The papers in this special topic of Sino-India Monitor on NDCs, authored by a select group of researchers from both China and India, provide a perspective on areas of common interest for societies in both countries as well as a focus on common objectives defining global action. Climate change impacts are creating serious consequences for both countries, which need no elaboration at this stage. However, projections for the future would certainly indicate that China and India need not only to embark on a programme of adequate and widespread adaptation measures, but given the fact that both countries would in the future account for a sizeable share of global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), they also need a mutually coordinated approach for mitigation measures, including possibly the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS). It must also be remembered that mitigation of GHGs would carry substantial co-benefits for both societies, since along with reduction of GHG emissions local air quality would also improve proportionately. It is well known that the cities and other areas in both China and India have serious problems of air pollution, which has significantly harmful effects on human health, leading to higher morbidity and mortality. In order to ensure that China and India coordinate the exchange of information and knowledge in a manner that serves the interest of both the countries equally, it is proposed that a group of researchers and research institutions in both countries develop and launch an initiative to regularly monitor and analyse the progress of climate related actions in both nations.

The agreement reached at COP21 in Paris, and which formally came into existence in November, 2016, is essentially centered around NDCs of different countries which are part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Irrespective of the review mechanism which is decided on and the frequency of possible reviews, it is important that civil society and research organisations assess the contributions intended as part of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and evaluate these against the RCP2.6 (Representative Concentration Pathway) which has been used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) as the scenario most likely to ensure keeping temperature increase to below 2 °C by the end of this century relative to pre-industrial levels. Since the worlds ability or otherwise of moving along the RCP2.6 scenario is to be seen against the background essentially of the sum total of NDCs submitted by governments, it is important for global society to know how far we are from RCP2.6, based on these contributions and what would be involved both if we do not adhere to this pathway in terms of impacts and what would be the steps to be taken to move along this pathway. We also need to evaluate how we might actually raise the level of global ambition to reach RCP2.6 and create adequate momentum to move along it.

One of the decisions taken by COP21 in Paris was to request the IPCC to prepare a special report which focuses on the impacts and other aspects of a target limited to 1.5 °C as the permissible rise in temperature by the end of the 21st century. The IPCC in its recent plenary sessions held in Nairobi has confirmed its plans to undertake this exercise, which clearly emphasizes the urgency of adequate emissions reduction and the need for monitoring global action on a continuous basis. As the IPCC AR5 has clearly highlighted, if the world has to meet even the difficult target of 2 °C relative to preindustrial levels and we delay action, this goal could possibly recede from the realm of feasibility. The technology and actions that would be required to maintain a 2 °C limit may go beyond the capacity of current systems, infrastructure and technological capabilities to achieve. A target of 1.5 °C if adopted in the coming few years would be even more difficult to achieve.

1. Review of recent developments

The proposed initiative involving Chinese and Indian professionals would carry out a careful assessment of prominent events which constitute losses and damages in different parts of the world and which could possibly be linked to the impacts of climate change. Since it would not be possible to link and assign attribution of any of these events to human induced climate change, the project would merely discuss the types of losses and damages that were assessed as having occurred, without attempt at attribution. This part of the review would only be provided as background information, so that readers and global society at large understand the nature of these losses and damages and the possibility of similar events in the future with higher frequency and intensity as projected by the AR5 and the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX).

In this section there would also be a review of significant developments in the debate over climate change and positions taken by governments and other stakeholders including leaders of business, thought leaders and major research institutions and think tanks. It would be useful for both China and India to continuously assess how global opinion and thought on the subject evolves against the backdrop of increasing knowledge and information on climate change.

2. RCP2.6 scenario

The RCP2.6 scenario will be assessed carefully under this section, highlighting not only the exact trajectory of this pathway but also the kinds of actions that would bring about its realisation over time, and which would constitute the underpinnings of this scenario. The importance of RCP2.6 would be highlighted in relation to the aspirational 2 °C target set by the global community as the limit of increase in temperature that needs to be the goal of climate policy and actions globally.

The RCP2.6 scenario incorporates a range of options to reduce emissions of GHGs, and adherence to these options and implementing the technological solutions involved need to be assessed on a dynamic basis. The SIMIAN initiative should lay down a clear process by which such evaluation of the RCP2.6 characteristics and adherence to them would be carefully evaluated.

