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Prelims Current Affairs UPSC CSE Nov Week 4

Current Affairs UPSC CSE

Prelims Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Nov Week 4

NATIONAL

Tea — an industry trapped in its legacy

Context: The Indian tea industry closed 2018 with a crop of 1,339 million kg. Production is on an upswing this year too. Earlier, this would have gladdened the industry and the Tea Board of India alike. In today’s context, there may only be two cheers for a rising crop in India — the second-largest tea producer after China. The Indian tea industry is going through a churn and the factors at play are more structural in nature than cyclical, changing the industry construct.

World class Teas

  • Some of the world’s best teas are grown in Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiris, Sikkim and Kangra. The labour-intensive industry, employs over 11 lakh workers in the organised sector, half of whom are women.
  • The emergence of the small tea-growers as a dominant force in the industry, along with the scarcity of labour and its cost (65% of cost) in the organised industry, are two of the major threats before the organised industry — also known as the estate segment.
  • Prices have not moved in tandem with inflation, causing financial stress. The industry too has been found wanting.
  • Lately the organised sector’s production has shown a declining trend and small tea-growers now have a larger share of the pie.Between January and September 2019, the estate segment’s share in total crop fell to 50.9% against 52% a year ago.

Consumption

  • Contrary to the popular imagery of India being a tea-drinking nation, its per capita tea consumption is low at 786 gm. A burgeoning population has ensured that 80% of the crop is consumed domestically, but per capita consumption remains a pain-point for the industry and the regulator.
  • Overall tea prices remained soft in the first half of fiscal 2020. According to a report by ICRA, while higher production will help absorb costs, the overall soft price trends will impact on the tea companies’ bottomline.
  • The All India Tea Auction price in the first half of 2019-20 has risen by 3.02% to ₹148.8 per kg. This is not enough according to the industry, which says that while wages (in Assam and West Bengal which account for 75% of the output) have risen by 12% since 2009, along with prices of other inputs, all of which have risen at a faster clip than the 3% rise in tea prices. 

Measures

  • Aware of the need to put in place a mechanism for fair price-discovery, the Tea Board has taken some measures.
  • These included actions like foreclosing the tea season in December to curb production of indifferent qualities of teas and initiating auction reforms.
  • To keep abreast of technology, the Tea Board has upgraded the e-auction infrastructure which includes cloud hosting and making the software compatible with the latest technology. An e-auction platform for Jorhat in Assam, with value-added services, is being developed.
  • Quality is also affected by the aging tea bushes in this centuries-old industry. Till September 2019, around 3,325.7 hectares have been uprooted and replanted during the government’s medium term framework (MTF- 2017-20).
  • Given the domestic consumption pattern, exports have attained criticality. In 2018, India’s tea exports stood at 256 million kg. Tea Board Deputy Chairman and CEO Arun Kumar Ray feels that this could rise in future as Indian exporters are scoring gains overseas despite the decline in the overall exports market.

The way forward

  • The industry has to gear up to face its challenges. Whether that be through adopting mechanisation or by adapting to new ways of doing business.
  • Recently, a start-up, which sells teas at attractive prices here and abroad, delivered a lecture to the organised tea industry as to how he went about his business.
  • According to Kausshal Dugarr, founder of Tea Box, “The industry is unable to look beyond its legacy.” The traditional industry, perhaps, would do well to listen and find ways to sell a produce that is the world’s second-most consumed beverage after water.

Laws regarding migrants

Context: The Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement in the Rajya Sabha earlier this week that a National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be implemented across India, and repeated again in Assam, has ignited interest in the existing legal framework in India for illegal migrants. The first enactment made for dealing with foreigners was the Foreigners Act, 1864, which provided for the expulsion of foreigners and their arrest, detention pending removal, and for a ban on their entry into India after removal. 

The Passport Act

  • One of the early set of rules made against illegal migrants, The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, empowered the government to make rules requiring persons entering India to be in possession of passports.
  • This rule also granted the government the power to remove from India any person who entered without a passport.
  • During the Second World War, the Imperial Legislative Assembly enacted the Foreigners Act, 1940, under which the concept of “burden of proof” was introduced.
  • Section 7 of the Act provided that whenever a question arose with regard to the nationality of a person, the onus of proving that he was not a foreigner lay upon the person.

