Cities & COP24

The 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference was the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), also known as the Katowice Climate Change Conference. It was held between December 2 and 15, 2018 in Katowice, Poland. Attended by around 200 countries including India, the Conference agreed on rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21), which will come into force in 2020, that is to say the rulebook on how governments will measure and report on their emissions-cutting efforts

In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as a framework for international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting the rise in average global temperature and the resulting climate change, and coping with impacts that were, by then, inevitable. The UNFCCC member countries adopted a protocol for achieving these objectives in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. There are now 192 Parties, including India, to the Kyoto Protocol. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at the COP7 in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 2001. Numerous COP meetings followed, culminating in the historic international climate agreement at the COP21 in Paris in December 2015. Pursuantly, countries publicly outlined what post-2020 climate actions they intended to take under the new international agreement, known as their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The climate actions communicated in these NDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement: to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

India’s commitments
India submitted its NDC to the UNFCCC during COP21 on October 1, 2015, which included, among others, the following tangible targets for itself:

  • To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation.
  • To adopt a climate friendly and a cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at corresponding level of economic development.
  • To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • To achieve about 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance including from Green Climate Fund (GCF).
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Urbanisation and Climate Change
The mutual influence of urbanization and climate change is very significant. While cities cover less than 2 per cent of the earth’s surface, they consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of all carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through energy generation, vehicles, industries, and biomass use. At the same time, cities and towns are highly vulnerable to climate change. The activities that cities would need to focus on, for facilitating achievement of India’s committed NDCs would cover various sectors such as planned housing, redevelopment of slums, improved availability of household amenities and assets, ambient air, water and wastewater management, solid waste management, energy management, disaster risk reduction, green spaces, and transportation.

Cities should aim at 40% area of green space. Assuming availability of 2,500 square metre(m2) gross area for each inhabitant, this would work out to 1,000 m2 green space to be set aside for each inhabitant

Planned housing
The significant rise in personal incomes of people has led to concomitant decline in the BPL population. Yet, the availability of climate safe housing for all remains a challenge. The total population of India in Census 2011 was 1,210.9 million, congregated into 246.7 million households, of which 167.8 million (68 per cent) households were rural and 78.9 million (32 per cent) urban. As against this, the number of houses being used (occupied) for residential purposes was 166.2 million and 78.5 million, for rural and urban, respectively. The shortfall in residential housing works out to 2.1 million, comprising 1.7 million for rural and 0.4 million for urban.
Out of the 244.64 million houses occupied for residence and residence-cum-other uses (rural plus urban), 130.12 million (53.2 per cent) were classified as ‘good habitable condition houses’, followed by 101.44 million (41.5 per cent) as ‘livable condition houses’, while the remaining 13.08 million houses (5.3 per cent) were ‘dilapidated’ habitable condition houses. Thus the shortfall of at least livable condition houses was (13.08+2.1) 15.18 million, as estimated by census 2011. The figure accepted by the Government of India for the housing shortage is 20 million as of 2015.
The building construction activity has been a fundamental for development of infrastructure and services. However, it has also become a major source of energy consumption and carbon emission. The newer options to address these challenges are included in the green building standards and encompass inter alia solar panelson rooftops, better ventilated structures, solar and electronic paints, and walls with embedded heating system etc.
Slums: Yet another challenge in the housing sector, which defies significant resolution, is the slums. As per Census 2011, out of 4,041 Statutory Towns, Slums were reported from 2,543 Towns (63 per cent), which hosted 13.75 million households. Slum households amounted to 17.4 per cent of the total urban households in Census 2011. The cities reporting slums increased from 1,743 to 2,613 during 2001-2011, with the number of residents in these slums increasing from 52.4 million to 64.5 million. Rental housing scheme could provide an effective resolution of the twin problems of vacant houses and proliferation of slums. Rental housing, particularly for the low-income groups, could also promote technological innovation in terms of low-cost housing construction by way of
innovative designing, prefabricated structures, etc.

Availability of Household Amenities and Assets
Cities also need to ensure the availability of household amenities and assets to each resident, such as safe (tap) water, electricity, toilet, bathroom, drainage connectivity, kitchen, computer and telephone. This current status, as drawn from Census 2011, is presented as ratio to the total number of households, for rural and urban parts of the country, in the table below.
It is apparent that a large number of households stood deprived of the basic amenities such as electricity, toilet, bathroom, drainage and kitchen, besides the other amenities such as telephone, internet and automobiles. While considerable improvement is expected to have happened in the last 7 years post-Census 2011, continued efforts are required to make these available to all households.

