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20th December Current Affairs

COP15 Montreal

(GS-III: Environment and Conservation)

In News:

Will biodiversity see a ‘Paris moment,’ remains a question, as the COP15 to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal, Canada, ended with limited success.

Background:

At COP 15, the members were supposed to provide political direction and momentum to the final stages of the negotiations on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

Once agreed unanimously by all 195 countries under the CBD, the GBF will be signed as a worldwide accord to implement concrete measures under 23 set targets by 2030.

Targets that are not recognized by one or more nations will be excluded from the Framework.

GBF is a new draft of the UN CBD to lead actions worldwide through 2030, to avoid biodiversity loss and preserve the environment.

Its suggested goals include lowering pesticide use by at least two-thirds and eliminating the most harmful subsidies, such as those for fisheries and agriculture.

The GBF’s 30×30 objective is to safeguard at least 30% of the earth, particularly places of importance – land and water – for biodiversity, by 2030.

Some of the key areas agreed upon at the COP15:

Conservation, protection and restoration:

Delegates committed to protecting 30% of land and 30% of coastal and marine areas by 2030, fulfilling the deal’s highest-profile goal, known as 30-by-30.

This will prevent species losses and bring them close to zero by 2030.

Money for nature:

Signatories aim to ensure $200 billion per year is channelled to conservation initiatives, from public and private sources.

Wealthier countries should contribute at least $20 billion of this every year by 2025, and at least $30 billion a year by 2030.

Big companies report impacts on biodiversity:

The parties agreed to large companies and financial institutions being subject to requirements to make disclosures regarding their operations, to promote biodiversity, reduce the risks posed by/to businesses and encourage sustainable production.

Harmful subsidies: Countries committed to identifying subsidies that deplete biodiversity by 2025, and then eliminate, phase out or reform them.

Pollution and pesticides:

The final language focuses on the risks associated with pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals and will focus on reducing the negative impacts of pollution to levels that are not considered harmful to nature.

Monitoring and reporting progress:

All the agreed aims will be supported by methods to monitor progress in the future, in a bid to prevent this agreement from meeting the same fate as the Aichi targets of 2010.

National action plans will be set and reviewed, following a similar format used for GHG emissions under U.N-led efforts to curb climate change.

Concerns:

The text provides no quantifiable target.

On pesticides, the text missed highlighting the reduction target and other forms of pest management.

Some observers objected to the lack of a deadline for countries to submit national plans.

According to civil society groups, GBF is turning out to be a “Global Biodiversity Fraud” or a “Global Biodiversity Funeral.”

India’s stance on the GBF:

The GBF should be framed in terms of science and equity.

The notion of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) must also apply to biodiversity.

The necessary assistance to vulnerable groups cannot be considered subsidies and may be rationalised.

A quantifiable worldwide pesticide reduction target is unnecessary and should be left up to individual governments to determine.

Without sufficient scientific evidence, the stated numerical target for coping with the impacts of invasive alien species on native biodiversity is not possible.

Conclusion:

Nature-based solutions to global warming and other environmental concerns will not be effective until developed countries take decisive action to meet their historical and current responsibilities.

Sustainable use and access and benefit sharing are vital to promoting biodiversity, complementing the efforts to conserve, protect and restore.

Underutilisation of Fund

In News:

As per the parliamentary committee, funds for schemes under the SHREYAS scheme have remained underutilized. In another News, the Union minister of Women and Child Development has told Lok Sabha that, 70% of the non-lapsable corpus Nirbhaya fund remains unutilized.

About Scholarship for Higher Education for Young Achievers Scheme (SHREYAS):

It is a central sector scheme under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) that provides financial assistance to students from Scheduled Castes (SC) and other communities for pursuing education.

It is proposed to be implemented during 2021-22 to 2025-26  and covers:

Top-class education for SCs

National Overseas Scholarship for SC students (NOS)

National Fellowship for SCs (NFSC)

Free coaching for SC and OBC students

About Nirbhaya fund:

It is a non-lapsable corpus fund of Rs 1000 crores given by the centre and utilized by states to ensure women’s safety.

Nodal Agency for the administration of funds: Department of Economic Affairs under the Ministry of Finance

Nodal Agency for expenditure: Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry

The schemes being implemented by WCD under this fund are:- One Stop Centre; Universalisation of Women Helpline; Mahila Police Volunteer

The schemes being implemented by Home Ministry under this fund are: Emergency Response Support System; Central Victim Compensation Fund

Implementation:

Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura and Daman & Diu have not spent any money under the fund

Only four states have used the Nirbhaya fund for the Mahila Police volunteer Scheme.

Google is building an AI model to support over 100 Indian languages

In News:

Google, the world’s most popular search engine, is working on making text and voice internet searches available in over 100 Indian languages

Google’s support:

Google was supporting small businesses and start-ups, investing in cybersecurity, providing education and skills training, and applying AI (Artificial Intelligence) in sectors like agriculture and healthcare.

Google is making search results pages bilingual in India by tapping into its advanced ML (Machine Learning)-based translation models and cross-language search technology.

Looking to the longer term, we’ve joined hands with the Indian Institute of Science on ‘Project Vaani’ – an initiative that aims at collecting and transcribing open source speech data from across all of India’s 773 districts, making it available through the Government of India’s Bhashini project.

The poor state of elementary education in Jharkhand

(GS-II: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education)

In News:

Following the pandemic, attendance of students in Jharkhand schools dropped to 58 per cent at the upper primary level and 68 per cent at the primary level, according to a survey ‘Gloom in the Classroom: The Schooling Crisis in Jharkhand’ conducted by Gyan Vigyan Samiti Jharkhand.

Details:

The report, prepared by economist Jean Dreze and researcher Paran Amitava slammed “decades of state apathy” towards education in the state and said it was “both a mistake and an injustice”.

Key findings of the report:

The survey showed that underprivileged and tribal children were left abandoned by the Education Department.

Out of the 138 schools surveyed for the report, 20 per cent had a single teacher.

At 55 per cent, para-teachers (teachers who are not qualified to teach) accounted for the majority of teachers at the primary level in these schools. At the upper-primary level, the figure was 37 per cent.

Not one of the schools surveyed had a functional toilet, electricity, or water supply.

Around 66 per cent of the primary schools had no boundary wall, 64 per cent did not have a playground and 37 per cent had no library books.

The majority of the teachers said that the school did not have adequate funds for the midday meals.

Issues prevailing in the Education sector:

Inadequate government Funding: The country spent 3% of its total GDP on education in 2018-19 according to the Economic Survey.

Pandemic impact

Digital Divide

Quality of Education: Only 16% of children in Class 1 can read the text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognize letters.

Lack of infrastructure

Inadequate teachers and their training

Huge dropout numbers

Way Forward:

  • Experiential Learning Approach
  • Implementation of National Education Policy
  • Education-Employment Corridor
  • Reducing the Language Barrier

Some Government Initiatives Related to Educational Reforms:

  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
  • Mid-Day Meal Scheme
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
  • PM SHRI Schools