The Foreigners Act

  • The legislature enacted the Foreigners Act, 1946, by repealing the 1940 Act, conferring wide powers to deal with all foreigners.
  • Apart from defining a ‘foreigner’ as a person who is not a citizen of India, it empowered the government to make provisions for prohibiting, regulating or restricting the entry of foreigners into India.
  • It also restricted the rights enjoyed by foreigners in terms of their stay in the country if any such orders are passed by the authority.
  • The 1946 Act empowered the government to take such steps as are necessary, including the use of force for securing compliance with such directions.
  • The most important provision of the 1946 law, which is still applicable in all States and Union Territories, was that the ‘burden of proof’ lies with the person, and not with the authorities.
  • This has been upheld by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.

The Foreigners (Tribunals) Order

  • In 1964, the government brought in the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order. The tribunal has the authority to decide whether a person is a foreigner within the ambit of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • The tribunal, which has powers similar to those of a civil court, gives reasonable opportunity to the person alleged to be a foreigner to produce evidence in support of his case, before passing its order.
  • In June this year, the Home Ministry made certain amendments in the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.
  • It was to empower district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not. 

The IMDT Act

  • The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983, which was unsuccessful — it was also referred to as the IMDT Act — was introduced for the detection and deportation of illegal migrants who had entered India on or after March 25, 1971.
  • One factor for its failure was that it did not contain any provision on ‘burden of proof’ similar to the Foreigners Act, 1946. This put a very heavy burden upon the authorities to establish whether a person is an illegal migrant.
  • The result of the IMDT Act was that a number of non-Indians who may have entered Assam after March 25, 1971 without possession of valid documents, continue to reside in Assam.
  • This culminated, in 2005, in the Supreme Court landmark verdict on a petition by Sarbananda Sonowal (now the Chief Minister of Assam), challenging the IMDT Act.
  • In the course of the proceedings, the Central government submitted that since the enforcement of the IMDT Act, only 1,494 illegal migrants had been deported from Assam up to June 30, 2001.
  • In contrast 4,89,046 Bangladeshi nationals had been deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 from West Bengal between 1983 and November 1998.
  • The top court not only quashed the IMDT Act but also closed all tribunals in Assam functioning under the Act. It, then, transferred all pending cases at the IMDT tribunals to the Foreigners Tribunals constituted under the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.
  • Any person excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) can approach The Foreigners Tribunals, established only in Assam, within 120 days of receiving a certified copy of rejection.
  • In other States, a person suspected to be a foreigner is produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946.

Why India’s children are anaemic?

Context: Last month, during the festive season, an ad campaign urged Indian women to invest in iron-rich food and focus on whether they were anaemic. Around the same time, a Lancet Global Health report noted that 23% of Indian men suffered from anaemia. Adding to these findings, now a paper published in Scientific Reports points out that about 58.5% of children below five years of age in India are anaemic.

Factors at play

  • The team from Havard TH Chan School of Public Health analysed over one lakh children using the National Fertility and Health Survey (2015-16) data.
  • They write that socio-demographic factors including wealth of the family, maternal education, maternal age, type of residence are the main reasons behind the incidence of childhood anaemia.
  • Maternal education plays a very important role in reducing the incidence of childhood anaemia in any society and indeed in India. It increases the chances of mothers appreciating the issues involved and taking the correct and appropriate steps towards preventing it.
  • This study revealed an inverse relationship between the mother’s education and incidence of childhood anaemia, in India.
  • In other words, as the mother’s education level increases, the tendency of the child to be anaemic decreases significantly.
  • The report notes that even the richest households had anaemic children. While 52.9% of children in the rich households were marked anaemic, the number was 63.2% in the poorest households. Overall, vitamin A and iron intake was also lower than the recommended level.

Meaningful intervention

  • Nutritional and iron deficiencies top the list of factors that predispose children to anaemia in India and these should be prioritised in any intervention.
  • The study observed that in addition to maternal influence on childhood anaemia, paternal and overall household influences must be considered for a more comprehensive policy framework for intervention at the household level. 