3. The importance of limiting the extent of warming

The review carried out under the UNFCCC during the period 2013–2015 has not taken a position on whether the world should limit warming to 1.5 °C or 2 °C as envisaged earlier. Further, the subject of 1.5 °C or 2 °C would be discussed under this section, simply because in the light of further information on the impacts of climate change, it is entirely possible that the global community would decide that the limit of warming should not go beyond 1.5 °C. However, as provided in the AR5 there are very few scenarios which have identified the actions and the pathway by which limit of temperature increase could be set at 1.5 °C. Further, drawing on the work of the AR5 the reasons for concern as well as specific impacts included in the AR5 would be highlighted in this section to establish that lowering of risks is important to human society and ecosystems, and the elimination, reduction or delay in specific impacts associated with different levels of climate change should be achieved.

Under this section actions to adapt to the impacts of climate change would also be reviewed, and an assessment put forward on how there would be limits to the extent to which adaptation may be possible to specific types and levels of impacts. Focus would also be provided on the most vulnerable sections of society as well as the most vulnerable ecosystems which would be threatened by the impacts of climate change.

Both China and India would have serious problems associated with sea level rise. In the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) the IPCC had identified megadeltas of the world as the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and specifically sea level rise. Megadeltas include locations such as Shanghai and the entire Kolkata–Howrah region. Other impacts of climate change include serious consequences for availability of water, maintaining yields in agriculture and preventing risks to human health as a result of climate change impacts. Both societies will have to come up with institutional, technological and knowledge based processes by which adaptation can be undertaken on an adequate basis.

4. A study of NDCs

The NDCs of specific countries would be studied, and those which have prominent features of relevance to global society at large would be highlighted. Specific actions which are of special relevance would also be drawn out from the NDCs carefully evaluated and commented on.

All the NDCs submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat would then be aggregated to arrive at an assessment of actual reduction of GHG emissions that would be achieved by 2020, 2025 and 2030. In some cases where specific reduction in GHG emissions is not specified, this would be computed as part of the proposed China–India collaborative project by clearly stating the assumptions made for this purpose. A commentary would be provided on the deviation of the aggregate INDCs as calculated from the RCP2.6 scenario.

5. Using up the GHG emissions budget

One of the most important features of the AR5 was the computation of the budget of total GHG emissions which would ensure limiting temperature increase to 2 °C by the end of the 21st century. At the beginning of industrialization the world had a budget of 2900 Gt of CO2 equivalent, and by 2011, 1900 Gt had already been consumed. In this section a computation would be carried out of the current value of this budget having been exhausted and what would be remaining if the 2 °C target was to be adhered to. An assessment would be made on the basis of current emission trends of how soon this budget would be exhausted. On that basis some specific proposals would be put forward on how the duration for exhausting the budget could be extended. There would also be some discussion on the distribution of emissions to be used by Annex I and non-Annex I countries on the basis of equity, capability and in conformity with the common but differentiated responsibility criterion laid down in the UNFCCC.

China and India need to jointly highlight the deviation that is taking place on the part of specific societies from the principle of common but differentiated responsibility as well as the ethical dimensions of climate change action.

6. Mitigation possibilities

A review would be carried out of mitigation actions implemented and intended in different parts of the world. An assessment would also be made of technologies in respect of their feasibility and economic characteristics, including those already developed, those on the horizon and likely to be used in the very near future and those under development. Institutional issues related to mitigation options will also be reviewed and discussed in this section.

7. Financial & policy aspects

In this section a detailed assessment would be carried out of finances deployed in the previous six months both for adaptation and mitigation. An assessment would also be carried out of global sources of finance such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Attaining the RCP2.6 scenario will also be linked and reviewed against the finances that would be required to facilitate this development at the global level. In other words, what kind of financial commitments would be required for reaching the RCP2.6 scenario with a high level of probability.

Finally in this section a detailed summary would be provided and informed projections made on where the world is going and what would be the overall outlook in respect of the RCP2.6 scenario being reached globally.

It is critically important that the research and scientific community both in China and India get actively engaged in follow up activities related to the Paris agreement. It is in that context that the proposed joint initiative would be a unique opportunity to bring researchers from the two countries together to work on a collaborative basis in an effort to serve global and national interests. This would also be a unique opportunity for South–South cooperation which can be showcased and perhaps replicated in other parts of the world.

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Published on 15/05/17
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