Current Affairs 13th November

India seeks $1 tn in ‘climate finance’ to meet its targets #GS3 #Environment

India has demanded a trillion dollars over the next decade from developed countries to adapt to, and mitigate, the challenges arising from global warming, and has kept this as a condition for delivering on climate commitments made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a senior official who is part of ongoing climate agreement negotiations in Glasgow told The Hindu .

India’s five-fold plan (see box) aims at reducing the carbon intensity of its economy and eventually achieving net zero by 2070.

Net zero is when a country’s carbon emissions are offset by taking out equivalent carbon from the atmosphere, so that emissions in balance are zero. However, achieving net zero by a specific date means specifying a year, also called a peaking year, following which emissions will begin to fall.

“Our NDCs (Nationally Determined Contribution) are conditional, that is, subjected to the availability of this amount [$1 trillion] in climate finance. NDCs can be submitted with conditions. The decision on when to submit revised NDCs has not yet been taken,” Rameshwar Prasad Gupta, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change, told The Hindu . He is among India’s key negotiators and currently present at the ongoing talks in Glasgow.

NDCs are voluntary targets that countries set for themselves, which describe the quantum and kind of emission cuts they will undertake over a fixed period to contribute to preventing runaway global warming.

India’s last NDC was submitted following the Paris Agreement of 2015. Before COP26 began on November 1, countries were expected to provide updated NDCs. India, however, did not furnish one. He added that developing countries, as a group, had demanded $1 trillion annually. Mr. Gupta did not, however, clarify the members of this group, or if India had formally communicated these demands, or if they had emerged as part of the negotiations.

Delivering on climate finance is among the stickiest points of contention between developed and developing countries because developed countries, as a group, have failed to provide $100 billion annually by 2020, as promised from a decade ago.

With the conference scheduled to draw to an end on Friday, nearly 200 countries are yet to finalise a final text of an agreement.

As The Hindu reported on Wednesday, a draft consensus document of the agreement underlines that the promised climate finance by developed countries is “insufficient to respond to the worsening climate change impacts in developing countries” and urges these developed countries to “urgently scale up”.

“The funds necessary for adaptation must increase,” Bhupender Yadav, Environment Minister, had said on Wednesday, adding, “Our consistent stand has been that developing countries such as India need transparency in terms of what kind of market mechanism will be in place. This is necessary to ensure that developing and developed countries are on a level playing field.”

More than 12 crore people due for vaccine second dose #GS3 #SnT

At present, 79% of the adult population has received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 38% of the eligible population has got the second dose. And more than 12 crore beneficiaries are due for their second dose, according to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.

He said there was no shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, and called for collective efforts to ensure that no citizen is left without vaccine protection. “Lets us ensure collectively through collaborative and multi-stakeholder efforts that no eligible citizen is left without the suraksha kawachh (protective shield) of vaccine in the country. Let us reach each corner and household across the country and motivate people to take both the doses under Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji ’s ‘ Har Ghar Dastak ’ campaign”, he stated.

Mr. Mandaviya held a virtual meeting to discuss the strengthening of the campaign with State Health Ministers. He said children could be the best ambassadors of behaviour change. He urged the States to rope in children for taking forward the message of full vaccination. “Let the children motivate their parents and other family members to take both the vaccine doses,” he said.

Vaccination centres could be set up at bus stations, railway stations etc., especially in large metros, as these were the primary points for entry of a large number of people. “While vaccination is our ‘Suraksha Kawachh’, we must not forget COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.”

Reiterating the Prime Minister’s strategies for strengthening the ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ campaign, including the deployment of ‘Prachar Toli’ in advance to villages that would ensure mobilisation and counselling of the eligible population along with awareness campaigns, he stressed on ‘Vaccination Toli’, which would ensure that all eligible citizens were vaccinated with the first and second doses.

CDS, Ministry differ on China moves #GS2 #IR

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, on Thursday contradicted the official position of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) regarding Chinese construction activities in the eastern sector in Arunachal Pradesh.

India never accepted China’s “illegal occupation” of its territories, the Ministry’s official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a weekly press briefing.