Premature delivery

  • Previous studies from across the globe have shown that severe anaemia in mothers and premature delivery can also lead to childhood anaemia and so the mother’s health needs to be addressed as well.
  • The report says that the inverse relationship between the age of mothers and the incidence of anaemia in children. The study showed that children of younger mothers are more anaemic.
  • While one may understand the powerlessness of mothers 15-19 years [old] in ensuring the children get the right food. It also reveals the power dimension in the household allocation and use of resources.
  • The team has now planned to study gender power relations in household and how it influences childhood anaemia in India.
  • The paper notes that though India has an anaemia control programme which recommends iron intake and folic acid supplements, the results show that the programme has not been a success.
  • The researchers urge immediate work be carried out to bridge the gap between policy and practice. They also call for a broader health strategy, to effectively address this issue.

The Bodoland Dispute

Context: Recently, the central government extended the ban on the Assam-based insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) by five more years for its involvement in a series of violent activities including killings and extortion, and for joining hands with anti-India forces. The Home Ministry has declared the NDFB along with all its groups, factions, and front organisations as an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The Bodoland dispute

  • Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
  • The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several ethnic groups.
  • The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands, marked by armed struggle.
  • In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the banner of the Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA), a political outfit.
  • In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.
  • The unrest was a fallout of the Assam Movement (1979-85), whose culmination — the Assam Accord — addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
  • In December 2014, separatists killed more than 30 people in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. In the 2012 Bodo-Muslim riots, hundreds were killed and almost 5 lakh were displaced.

Who are the NDFB?

  • Alongside political movements, armed groups have also sought to create a separate Bodo state.
  • In October 1986, the prominent group Bodo Security Force (BdSF) was formed by Ranjan Daimary. The BdSF subsequently renamed itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an organisation that is known to be involved in attacks, killings, and extortions.
  • In the 1990s, Indian security forces launched extensive operations against the group, causing the latter to flee to bordering Bhutan. In Bhutan, the group faced stiff counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army and the Royal Bhutan Army in the early 2000s.

Why the demand for separate Bodoland?

  • For centuries, they survived sanskritisation without giving up their original ethnic identity. However in the 20th century, they had to tackle a series of issues such as illegal immigration, encroachment of their lands, forced assimilation, loss of language and culture. The 20th century also witnessed the emergence of Bodos as a leading tribe in Assam which pioneered the movements for safeguarding the rights of the tribal communities in the area.
  • From then on, they have been consistently deprived of the political and socio-economic rights by successive state and central governments. The Bodos have not only become an ethnic minority in their own ancestral land but have also been struggling for their existence and status as an ethnic community.

Coalbed Methane

Context: Recently, the Ministry of Coal asked the state-run coal miner Coal India Limited (CIL) to produce 2 MMSCB (million metric standard cubic metres) per day of coalbed methane (CBM) gas in the next 2 to 3 years, PTI reported. India has the fifth-largest coal reserves in the world, and CBM has been looked at as a clean alternative fuel with significant prospects.

What is coalbed methane (CBM)?

  • CBM, like shale gas, is extracted from what are known as unconventional gas reservoirs — where gas is extracted directly from the rock that is the source of the gas (shale in case of shale gas and coal in case of CBM).
  • The methane is held underground within the coal and is extracted by drilling into the coal seam and removing the groundwater. The resulting drop in pressure causes the methane to be released from the coal.
  • According to the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, India’s CBM resources are estimated at around 92 trillion cubic feet (TCF), or 2,600 billion cubic metres (BCM).
  • The country’s coal and CBM reserves are found in 12 states of India, with the Gondwana sediments of eastern India holding the bulk.
  • The Damodar Koel valley and Son valley are prospective areas for CBM development, with CBM projects existing in Raniganj South, Raniganj East and Raniganj North areas in the Raniganj coalfield, the Parbatpur block in Jharia coalfield and the East and West Bokaro coalfields.
  • The Son valley includes the Sonhat North and Sohagpur East and West blocks.

What are the uses of CBM?

  • According to the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI), CBM can be used for power generation, as compressed natural gas (CNG) auto fuel, as feedstock for fertilisers, industrial uses such as in cement production, rolling mills, steel plants, and for methanol production.
  • According to the Directorate, CBM production in March 2015 was around 0.77 MMSCMD from 5 CBM blocks.
  • In 2018, the Union Cabinet relaxed the rules for Coal India Limited (CIL) to extract natural gas lying below coal seams to boost production. CIL accounts for over 80 per cent of India’s domestic coal output.

