It is hot and getting hotter. Each month since October last year has set a record for the highest temperature in recorded history. Current global temperatures are around 1.38 °C above pre-industrial levels, rapidly closing in on the threshold of 1.5 °C agreed in Paris last December. The growing number of extreme weather events around the world are impacting millions of vulnerable people and highlighting the dangers ahead. But there is good news.
India, which accounts for about 4.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, has recently ratified the Paris climate change agreement. The Paris Agreement was signed by 185 nations, but needs to be ratified by 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions. India’s ratification is important. When EU joins the US, China and India over the next few days, the Paris Agreement will come into force.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet gave its approval for India to ratify on October 2, coinciding with the anniversary of the birth of India's independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. This is an important symbol, since Gandhi believed that we should all live lightly on this earth. As he said, the planet can provide for our need, but not our greed.
India is making a big push for solar, wind and hydro power. The government has committed that by 2030; at least 40 percent of its electricity will be generated from non-fossil sources. Manish Bapna, head of the World Resources Institute, commended India’s ambition: "India has one of the boldest renewable energy targets in the world, making it destined to be a major player in solar and wind markets."
However, there are challenges ahead. The Paris Agreement requires the rich nations to support India and other developing countries with funding for the additional costs of renewable energy over fossil fuels like coal. Nevertheless little funding has arrived yet. In addition, when India has tried to build its domestic industry to gear up production of solar cells, the US took a case in the World Trade Organisation. This is a case of trade agreements being allowed to override the need for urgent action on climate change. Trade reform is needed.
There is also growing business action on climate change. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, six hundred multinational companies are now factoring the Paris Agreement into their business plans, and companies like Apple are committing to 100% renewable power. Major Indian cities have joined the C40 initiative, committing to deep cuts in their emissions, at least partly to reduce respiratory problems resulting from pollution by coal-fired power stations.
However, not all the news on climate change is positive. The world is running out of time. There has been too much talk and too little action, and there are a number of laggards. Sadly, New Zealand is one of those. We have not yet ratified the Paris Agreement and our emissions have increased by more than 20% since 2008. They remain amongst the highest in the OECD per person. We can and should be doing better.
Barry Coates is the newest Green party MP. He will enter Parliament on October 10 and deliver his maiden speech on Wednesday October 12.