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2nd November Current Affairs

COP26 climate conference

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

The UK will host the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference from October 31 to November 12.

Details:

This year marks the 26th Conference of Parties (thus the name COP26) and will be held in the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.

What is the Conference of Parties?

COP comes under the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which was formed in 1994.

The UNFCCC was established to work towards “stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”

COP members have been meeting every year since 1995 (COP1 was held in 1995 in Berlin).

It laid out a list of responsibilities for the member states which included:

Formulating measures to mitigate climate change.

Cooperating in preparing for adaptation to the impact of climate change.

Promoting education, training and public awareness related to climate change.

According to the UNFCCC, COP26 will work towards four goals:

Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.

Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.

Mobilise finance: To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.

‘Finalise the Paris Rulebook’: Leaders will work together to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.

About UNFCCC:

The UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which marked the beginning of the international community’s first concerted effort to confront the problem of climate change.

Known also as the Rio Convention, the UNFCCC established a framework for action to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere.

The UNFCCC entered into force in 1994, and nearly all of the world’s nations have now signed on.

It is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement. It is also the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Bottom trawling and associated issues

(GS-III: Conservation and Pollution related issues)

In News:

The Indian High Commissioner in Colombo has assured Sri Lanka’s northern fishermen that he would convey their concerns over bottom trawling by Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait to both New Delhi and Tamil Nadu and look at some immediate measures to address the problem.

What’s the issue now?

The Indian side had agreed twice — in 2010 and 2016 — to phase out and end the practice of bottom trawling. But it has not ended yet.

What is the issue with Bottom trawling?

Bottom trawling, an ecologically destructive practice, involves trawlers dragging weighted nets along the sea-floor, causing great depletion of aquatic resources.

Bottom trawling captures juvenile fish, thus exhausting the ocean’s resources and affecting marine conservation efforts. This practice was started by Tamil Nadu fishermen in Palk Bay and actively pursued at the peak of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

Solution to the bottom trawling- deep-sea fishing plan:

The solution to the bottom trawling issue lies in transition from trawling to deep-sea fishing.

The activity of catching fish that live in the deep parts of the sea/ocean is called deep-sea fishing.

The boats are designed in such a way that fishermen get access to the deeper parts of the ocean and fish species.

It is practiced worldwide, especially in the coastal areas with no ecological damage.

The depth of water should be at least 30 meters to be considered a deep sea fishing zone.

Efforts by Government- the Palk Bay scheme:

Launched in July 2017 under the Blue Revolution programme.

The scheme is financed by the Union and the State Governments with beneficiary participation.

It had envisaged the provision of 2,000 vessels in three years to the fishermen of the State and motivate them to abandon bottom trawling.

India will achieve net zero emissions by 2070

In News:

In an effort to battle climate change, PM Modi has made the following announcements at the ongoing COP26 summit in Glasgow:

India will achieve net zero emissions latest by 2070.

By 2030, India will ensure 50% of its energy will be sourced from renewable sources.

India will also reduce its carbon emissions until 2030 by a billion tonnes.

It will also reduce its emissions intensity per unit of GDP by less than 45%.

India would also install systems to generate 500 gigawatt of renewable energy by 2030, a 50 GW increase from its existing target.

What needs to be done ahead?- Suggestions by India:

In the spirit of climate justice, rich developed countries ought to be providing at least $1 trillion in climate finance to assist developing countries and those most vulnerable.

Principles of Equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) and, recognition of the very different national circumstances of countries be respected.

Sustainable modes of living being practised in certain traditional communities ought to be made part of school curricula.

The lessons from India’s efforts at adaptation in programmes such as Jal Jeevan mission, Swach Bharat mission and mission ujwala ought to be popularized globally.

Focus should be on climate adaptation as much as mitigation.

Which countries have announced net-zero targets?

In 2019, the New Zealand government passed the Zero Carbon Act, which committed the country to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The UK’s parliament passed legislation requiring the government to reduce the UK’s net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100 per cent.

US president Joe Biden announced that the country will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

World War Zero was launched in 2019 to bring together unlikely allies on climate change and with the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions in the country by 2050.

The European Union plan “Fit for 55”, the European Commission has asked all of its 27 member countries to cut emissions by 55 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

China announced that it would become net-zero by the year 2060 and that it would not allow its emissions to peak beyond what they are in 2030.

What does net-zero mean?

Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality, does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero. That would be gross-zero, which means reaching a state where there are no emissions at all, a scenario hard to comprehend.

Basically, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Feasibility of a blanket ban on firecrackers

(GS-III: Conservation and Pollution related issues)

In News:

The Supreme Court has said a blanket ban on firecrackers may not be possible.

Details:

The Court was setting aside a Calcutta High Court order which had ordered a complete ban on firecrackers on October 29.

What has the Supreme Court said?

Strengthen the mechanism to stop misuse.

Measures ought to be in place to prevent the use of toxic chemicals in firecrackers.

Chief Secretaries, top administrative and police officials would be held personally liable if banned varieties of firecrackers were found to be used in any of the States (Supreme Court’s 29th October order).

The judgment (Arjun Gopal Case):

The court’s October 23, 2018 judgment banned the sale and production of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR and regulated the use of firecrackers across the country.

Barium-based firecrackers were specifically banned.

Online sale of firecrackers has been completely banned.

The verdict had come in response to a plea seeking a ban on manufacturing and sale of firecrackers across the country to curb air pollution.

Recent observations made by the Supreme Court on the use of firecrackers:

The Supreme Court said it cannot infringe the right to life of other citizens “under the guise of employment of few” while considering a ban on firecrackers.

Have to strike a balance between employment, unemployment and right to life.

How do firecrackers work?

Firecrackers use fuel and oxidisers to produce a combustion reaction, and the resulting explosion spreads the material in a superheated state. The metal salts in the explosive mix get ‘excited’ and emit light.

What is the controversy?

Metals in the mix, which have a varying arrangement of electrons in shells outside their nucleus, produce different wavelengths of light in this reaction, generating spectacular colours. But as many studies show, the burning of firecrackers is an unusual and peak source of pollution, made up of particles and gases.

One study in Milan, Italy, quantified the increase in the levels of several elements in the air in one hour as 120 times for Strontium, 22 times for Magnesium, 12 times for Barium, 11 times for Potassium and six times for Copper.

The Central Pollution Control Board conducted a study in Delhi in 2016, and found that the levels of Aluminium, Barium, Potassium, Sulphur, Iron and Strontium rose sharply on Deepavali night, from low to extremely high.

Similar episodic spikes have been recorded in China and the U.K. Pollution from firecrackers affects the health of people and animals, and aggravates the already poor ambient air quality in Indian cities.

This has resulted in litigation calling for a total ban on firecrackers, and court orders to restrict the type of chemicals used as well as their volume. Many crackers also violate legal limits on sound.

Can green crackers make a difference?

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, through its National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI), Nagpur, has come out with firecrackers that have “reduced emission light and sound” and 30% less particulate matter using Potassium Nitrate as oxidant.

These crackers are named Safe Water Releaser, which minimises Potassium Nitrate and Sulphur use, but matches the sound intensity of conventional crackers, Safe Minimal Aluminium , where Aluminium use is low and Safe Thermite Crackers with low Sulphur and Potassium Nitrate.

Need of the hour:

While deciding on a ban on firecrackers, it is imperative to take into account the fundamental right of livelihood of firecracker manufacturers and the right to health of over 1.3 billion people of the country.