The SR Bommai Judgment

Context: The historic judgment by the nine-judge Bench in SR Bommai vs Union of India in March 1994 laid down the supremacy of the floor test in determining the support enjoyed by the party in power.

What is the S R Bommai case, and why is it significant?

  • In 1985, the Janata Party won the Assembly elections in Karnataka, and formed the government under Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde. Hegde was replaced by SR Bommai, also of the Janata Party, in 1988.
  • That year, the Janata Party merged with the Lok Dal, forming the Janata Dal, and new members were inducted into Bommai’s Ministry.
  • In September 1988, K R Molakery, a legislator from the Janata Dal, defected from the party, and presented a letter to Governor P Venkatasubbaiah along with petitions from 19 other members of the Legislative Assembly, stating their decision to withdraw support to the Bommai government.
  • The government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the Centre dismissed the state government using Article 356, without giving Bommai a chance to prove his majority, and imposed President’s Rule.
  • The Karnataka decision was seen as controversial, and more such examples followed across India.
  • In October 1991, the President issued a proclamation dismissing the Meghalaya government on grounds of unconstitutional governance. The Assembly was dissolved immediately after.
  • Earlier in 1988, the Nagaland government was dismissed on the basis of a report sent by the Governor to the President.
  • After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Centre dismissed not just the government of Uttar Pradesh, but also the BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh
  • The nine-judge Bench in the Bommai case adjudicated on a range of issues around the constitutional limitations of the use of Article 356.

The Supreme Court ruling

  • The court laid down a number of guidelines to curb the Centre’s capacity to dismiss a state government, and upheld the federal structure enshrined in the Constitution.
  • The ruling laid down the law that the only way to determine support enjoyed by a particular state government would be by means of a floor test.
  • Also, the court ruled that the validity of a proclamation of President’s Rule is subject to judicial review.
  • Third, the court said that the only time the President shall have unconditional powers to dissolve a state government is when there is a complete breakdown of constitutional machinery.
  • The judgment also underlined the secular nature of the Constitution in the wake of the Babri demolition, and said that a party cannot resort to religion for the sake of gaining power and, if found to be indulging in religious politics, could be acted against using Article 356.

Significance of the judgment

  • Since the Constitution came into force, President’s Rule under Article 356 has been imposed on states on over 100 occasions. These instances, however, declined considerably after the S R Bommai ruling.
  • Apart from an assertive judiciary, the emergence of coalition governments with representation from regional parties in the 1990s also checked the trend.

Avian Botulism

Context: Avian botulism killed over 18,000 birds in and around Rajasthan’s Sambhar lake, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bareilly, said in a report released on November 21, 2019.

Botulinum is a natural toxin produced by a bacteria known as Clostridium botulin. It produces the toxin when it starts reproducing.

  • The bacteria is commonly found in the soil, river, and sea water. There are around eight types — A, B, C1, C2, D, E, F, and G — of botulinum toxin and they are distinguishable when diagnosed. But all types of toxins attack the neurons, which leads to muscle paralysis.
  • Botulinum affects both humans and animals but the type of the toxin varies — botulinum C in birds and A, B and E in humans.  The toxin has been recognised as a major cause of mortality in wild birds since the 1900s.

