Friday, November 10, 2017

Spirit of Paris: on the climate change meet in Bonn

The 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change under way in Bonn faces the challenge of raising the ambition of the world’s leaders, and giving practical form to the provisions of the Paris Agreement. Although 169 countries have ratified the accord, and there is tremendous support for greener, low-risk pathways to growth worldwide, the Trump administration in the U.S., one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), has announced it will withdraw from the pact. Even if it will take until 2020 to achieve an actual withdrawal, the U.S. action reverses the overall momentum achieved in Paris in 2015, and negates President Barack Obama’s legacy of regulations designed to reduce America’s GHG emissions, especially from the use of coal. It is heartening that China, which has achieved rapid economic growth and leads in GHG emissions, is firmly behind the pact to reduce the risk of climate change. There is steady progress in the growth of renewable energy sources as they become cheaper and the efficiency of solar, wind and energy storage technologies improves. As UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa has said, the time is now to firm up the tasks set out in the agreement reached in Paris, notably on funds to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Agreement has a benchmark of raising $100 billion a year by 2020.

Major risks from climate change, such as extreme weather phenomena, loss of agriculture, water stress and harm to human health, pose a threat to millions around the world. For some countries, such as Fiji, which holds the presidency of the Bonn conference, and other small island-states, the future is deeply worrying because of the fear that sea levels may rise sharply due to climate change. The recent Emissions Gap Report from the UN underscores the terrible mismatch between the voluntary pledges made by countries for the Paris Agreement and what is necessary to keep a rise in global average temperature below 2º C, preferably 1.5º C. All major countries, especially those that have depleted the global carbon budget by releasing massive amounts of GHGs since the Industrial Revolution, have to respond with stronger caps in their updated pledges under the Paris Agreement. India’s emissions have been rising overall, but it has committed itself to lowering the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from the 2005 level. By some estimates, India has been awarded among the highest levels of multilateral climate funding at $745 million since 2013. Securing funds for mitigation and adaptation is a high priority for India, but it must ensure that States acquire the capacity to absorb such assistance efficiently. While the emphasis on a giant renewable energy programme has won global acclaim, the focus is equally on India’s readiness to embrace green technologies across the spectrum of activity, including buildings and transport.

Source:The Hindu

Royal flush: on the Saudi Crown Prince's surprise crackdown

Ever since he was named the defence minister of Saudi Arabia in 2015, Mohammed bin Salman has had little patience for the way the kingdom is being ruled. In June, two and a half years into the reign of his father King Salman, he replaced Mohammed bin Nayef as Crown Prince. In recent weeks, he had taken on the Salafi religious establishment. On Sunday, he sprang another surprise by ordering the arrest of senior government ministers, officials and 11 Princes, including the billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal, and the powerful chief of the National Guard, Mutaib bin Abdullah. The immediate reason for the arrests is not known. The palace version is that they were carried out as part of a new campaign against corruption that is spearheaded by Prince Mohammed. But the recent crackdowns suggest that Prince Mohammed is consolidating his power. He first had Prince Nayef removed from his path to the throne as Crown Prince. As one of the richest among Saudi royals, Prince Alwaleed is known for his cosy ties with Western governments and less conservative views. Prince Mutaib, a favourite son of the late King Abdullah, is an influential figure within the palace. By arresting both, Prince Mohammed has potentially neutralised the money and power centres that could pose challenges to him in the future.

With the latest arrests, at just 32 years of age Prince Mohammed appears to have established himself as the most powerful Saudi Crown Prince in decades. He is practically in charge of key policy decisions and has taken control of all branches of the Saudi security services — the military, internal security and the National Guard. He clearly has the King’s ear. Still, Prince Mohammed is playing a risky game. In a short span of time, he has opened multiple fronts in the still-unfolding internal power struggle. In Saudi Arabia, where the rulers traditionally distribute power among the different branches of the royal family as a balancing tactic and get their decisions approved by the ulema for legitimacy, Prince Mohammed’s moves are upending tradition. By concentrating power in his own hands and turning against other Princes as well as some clerics, he has upset the balance in the system. Quick consolidation of power could perhaps allow him to reshape the governance model. The anti-corruption campaign, which sounds much like that led by Chinese President Xi Jinping, will have popular support, which he could use to continue to target his rivals. But Prince Mohammed’s track record so far is devoid of any major achievement. His ambitious plan to reform the economy has been a non-starter. His foreign policy moves also backfired with the Yemen war spinning further out of control and the Syrian civil war turning in favour of President Bashar al-Assad, who is seen as an adversary by Riyadh. If he continues to make mistakes the game could go awry, triggering an open power struggle within the House of Saud. With the Riyadh-Tehran rivalry in West Asia hotting up again, these developments are also bound to have repercussions beyond Saudi Arabia.

Source:The Hindu