With landmark Paris deal ratification, this Earth Day is special (Curtain Raiser)

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) This Earth Day – April 22 – is special, not only because over one billion people would join hands to tackle higher carbon emission and land erosion, but also because for the first time 120 countries are to come together to sign and adopt the Paris Climate Agreement at the UN, New York, to create an ‘Environment Democracy’, in commemoration of the 46th ‘International Mother Earth Day’.

This year’s theme on Earth Day is ‘Trees for Earth’, which syncs perfectly with India’s push to release the CAMPA Bill (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) in parliament, that would see the release of $5.3 billion across the country to promote afforestation and regeneration activities.

Hundreds of organisations have pledged to work with the Earth Day Network-India to plant 36 million trees over the next five years.

“It’s an absolutely positive sign that so many countries are coming together for environment and they realise that we are all on the same page,” Karuna Singh, Director Earth Day Network (EDN), India told IANS.

“With nations like India having a strong voice, we can envision an Environment Democracy. For the event, great responses are coming and several organisations have pledged to plant 36 million trees in India by 2022,” Singh added.

For India the CAMPA bill is more of a necessity than a diplomatic move to impress the UN climate change countries as over 1.4 million citizens died in 2013 due to air pollution, according to the EDN.

China, the world’s largest contributor of carbon emission lost 1.6 million in the same year, says the Earth Day Network.

According to the EDN, China and India are the largest CO2 emitters in the world.

However, India, with 17 percent of the world’s population, maintains that it is responsible for only three percent of the global carbon emission.

Karuna said that the EDN arrived in India in 2010. Now, neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and others are approaching the global network for guidance, which is another good sign for the environment.

The first earth day was observed as an environmental movement across colleges and schools in the USA on April 22, 1970. Now, it is marked across the world with volunteers urging people to plant trees, to go paperless, promote car pooling, buy organic food and in other ways.

“We expect to connect more and more people. For that, different programmes are being organised, including for the first time in Afghanistan, where they would have a awareness campaign. In Delhi, ambassadors of 20 countries will plant trees in parks in Delhi,” Karuna said.

“Best responses comes from the youth and women, because they are the ones who suffer the most with climate change.”

The Earth Day Network (EDN), one of the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, has set a goal to plant 50,000 trees across the globe on Earth Day, for which it had managed to raise $32,000 against a target of $50,000.

“We are hopeful of a better future and an environment democracy, as the seriousness for the Kyoto Protocol still exists,” Suresh Chauhan, TERI Fellow, told IANS.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that binds its 132 member countries to work for reducing green house gas emission. It was adopted in 1997 and bought to force in 2005. It is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), formed in 1992.

“We are encouraged by the Indian effort, in terms of forest policies or the National Action Plan on Climate Change – the Green India Mission, that aims to increase the forest cover to 33 percent. Similarly, under the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of UNFCCC, India aims to reduce three billion units of carbon emission. However, we also feel that the policies must be more feasible,” Chauhan said.

“Government of India is perhaps diverting ample funds, also meant for CAMPA, to other projects like its rural employment guarantee programme MGNREGA, which is not a very good sign,” he said.

“I think the funds should be spent properly, policies must be implemented and simplified in order to achieve clean environment,” he said, claiming that with the COP21 agreements ratification at UN on Saturday, the Earth Day has indeed become special.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP-21 was held in November-December 2015 in Paris, where 195 countries, including India, adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. India has pledged to increase its clean energy share – solar and wind – by 40 percent by 2022 to 175 Giga Watt. India’s solar programme – aimed to achieve 100 GW by 2022 – is one of the fastest growing in the world.

The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degree Celsius. The agreement is due to come into force in 2020.

(Kushagra Dixit can be reached at kushagra.d@ians.in)



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