What happened at Sambhar

  • The avian botulism that caused the mass die-off at Sambhar was caused by the climate, according to the IVRI report.
  • Water levels were fluctuating throughout the year. Locals reported that due to a good monsoon this year, the water level reached the lake bed after a gap of 20 years.
  • The good monsoon provided a favorable environment for the bacteria to spread. The bacteria needs anaerobic (absence of oxygen) conditions and does not grow in acidic conditions.
  • The temperature of the water was about 25 degree Celsius. Its pH ranged between 7.4- 9.84.
  • It also requires a nutrient-rich substrate, like areas with large amounts of decaying plant or animal materials. The monsoon brought with it a large population of crustaceans (like shrimps, crabs, and prawns), invertebrates (snails) and plankton (like algae).
  • These living organisms are capable of hosting the bacteria for a long period of time. According to reports, the bacteria is also found in the gills and digestive tracts of healthy fish.
  • It reproduces through spores and these spores remain dormant for years. They are resistant to temperature changes and drying. Under favourable conditions, the spores are activated.
  • The IVRI report noted that after the monsoon, when the water levels receded, there might have been an increase in salinity levels which could have led to the death of these living organisms. At this point in time, the spores could have been activated.
  • According to another theory, ‘a bird-to-bird cycle’ could also have led to the tragedy. In such an event, maggots feeding on dead birds can concentrate the toxin. Birds feeding on dead birds can get affected.
  • This was observed in Sambhar too as researchers found only insectivorous and omnivorous birds affected and not herbivores.
  • The IVRI report discounted external factors like water pollution and eutrophication (a body of water becoming overly enriched with minerals and nutrients, in turn inducing excessive growth of algae) as no farming was being carried out in the vicinity and the runoff from the same was not possible.

Other instances of botulism

  • Sambhar lake is not the first instance where deaths due to botulism have been recorded. For over a decade, botulinum has been causing the deaths of migratory birds around the world.
  • According to reports 7,000 water birds died in Lake Michigan in 2007 and 2008, followed by another 4,000 in 2012. In Hawaii, the toxin killed around 183 Laysan Ducks in 2008.
  • A study conducted by Spanish researchers shows that not all birds will be affected by avian botulism unlike avian flu.
  • It also states that botulism outbreaks are likely to become more frequent as climate change alters wetland conditions to favour bacteria and pathogens.
  • Previous studies have found that outbreaks tend to occur when average temperatures are above 21 degrees Celsius, and during droughts.

 

Rules for the Conduct of Business 

Context: The suspension of two Congress members by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla after unruly scenes in the House has brought back focus on the conduct of MPs.

Powers of Speaker under the Rules for the Conduct of Business:

  • Rule 378 of the Rules for the Conduct of Business states, “The Speaker shall preserve order and shall have all powers necessary for the purpose of enforcing own decisions.”
  • Rule 373 says, “The Speaker, if is of the opinion that the conduct of any member is grossly disorderly, may direct such member to withdraw immediately from the House, and any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.”
  • Rule 374:
    • The Speaker may, if deems it necessary, name a member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.
    • If a member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the member (naming such member) be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.
    • A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.
  • Rule 374A:
    • Notwithstanding anything contained in rules 373 and 374, in the event of grave disorder occasioned by a member coming into the well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.
    • On the Speaker announcing the suspension under this rule, the member shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.

Way forward:

  • Political parties should have a code of conduct for their MPs and MLAs to help monitor their behaviour in Parliament and state legislatures.
    • Political parties could include such a code in their election manifestos that would help enable voters to make their judgement before voting.
    • The code of conduct should include stipulations that members would not enter the well of the house, nor resort to sloganeering and disruptions or any other unruly behaviour such as tearing of papers and throwing them in the House
    • There is also a need for more coordination between the ruling party and the opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, that could help bring about consensus on important legislations.

 

FASTags

Context: The government extended till December 15 the deadline for making FASTag mandatory for toll payments on national highways. Earlier, all lanes, except one on each side, at all NHAI toll plazas were to be declared as dedicated FASTag lanes from December 1.The National Highways Authority of India, in a statement, said many citizens had not enabled their vehicles with FASTags due to which the decision was deferred till December 15.

Objective:

  • The objective is to remove bottlenecks and capture all toll electronically.
  • All 560-odd plazas under the control of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will collect toll without human intervention, and vehicles need not stop to pay toll.

How does FASTag work?

  • The device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it.
  • It is affixed on the windscreen, so the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
  • It is valid for five years, and can be recharged as and when required.
  • The payment method is a part of the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) programme.The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) collects the payments.

Need of this scheme

  • According to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), these devices will make passing through tolls considerably smoother since drivers will no longer have to carry cash or stop to make a transaction.
  • Cameras at toll booths will take photos of passengers in a vehicle, which will be useful for the Ministry of Home Affairs as there will be a record of a vehicle’s movement.

INTERNATIONAL

Greenhouse emissions

Context: Greenhouse gas emissions surged to a record level last year and world temperatures could rise more than twice the globally agreed warming limit if nothing is done, a UN report showed recently. The “Emissions Gap Report” is one of several studies released ahead of UN climate talks in Madrid next week aimed at spurring world leaders to limit climate change.