No transgressions

But, soon after this, speaking at a television channel event, Gen. Rawat said that the Chinese constructions were “well within their side of the LAC [Line of Actual Control]”.

“They are building this infrastructure and these so-called villages are well within their side of the LAC. They have not transgressed anywhere on our perception of the LAC. There are different perceptions. We are very clear where the LAC lies because we have been told that this is your alignment of the LAC and this is the territory you are expected to defend.

Chinese have a perception which in some areas we know and in some areas we don’t know, because they have never really explained where the LAC lies according to their perception,” he noted at an event organised by Times Now. “As far as we are concerned, there is no such village development that has taken place on our side of the LAC.”

Gen. Rawat acknowledged that China was building villages along the Line of Actual Control, but he also asserted that the “present controversy that has erupted that Chinese have come across into our territory and have built a new village is not true.”

U.S. report

His comment contradicted a statement from the MEA regarding the recent report from the United States Department of Defence that pointed out that sometime in 2020, China “built a 100-home civilian village inside disputed territory between PRC’s Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh state…”

Mr. Bagchi said, “China has undertaken construction activities in the past several years along the border areas including in the areas that it has illegally occupied over the decades. India has neither accepted such illegal occupation of our territory nor has it accepted the unjustified Chinese claims”.

India had “taken note” of the United States report that detailed construction activities taken up by China in the eastern sector.

Face to face

Gen. Rawat stressed that the Chinese and the Indian forces were on respective territories facing each other and that the Chinese have been building infrastructure and huts for their soldiers based on their “perception” of the LAC that is partially known to India.

Mr. Bagchi observed that India had always “strongly protested” against such construction activities taken up on its sovereign territories through “diplomatic channels”.

“The Government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all the necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.

No fresh virus variants of concern in India: INSACOG #GS3 #SnT

Despite an uptick in new cases this week, the India SARS- CoV-2 Genome Consortium (INSACOG) has said there are no new virus variants of concern on the horizon in India.

The bulk of cases in India were the Delta variant and its related sub-variants, mirroring what was happening in the rest of the world, the INSACOG said in its weekly bulletin on Thursday.

“Delta (B.1.617.2 and AY.x) continues to be the main VOC in India. No new VOI (Variants of Interest) or VOC (Variants of Concern) are noted and other VOC and VOI other than Delta are now negligible in sequencing data from India,” the bulletin noted. AY.x refers to a family of sublineages that can range from 1-25. They have a common set of core mutations but large variation in others.

According to the latest update from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Delta has outcompeted other variants in most countries and there was now “declining prevalence” of other variants among SARS-CoV-2 sequences submitted to publicly available datasets or reported to WHO, the bulletin added.

As of Thursday, the INSACOG has analysed 92,800 genome sequence samples of those who have tested positive for the virus to determine what variants they harbour.

In October, following a spike in cases in Europe and the United Kingdom, Public Health England stated that AY4.2, a Delta variant sublineage, was responsible for a “slowly increasing” proportion of cases in the U.K. It is also present in multiple other countries and is seen in travellers to the U.K. from a large number of countries. The INSACOG, however, said the presence of the lineage was “very infrequent” in India.

Governors should play role of friend, guide: President #GS2 #Governance

President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday called upon Governors to play the role of a “friend, philosopher and guide” in their States. He was speaking at the 51st conference of Governors, Lieutenant-Governors and Administrators at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Mr. Kovind said Governors played an important role in creating awareness of national goals and ensuring participation of the public. According to a Rashtrapati Bhavan statement, he referred to India’s goals for climate action, including net zero emissions by 2070, as national goals that the Governors could motivate people to reach for.

The one-day conference, being held in-person after two years due to COVID-19, was also attended by Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and included presentations by States on their best practices.

‘Critical link’

Mr. Modi said the institution of the Governor was a “critical connect between the Centre and the State”. The Governor’s office should be “lively and active” and they should travel to remote villages, particularly in border States, to spend time with residents, he said.

Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu urged Governors to proactively “monitor and guide” State Governments in the implementation of Central programmes. Governance and public life should be marked by strict adherence to the philosophy and provisions of the Constitution, he added.

Xi warns against Cold War in Asia-Pacific #GS2 #IR

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned on Thursday against letting tensions in the Asia-Pacific region cause a relapse into a Cold War mentality.

His remarks on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum came weeks after the U.S., Britain and Australia announced a new security alliance in the region which would see Australia build nuclear submarines. China has harshly criticised the deal.

And in a separate illustration of strains within APEC, one Southeast Asian delegate said the group had so far failed to reach agreement on a U.S. bid to host the 2023 summit due to unmet demands from Russia.

Online meeting

Mr. Xi spoke in a pre-recorded video to a CEO Summit at APEC, which is being hosted by New Zealand in a virtual format. Mr. Xi is scheduled to participate in an online meeting with other Pacific Rim leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday.

In his speech, Mr. Xi said attempts to draw boundaries in the region along ideological or geopolitical lines would fail. His reference to the Cold War echoes Beijing’s oft-stated position that the U.S. should abandon that way of thinking in dealing with China.

“The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and division of the Cold War era,” Mr. Xi said.

He added the region should make sure to keep supply lines functioning and to continue liberalising trade and investment. “China will remain firm in advancing reform and opening up so as to add impetus to economic development.” The most pressing task in the region is to make an all-out effort to fight the pandemic and to emerge from its shadow as soon as possible, he said.

Meanwhile, the Southeast Asian delegate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to publicly discuss the issue, said Russia had refused to support the U.S. bid unless some of its diplomats were removed from a U.S. blacklist or allowed to enter the U.S. to participate in the APEC meetings.

Russia’s demands

The delegate said the U.S. is unlikely to agree to Russia’s demands because issues involving America’s security are considered “non-negotiable”. The delegate added that China had stayed silent on the U.S. offer.

If the 21 APEC leaders fail to reach a consensus on the U.S. bid by Friday, the delegate said, a paragraph in a draft of the summit communique welcoming the U.S. offer would have to be deleted.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said earlier this week that APEC was founded on consensus and that there was not yet a confirmed host for 2023.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney also spoke at the CEO summit, saying she believed that liberal democracies could improve global human rights by pressuring autocratic nations. She said businesses also needed to play a role. “If you can’t battle evil, you can at least try to tackle apathy,” Ms. Clooney said.

In all, APEC members account for nearly 3 billion people and about 60% of the world’s GDP. But deep tensions run through the unlikely group of 21 nations and territories that include the U.S., China, Taiwan, Russia, and Australia. Many of the countries in Asia endeavour to balance Chinese and U.S. influences on the economic and geopolitical fronts.

China claims vast parts of the South China Sea and other areas and has moved to establish a military presence, building islands in some disputed areas as it asserts its historic claims.

China, U.S. to increase climate cooperation #GS2 #IR #GS3 #Environment

The world’s top carbon polluters, China and the United States, agreed on Wednesday to increase their cooperation and speed up action to rein in climate-damaging emissions, signalling a mutual effort on global warming at a time of tension over their other disputes.

In back-to-back news conferences at UN climate talks in Glasgow, Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and U.S. counterpart John Kerry said the two countries would work together to accelerate the emissions reductions required to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

“It’s beneficial not only to our two countries but the world as a whole that two major powers in the world, China and the U.S., shoulder special international responsibilities and obligations,” Mr. Xie told reporters. “We need to think big and be responsible.”

“The steps we’re taking … can answer questions people have about the pace at which China is going, and help China and us to be able to accelerate our efforts,” Mr. Kerry said.

China also agreed for the first time to crack down on methane leaks, following the lead of the Biden administration’s efforts to curb the potent greenhouse gas. Beijing and Washington agreed to share technology to reduce emissions. Governments agreed in Paris to jointly cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, with a more stringent target of trying to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius preferred.

Both sides recognise that there is a gap between efforts taken globally to reduce climate pollution and the goals of the Paris deal, Mr. Xie said. “So we will jointly strengthen climate action and cooperation with respect to our respective national situations,” he said.