CSE director general Sunita Narain rejects the net zero idea. Says Biden’s world leaders’ summit on climate change is a welcome move, but it must not lose itself by meaningless discussions on net zero targets – which is nothing but a “grand distraction”
Instead, it should discuss real action and ambition; what needs to be done today and right now, because climate change is a real and present danger
On US: The question we must ask is, will the US meet its Paris commitments by 2025?
On India: The country might be on track to meet its Paris NDCs – but it must do more. CSE poses a set of asks for prime minister Modi
Online webinar titled ‘What’s New in Climate Change’ organised to understand the key issues and concerns, just before US president Joe Biden’s climate change summit of world leaders
CSE releases its new publication – Climate Change: Science and Politics – at the webinar (order your copy click here)
You can access the webinar proceedings, presentations and recordings click here
New Delhi, April 22, 2021: “As the world gears up for the global leaders’ summit meeting on climate change, called for by US president Joe Biden, there is good news and bad news on the climate front. The good news is that climate change is back on the agenda. The bad news is that we are back to discussing all the wrong things; we are in danger of once again losing the opportunity to drive home the need for ambition and equity in climate change action,” said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), at an online webinar and media briefing organised here.
‘What’s New in Climate Change’, the online event, was organised by CSE to demystify all the current, relevant and key concerns and issues of climate change, as well as to understand what would be on the table for discussions during Biden’s summit.
CSE released its latest publication – Climate Change: Science and Politics – on this occasion. The book is a comprehensive and state-of-art retelling of the Earth’s climate story as it stands till now – from the basic science, emissions, impacts, politics and negotiations to net zero, equity, sinks and carbon budgets (order your copy here: https://csestore.cse.org.in/).
Said Narain: “There is no question that climate change is real. With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating, climate change and its impacts could not have happened at a worse time. Human actions and mismanagement is compounding the problem – floods and the recent dam-burst in the Himalaya was the result of mismanagement of fragile ecology, exacerbated by climate change. In all this, our poor are the most vulnerable and the most severely hit.”
“Mr Biden’s global summit is a welcome step, no doubt. But will it yield any meaningful results, or will it simply degenerate into another meaningless discussion on net zero?” Narain asked.
CSE on net zero – nothing but a “grand distraction”
CSE has interpreted net zero as nothing but “zero zero”. Says Narain: “It is nothing but a grand distraction, a so-called badge of honor – an example of science misinterpreted by the biggest polluters.”
CSE’s interpretation bases itself on the argument that net zero is merely aspirational. Almost all the countries that have made declarations, have no plans on how they will achieve net zero status by 2050.
Moreover, as an idea, it is intrinsically “flawed”, claims CSE. Says Samrat Sengupta, programme director of CSE’s climate change unit: “Net zero will allow countries to emit, with the presumption that the emissions will get mopped up, either by planting more trees in the hope that they will sequester the carbon that is emitted, or by using carbon capture and storage technologies. The problem is, none of this is proven yet. These technologies are not yet in existence, and the science of carbon sequestration by trees is still uncertain and unproven.”
Net zero is also a highly inequitable notion, says CSE. It argues that since emissions differ hugely between nations of the developed and developing worlds, the net zero targets for them should have been different. Says Narain: “It would be logical then to say that if the world needs to be net zero by 2050, the developed countries needed to have already turned net zero or do so by 2030. No later. Only then would it provide the space for countries like India -- way below in the historical emissions and current emissions rankings -- to declare a net zero goal by 2050.”
What CSE asks from our leaders, Mr Biden and Mr Modi
CSE points out that real action is possible -- the US can walk the talk today if it wants. While its GHG emissions had dipped during the pandemic-induced lockdowns, they are on the upswing once again. Says Sengupta: “As per 2019 estimates, the US will not be able to meet its Paris commitments (a 25-26 per cent cut in emissions below the 2005 level by 2025).”
Narain, therefore, puts forth a set of ‘asks’ to Biden:
Similarly, to Modi, Narain and CSE address another set of ‘asks’:
At the online event, CSE also presented a list of “must-do” and “must not do” actions for the Indian government. They included:
Says Narain: “It is a make or break time for our world. The ongoing COVID pandemic holds a lesson for us – in our interdependent and interconnected world, we are as strong as our strongest link, or as weak as the weakest. If the virus lives on in any part of the world, the contagion will spread, and no one will remain unaffected. Hence, there is a need to provide for all. This is true of climate change as well.”
See Down To Earth’s package on the subject and Sunita Narain on video:
For more information, contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre, firstname.lastname@example.org, 8816818864.