The report

  • It measures the amount of emissions cuts needed to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in the key 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change last year warned of huge global changes if that target is not met, such as the loss of nearly all coral reefs and most Arctic sea ice.
  • “As things stand, temperatures can be expected to rise by 3.2 C this century, bringing wide-ranging and destructive climate impacts,” according to the report summary by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • He said the safest temperature threshold set in Paris of 1.5C was still possible but would require emissions cuts of 7.6% a year between 2020-2030. For 2C, it would mean annual cuts of 2.7%.
  • The report showed that emissions, including those from land-use change such as deforestation, have not yet peaked and rose to a record 55.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2018.
  • Countries face a 2020 deadline to set more ambitious emissions cut pledges. The report named the United States as one of several large emitters alongside Brazil and Japan falling short of its own targets, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
  • This month, the Trump administration filed paperwork to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in the first step of a formal withdrawal process.

 

Emission Gap Report

Context: The annual United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) flagship Emissions Gap Report has been released recently.

The “Emissions Gap”

  • Also called as the “Commitment Gap”, it is the difference between the low level of emissions that the world needs to drop to, compared with the projected level of emissions based on countries’ current commitments to decarbonization.
  • It measures the gap between what we need to do and what we are actually doing to tackle climate change.

Why does the Emissions Gap Matter? 

  • The gap is important because if we can’t close it and meet the emissions reduction target, we will face increasingly severe climate impacts worldwide.
  • Therefore, it is important that policymakers, and their citizens, know what the gap is so that the commitments countries are making are sufficient to close the gap.

What the report studies? 

  • The amount of greenhouse gas emissions every year up to 2030.\
  • The commitments countries are making to reduce their emissions and the impact these commitments are likely to have on overall emission reduction.
  • The pace at which emissions must be reduced to reach an emission low that would limit temperature increase to 1.5oC, affordably.
  • The report also identifies key opportunities for each country to increase the pace of emission reduction necessary to close the gap.

Key findings of the report:

  • The world will fail to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year.
  • Global temperatures are set to rise about 3.2 degrees C by 2100, the report says, bringing catastrophic weather including hotter, deadlier heatwaves and more frequent floods and drought.
  • The top four emitters (China, USA, EU and India) contributed to over 55% of the total emissions over the last decade, excluding emissions from land-use change such as deforestation.
  • The rankings would change if land-use change emissions were included, with Brazil likely to be the largest emitter.

India’s performance

  • India is the fourth-largest emitter of Green House Gases (GHGs).
  • It is among a small group of countries that are on their way to achieve their self-declared climate targets under the Paris Agreement.

Way forward

  • A full decarbonization of the energy sector is necessary and possible.
  • Renewables and energy efficiency are critical to the energy transition.
  • The potential emission reduction thanks to renewable energy electricity totals 12.1 gigatonnes by 2050.
  • Electrification of transport could reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions by a huge 72 per cent by 2050.
  • Each sector and each country has unique opportunities to harness renewable energy, protect natural resources, lives and livelihoods, and transition to a decarbonization pathway.

COP25 climate meet

Context: The annual two-week climate change conference, known by the abbreviation COP25, begins in Madrid next week amid fresh warnings that the world has not been doing enough to save itself from catastrophic impacts of climate change. A series of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other agencies have been reiterating through the year that unless countries scale up their actions significantly, there is little hope of keeping average global temperatures within 2ºC higher than pre-industrial trends.

What issues have these reports been highlighting?

  • The most dire and recent warning has come from the annual Emissions Gap Report, produced by the UN Environment Programme, that says that the goal of keeping average temperatures within 1.5°C from pre-industrial times, an aspirational target enshrined in the Paris Agreement, was “on the brink of becoming impossible”.
  • To achieve that target, global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 should not be more than 25 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. But from the current rate of growth of emissions, the total is projected to touch 56 billion tonnes by that time, more than twice what it should be.
  • Accordingly, the world needs to reduce its emissions by at least 7.6% every year between now and 2030 to reach the 25-billion-tonnes level. Considering that overall emissions are still increasing, such major reductions are extremely unlikely unless the countries do something completely drastic.
  • The World Meteorological Organization, meanwhile, has pointed out that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases reached new records in 2018. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, compared to 405.5 ppm the previous year. This was 147% of the pre-industrial level of 1750. The concentration of methane was 259% of the 1750 level while nitrous oxide was at 123% above.
  • On May 18 this year, the daily average carbon dioxide concentration touched 415 ppm for the first time ever. It has come down from that level since then.
  • Several other reports in the last few months, including three special reports by IPCC, and another major one on state of nature by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, have all pointed to the deteriorating scenario.

