Current Affairs 1st November

No time-bound pacts on climate change at G-20 #GS2 #IR #GS3 #Environment

India pushed for “safeguarding the interests of the developing world” as Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the G-20 summit at sessions on climate change and sustainable development on Sunday, said G-20 Sherpa and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.

No time-bound agreements were reached as leaders of the world’s top economies ended the summit in Rome, recommitting to providing $100 billion a year to counter climate change, and pushing for greater vaccine equality to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. G-20 countries also committed to ending international financing for all new coal plants by the end of 2021, but made no mention of domestic commitments on ending coal power generation.

The final communique, agreed upon after negotiations overnight, spoke only of the “key relevance of achieving global net zero” on carbon emissions “by or around mid-century”.

Amongst the other highlights of the statement was a decision to pursue the recognition of more vaccines by the World Health Organization under a “One Health approach” for the world, and providing finances and technology for vaccine production at “mRNA Hubs” in South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, and to mobilise more international public private financing for “green” projects. Mr. Modi later described the summit as “fruitful”.

Addressing the media, G-20 Sherpa and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal hailed the communique for acknowledging India’s concerns on climate justice.

Punjab bats for conservation of Indus river dolphin #GS3 #Environment

The census of one of the world’s most threatened cetaceans, the Indus river dolphin ( Platanista gangetica minor ) — a freshwater dolphin that is found in Beas river, is all set to commence in the winter as part of the Centre’s pan-India project. However, Punjab’s wildlife preservation wing has gone a step ahead to not only protect the dolphins but also their natural habitat.

The Indus river dolphin is classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and, until recently, it was believed that these dolphins were endemic to Pakistan. But in 2007, a remnant but viable population of Indus dolphins was discovered in Punjab’s Harike wildlife sanctuary and in the lower Beas river.

Since its discovery, research is being done by Punjab’s Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation in partnership with WWF-India providing an understanding of current distribution, habitat use and population abundance. Indus river dolphin was declared the State aquatic animal of Punjab in 2019.

“Enumeration of freshwater dolphins is being undertaken as a nationwide project of the Central Government. At the State level, the Punjab Government has taken the initiative for conservation of dolphins and its habitat,” Gitanjali Kanwar, Coordinator – Rivers, Wetlands and Water Policy, WWF-India, told The Hindu . The project is to be implemented over five years.

“Alongside research, importance will be on engaging the riparian communities by encouraging community-led biological monitoring. Villages around the hot spot sites of dolphin occurrence will be developed as models for community-led conservation. Extension programmes will be held to develop a group of dedicated individuals, called ‘Beas-Dolphin Mitras’ [friends and protectors] of the river Beas. The project also will embark on dolphin eco tourism. We will adopt a participatory process to address various water conservation-related issues, including protection of freshwater habitats and species.

Ahead of COP26, Indian site highlights emissions gap #GS3 #Environment

A day ahead of the commencement of the 26th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) in Glasgow, Scotland, India has officially endorsed a website, made by Indian climate experts, that lists the historical carbon dioxide emissions of developed countries.

The database aims to highlight the disparity between the emissions of developed and developing countries with countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia and those in Western Europe shown as having a net carbon debt while developing countries such as India and China having net credit.

The key fact that the database highlights is that it is only fair that developed countries must commit to steeper targets towards curbing emissions than developing countries.

India is the third largest emitter of carbon emissions annually but the sixth largest when historical emissions are considered, and when accounting for the size of its population it is among the lowest per capita emitters. This underlines India’s demands for climate justice being at the heart of negotiations and its reluctance to agree to a fixed time frame to reach net zero, or when — in balance — it will cease to emit greenhouse gases.

“The website is intended to debunk the narrative provided by many developed countries, and global non-government organisations that focus attention continually on what developing countries must do, constantly demanding greater commitment and action from them,” says an accompanying press statement from the Environment Ministry.

“Welcome the scientific initiative, Climate Equity Monitor, ( which went live today. Its focus on equity & climate action from a data and evidence-based perspective will encourage vigorous discussion on the crucial issue and engage experts from all nations,” Mr. Yadav tweeted from his official handle.

The Climate Equity Monitor, as the site is called, is aimed at monitoring the performance of Annex-I Parties under the UNFCCC (developed countries) based on the “foundational principles” of the Climate Convention.

The performance and policies of the Non Annex-I Parties (developing countries) will be provided for comparison, the statement notes.

The website was conceptualised and developed by the Climate Change Group at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Department at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, with other independent researchers.

Informal sector shrank sharply in 2020-21 #GS3 #Economy

Signalling a greater shift towards formalisation of the economy, the share of the large informal sector in overall economic activity dipped sharply in 2020-21 even as informal workers continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic’s adverse effects, the SBI said in a research report.

