Another year of UN-sponsored climate talks and another year of stagnation where nothing was achieved. Yes, 2019 will go down as the year when a Swedish schoolgirl stood up to global leaders and told them to feel some shame but the latter, rather leaders of the world’s most important countries when it comes to climate change, have brushed her away. There have been record wildfires in Australia and the US, heatwaves in Europe, droughts in South America and rapidly shrinking ice levels at the Poles. It was believed that compromises and contingency plans would have been put into place at Madrid but after days of smashing heads together, nothing was achieved. The Paris deal of 2015 offered a framework for a new carbon market under the UN, but the details had not been worked out. Under it, those who have no choice but to pollute a bit would be free to trade carbon credits with developed countries. With no agreement reached, events like “Extinction Rebellion” in London, which brought the city to a standstill, are meaningless.
Partially, this is due to the Right-wing, nationalist turn the world has taken politically. Strongmen from our own Narendra Modi to Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and now possibly Boris Johnson are not ready to compromise on their nations and liabilities. After all, fighting climate change is an expensive business and nobody wants to foot the bill. It has become a game of passing the responsibility on and telling the other guy what to do. For some Westerners, it is about countries like India and even those in the African continent which are forced to put off their dreams of development “for the sake of the planet.” None of the countries will utter a peep to their own people, whose vast consumption outweighs that of many Indians. It is true that there has been a dramatic rise in global carbon levels over the past few years, thanks to China, but was it wrong on its part to haul hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty? India’s moral imperative is first and foremost to end hunger and starvation and ensure that no child is left behind. Unfortunately, this will have an environmental cost, one that this country will pay dearly due to rising sea levels. Yet, India will have to make some compromises if it is to reduce the extent of climate-induced suffering. There has been a pivot towards huge investments in renewable energy and exploring new technologies but this needs the developed world to be less hypocritical. (MR, Inputs: Agencies}.