Will all this not come up at COP25?

  • While there would no doubt be pressure on countries meeting in Madrid to scale up their efforts, and some of them can indeed announce some additional measures or targets for themselves, the actual negotiation process is about settling the unresolved issues of the Paris Agreement rulebook.
  • The rulebook, which contains the processes, mechanisms and institutions through which the provisions of the Paris Agreement would be implemented, had been finalised in Katowice last year. But some of the issues had remained unresolved and had left for negotiators to settle over the next one year.
  • The most important one relates to the tussle over new carbon markets to be created under the Paris Agreement.
  • A carbon market allows countries, or industries, to earn carbon credits for emission reductions they make in excess of what is required of them. These credits can be traded to the highest bidder in exchange of money.
  • The buyers of carbon credits can show the emission reductions as their own and use them to meet their own emission reduction targets.
  • A carbon market already existed under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the earlier climate agreement that will expire next year and get replaced by Paris Agreement.
  • In the last one decade, as several countries walked out of the Kyoto Protocol and no one was feeling compelled to meet their emission reduction targets, the demand for carbon credits had waned.
  • As a result, developing countries like India, China and Brazil had accumulated huge amounts of carbon credits. These credits are now in danger of getting redundant.

What happens to the carbon credits already accumulated?

  • Brazil has been arguing that these accumulated carbon credits should remain valid under the new carbon market to be instituted. But the developed countries have been resisting this, claiming that the weak verification mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol had allowed dubious projects to earn credits.
  • India, which has accumulated 750 million certified emission reductions (CERs), is backing Brazil’s position on this.
  • Resolution of this tussle is key to the success of the Madrid meeting. But there are other pending issues as well, like those related to ensuring transparency in the processes, and methods of reporting information.
  • Developing countries will also try to ensure that there is greater appreciation and recognition of the issue of loss and damage. They are trying to institute a mechanism to compensate countries that suffer major losses due to climate change-induced events like cyclones or floods.

What about commitments by countries?

  • The conference will be most keenly watched for the resolve that countries show in scaling up their efforts to fight climate change. Over the last few months, there has been growing pressure on countries to do more, especially the big emitters.
  • The pressure has yielded some results with at least a few countries promising to commit to long-term action plans. So far, a total of 71 countries, most of them small emitters, have committed themselves to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • It is expected that some more countries would do so at the Madrid conference. However, the most crucial players — China or India — are widely being seen as unlikely to announce any enhanced targets.
  • These countries have been arguing that their current efforts are already much more than what they should have been asked to do, while many other rich and developed countries, which are mainly responsible for creating the climate problem, are doing proportionately less, especially when it comes to providing finance and technology to the less developed world.

 

PERSON IN NEWS

Yameen Abdul Gayoom

Context: A court in the Maldives has found the country’s former president guilty of money laundering and sentenced him to five years in prison.

  • The five-member Criminal Court has also ordered Yameen Abdul Gayoom to pay a $5 million fine.
  • In its ruling, the court found Yameen was guilty of laundering $1 million in state money for personal gain.
  • Yameen led the Indian Ocean archipelago state from 2013 to 2018. During that time he was accused of corruption, muzzling the media and persecuting political opponents.
  • He lost last year’s election to current President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Yasuhiro Nakasone

  • Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone has died at the age of 101, after a career during which he hobnobbed on the world stage with Ronald Reagan, and battled with bureaucrats at home to enact sweeping reforms.
  • But while Nakasone, prime minister from 1982 to 1987, boosted Japan’s global profile, he failed to achieve his dream of revising the country’s pacifist, U.S.-drafted constitution to clarify the ambiguous status of the military and bolster its international role.

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