate change is that many small Groups are forming all over the world to discuss the future of Planet Earth. It’s almost like small clouds gathering to block harmful global warming sun-rays or send meaningful showers of rain down on to Earth.
Most of the Groups have a thread of climate change woven into them. And that’s the ‘hot and melting’ topic this week. Let’s start with a Group, leaning more towards the economics side.
G20 Italia 2021
The G20 or Group of Twenty is an intergovernmental forum consisting of 19 of the world’s major economies, and the European Union. It works to tackle major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development.
The G20 was founded in 1999 in response to several world economic crises. Since 2008, the Group convenes at least once a year, with Summits involving each member’s head of government or state, finance minister, foreign minister, and other high-ranking officials. In addition, International organisations, and nongovernmental organisations are invited to attend the summits, some on a permanent basis. The group’s chair rotates annually among the members and is selected from a different regional grouping of countries.
This year’s G20, the first G20 Summit hosted by Italy, was held in Rome on 30 October 2021 and 31 October 2021. It was the culmination of the work carried out during the whole year of the Italian Presidency through various initiatives and get-togethers.
What was the outcome?
Climate Change: The G20 committed to the key Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C and pledged action against dirty coal plants-agreed to stop funding new dirty coal plants abroad by the end of 2021- but fell short on a target of zero emissions.
Taxation: The G20 agreed to subject multinationals to a minimum 15% tax, as part of an effort to build ‘a more stable and fairer international tax system’. Internet giants of the United States, such as Amazon, Google’s Alphabet, Facebook’s Meta, and Apple – which have benefited from basing themselves in low-tax countries to minimise their tax bills – are particular targets of the new global regulation.
Vaccination: G20 vowed to support the WHO’s goal of vaccinating at least 40% of the world’s population against Covid-19 by 2021, and 70% by the middle of next year -2022, by boosting the supply of vaccines in developing countries and removing supply and financing constraints. They also promised to work together towards the recognition of Covid-19 vaccines deemed safe and efficacious by the WHO.
Others: Still reeling under Covid-related disruptions, G20 leaders ruled out a hasty removal of national stimulus measures. G20 set a new target of channelling USD 100 billion towards the poorest nations, coming from the USD 650 billion fund already made available by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) via a fresh issuance of its Special Drawing Rights (SDR).
SDRs are not a currency, but can be used by developing countries either as a reserve currency that stabilises the value of their domestic currency, or converted into stronger currencies to finance investments. For poorer countries, the interest is also to obtain hard currencies without having to pay substantial interest rates.
Now, onto our next Group on Climate Change.
Conference of the Parties (COP) is a United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference initiated to tackle climate change, and COP26 is the 26th summit held this year in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK).
The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany, in March, 1995. Historic, path-breaking decisions and goals were made and adopted in COP3, Kyoto, Japan, December 1997, the outcome of which was The Kyoto Protocol, and in COP21, Paris, France, November-December 2015, the outcome of which was The Paris Agreement. Both these conferences set tangible targets which nations took home to work out on the treadmill.
Over the week, the bandwagon of world leaders flew directly from G20 Italia to COP26 Glasgow in what was a back-to-back meeting: wonder how many planes had to lift off and how much more gas they pumped into the poor atmosphere?
There is a new term we need to get familiar with: Net Zero. We heard it all the time over the past week.
Net Zero means a fine balancing of the gas books on our naughty gross climate affecting businesses. It means the greenhouse gas emissions pumped into the atmosphere by humans is balanced by creation of new carbon sinks – such as forests – to absorb an equivalent amount. You clean-up and mitigate your own muck!
How about other solutions?
Enter the Hydrogen Kid
There is a new star on the block an it is beginning to get famous – Hydrogen. Many say it is the answer to our climate change woes.
Hydrogen can be produced from diverse domestic resources with the potential for near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Once produced, Hydrogen generates electrical power in a fuel cell, emitting only water vapour and warm air. It holds promise for growth in both the stationary and transportation energy sectors.
In a Hydrogen Economy, Hydrogen would be used in place of the fossil fuels that currently provide four-fifths of the world’s energy supply and emit the bulk of global greenhouse gas emissions. This could aid climate goals because of the obvious benefits of Hydrogen and the fact that it does not release CO2, on burning.
There are three main types of hydrogen fuel. First, ‘Grey’ Hydrogen, which is vast majority of Hydrogen in use-and there is plenty of it, mainly in industry-is made from natural gas. But the process emits CO2. Second, ‘Blue’, or as the gas industry likes to call it, ‘decarbonized’, Hydrogen is made from natural gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS) attached. Finally, ‘Green’ or ‘renewable’ Hydrogen, which every Hydrogen advocate says is the ultimate goal, is made from the electrolysis of water powered by electricity from renewable energy sources. Wow, I’m for green!
Hydrogen’s energy content by volume is low. This makes storing Hydrogen a challenge because it requires high pressures, low temperatures, or chemical processes to be stored compactly. Overcoming this challenge, and others is important in making Hydrogen more friendly.
A lot more needs to be done to make Hydrogen work: at the moment it’s just a kid that needs to grow up quickly.
India: Hear the Drums Boris?
India’s Prime Minister (PM) Modi was at his eloquent best beating drums and singing with the Indian diaspora in Italy and Glasgow before delivering India’s Climate Control targets.
India pledged to achieve Net Zero by the year 2070; achieve 50% of all its energy uses from renewable, non-fossil, clean-energy sources; increasing the total of such power generation to 500 Giga Watts (GW) by 2030; cut one billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the total projected emissions, again by 2030, and reduce carbon intensity by 45%. The PM also thumped his chest to say India is the only country that is delivering on the Paris Agreement targets.
These are indeed sexy figures to look at and a bold & beautiful statement by India.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the hosting country, UK, said PM Modi understands climate change and the power of sunshine very well, and has done some extraordinary things in his country. There is one sun, one world, one grid, and one Narendra Modi, he said. Later, trying to sit under the sun, the PMs warmly talked about a unifying future Solar Grid.
This week the World Health Organisation (WHO) finally granted approval for India’s home grown Covid-19 Vaccine called Covaxin – made by Bharat Biotech – for emergency use. To use WHO’s technical jargon, it says, ‘the benefits of the shot, known as Covaxin, significantly outweighs the risks and it met the WHO standards for protection against Covid-19’.
The decision had been significantly delayed as the Advisory Group kept seeking additional clarifications every time data was submitted by Bharat Biotech, and it was beginning to look like a dark tunnel – without the end in sight. With the final risk benefit assessment successfully made by WHO, the vaccine can now be rolled out for global use. And it is expected to benefit many poor countries.
In India, Covaxin was given emergency-use authorisation in January 2021 before the completion of the last-stage trials, which later found the vaccine to be 78% effective against severe Covid-19. The approval, by WHO, is a shot in the arm for India’s indigenous vaccine manufacturing industry.
This week, the Festival of Lights – Diwali was celebrated by Hindus and other faiths as well, all over the world and especially in India. India’s Courts grew a new kind of nose, poking too much into religion, in banning bursting of firecrackers – which is integral to celebrating the festival – based on petitions linking the bursting of crackers to air-pollution and other kinds of disruptions. It did not bang well with most people and suddenly it has fired a debate of prejudice against the majority faith!
More stories of change, fire and smoke, coming up in the weeks ahead. Celebrate, and it’s all right to burst with World Inthavaaram.