Concluding that the share of the informal economy may have shrunk to no more than 20% of the economic output from about 52% in 2017-18, SBI group chief economic adviser Soumya Kanti Ghosh termed this “a positive development” amid the pandemic.

There are wide variations in the formalisation levels in different sectors but the SBI estimated that the informal economy is possibly at a maximum of 15% to 20% of formal GDP in 2020-21.

An IMF policy paper earlier this year estimated that the share of India’s informal economy in the Gross Value Added (GVA) was at 53.9% in 2011-12 and improved only marginally to 52.4% in 2017-18.

As per a National Sample Survey (NSS) of 2014, around 93% of the workforce earned their livelihoods as informal workers. The informal sector consists of “own-account” or unorganised enterprises employing hired workers, with the highest share of such unorganised activity being in agriculture where holdings are small and fragmented.

Agriculture takes a hit

The SBI projections suggest that the informal agriculture sector has shrunk from 97.1% of the sector’s GVA in 2017-18 to just 70%-75% in 2020-21, driven by the increased penetration of credit through Kisan credit cards. Real estate has also seen a significant dip in informal activity from 52.8% in 2017-18 to 20%-25% last year.

The report estimated that about Rs. 1.2 lakh crore of cash usage has been formalised since the COVID-19 pandemic. Formal agriculture credit flows have grown Rs. 4.6 lakh crore between 2017-18 and 2020-21, with digital payments for petrol and diesel rising around Rs. 1 lakh crore in the same period.

Mooting a rethink of high fuel taxes, the SBI’s top economist said: “We believe that the Government should ensure that the existing tax structure is favourable to this tax paying population that constitutes 8.5% but cross subsidises 91.5% of the population. To that extent, the existing tax structure particularly of indirect taxes on fuel should not be consumption negative.”

Navy takes delivery of warship #GS3 #Defence

The first ship of the four Project-15B state-of-the-art stealth guided missile destroyers, Visakhapatnam, being built at the Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL), was delivered to the Navy last Friday. Delayed by three years, the ships will be commissioned very soon.

“The 163-metre-long warship has a full load displacement of 7,400 tonnes and a maximum speed of 30 knots. The overall indigenous content of the project is approximately 75%,” the Navy said on Sunday.

The contract for the construction of the ships was signed in January 2011 at a project cost of about Rs. 29,643.74 crore.

In-house design

The design of the ships has been developed in-house by the Directorate of Naval Design and are a follow-on of the Kolkata class (Project 15A) destroyers.

The four ships are named after major cities from all four corners of the country — Visakhapatnam, Mormugao, Imphal and Surat, the Navy said.

The keel of Visakhapatnam was laid in October 2013 and the ship was launched in April 2015. These ships are equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and long-range Surface-to-Air missiles (SAM).

The ship has several indigenous weapons systems like medium range SAMs, indigenous torpedo tube launchers, anti-submarine indigenous rocket launchers and 76-mm super rapid gun mount, the Navy said.

“The induction of the destroyer, despite the COVID challenges, is a tribute to the collaborative efforts of a large number of stake-holders and would enhance the maritime prowess in the Indian Ocean Region.”

Series production

The design of Project 15B has largely maintained the hull form, propulsion machinery, many platform equipment and major weapons and sensors as the Kolkata class to benefit from series production.

However, these ships feature enhanced stealth features over the earlier class through shaping of hull and use of radar transparent deck fittings which make them difficult to detect and also feature significant advances in automation and networking.

These ships are propelled by four gas turbines in Combined Gas and Gas (COGAG) configuration and have maximum endurance of 4000 nm at economical speed of 14 knots.

G20 ends without time-bound promise #GS2 #IR

Addressing the media, G-20 Sherpa and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal hailed the communique for acknowledging India’s concerns on climate justice.

“We have also been able to push the commitment of the developed world to provide $100 billion every year through from now until 2025. And the commitment of all the countries to mobilise greater levels of capital for the less developed countries and the emerging economies,” he said, referring to the previous commitments made at the Paris agreement, which have not yet been fulfilled.

Climate negotiators from the U.S., EU and U.K. had made a number of visits to Delhi over the past few months, pressing for India to update its commitments (NDCs) to include its target of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030, and to set a date for ending the use of coal in power plants.

However, Mr. Goyal said it would be necessary for developed countries to achieve much quicker emission cuts so that there is more “carbon space for the developing countries to pursue their development agenda”.

“There are no adequate technologies to be able to absorb large amounts of clean energy into the grids and to maintain grid stability. And therefore, we will have to look at more technology before we can identify a year for Net Zero,” Mr. Goyal said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the failure of the G-20 summit to set a specific date for countries to achieve “Net Zero” carbon emissions had left his hopes “unfulfilled” but “not buried”, as the joint communique set the stage for tough negotiations at the COP26 Climate Change summit in Glasgow.