Air pollution
Air pollution has emerged as a major challenge in Indian cities and the problem becomes more complex due to multiplicity and complexity of the mix of emission sources, such as, industries, automobiles, generator sets, domestic fuel burning, stubble burning, road side dusts, construction activities and landfill sites.
The air quality is measured regularly from several cities under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP). The air quality data indicates that the sources of each of these pollutants vary, in terms of percent contributions from various sources. Of the pollutants, PM2.5 exceeds the standards the most, followed by PM10, NO2, CO, and Ozone. The only pollutant to comply the national standards is SO2.

Historically, habitats came up and developed on the shores of water bodies – oceans, rivers and lakes. However, unplanned urbanization, driven largely by industrialization, has made many urban stretches of rivers and lakes overstrained and overburdened by industrial waste, sewage and agricultural runoff. Such effluents are overburdening the rivers and lakes with toxic chemicals and wastes, consequently making the surface water resources unusable. These toxins are, in turn, finding their way into plants, fishes and animals, causing severe ecological toxicity at various trophic levels, besides impacting health and well being of the common man. Diminishing availability of surface water sources, coupled with decentralized availability of groundwater, is making the latter increasingly popular a source of water supply. As much as 89 per cent of ground water extracted is used in the irrigation sector, making it the highest category user in the country. This is followed domestic use (9 per cent) andIndustrial use (2 per cent). However, as the discharge from the subsoil sources is accelerating with inadequate recharge, the concentration of salts such as fluoride and arsenic in the aquifers is increasing, making such sources unsafe for potable purposes. 60 per cent of all districts in the country have issues of ground water availability, or quality, or both.
Cities need to adopt measures that would promote sustainable availability of clean water for the resident users on 24×7 basis. These would include water quality monitoring, water metering, grey water re-use, and water-saving devices such as dual flushing water closet, and drip irrigation systems, among others measures

Disaster Risk Reduction
India’s vast population of about 1.2 billion is spread over 7,933 cities and towns, besidesnearly 6.5 lakh villages. These habitats come under variety of geo-climatic zones, making the country prone to all kinds of disasters, including torrential rains, earthquake, cyclones and tsunami.As per the National Disaster Management Institute, more than 58.6 per cent of the landmass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity and over 40 million hectares (12per cent) of its land is prone to floods and river erosion among several other risks. Cities need to prepare with a comprehensive disaster management plan involving community-based programmes, early warning systems, among others.

Diminishing availability of surface water sources, coupled with decentralized availability of groundwater, is making the latter increasingly popular a source of water supply. As much as 89 per cent of ground water extracted is used in the irrigation sector, making it the highest category user in the country. This is followed by domestic use(9 per cent) andIndustrial use (2 per cent)

Energy, primarily electrical energy, is one of the primary drivers of social and economic activities in all cites.street lighting, water and wastewater treatment plants, besides household consumers. There is considerable scope for introducing higher level of efficiencies and environment-friendliness in the supply of energy. The various measures that cities could try for this purpose include intelligent street light management systems, smart grids, and harnessing the solar energy.

Green spaces
Green spaces make the habitats sustainable and enhance the health and well-being of residents. Green spaces are to be complimented with open spaces. Open space is any space without buildings or built-up structures and accessible to public, whereas green space is partly or completely covered with greenery including grass, trees, shrubs or other vegetation. Cities should aim at 40 per cent area of green space. Assuming availability of 2,500 square metre (m2) gross area for each inhabitant, this would work out to 1,000 m2 green space to be set aside for each inhabitant. For a population of 1 lakh, this works out to 10,000 ha of green space and would facilitate achievement towards NDC target of creating additional sink of 2.5-3.0 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030. The green space plan for a city should also make ample provisions for the ‘blue spaces’ that is, the
water bodies.

Solid Waste Management
Rapidly growing, but often unplanned, urbanization, changing lifestyles and lack of concern for the environment have resulted in increased volumes and changing composition of municipal solid waste.
The volume of wasteis projected to double from 64-72 million tonnes at present to 125 million tonnes by 2031. Untreated waste, being a mixture of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, from Indian cities lies for months and years at dumpsites, contributing to global warming by Green House Gas emissions. The Report of the Task Force of the Planning Commission (2014) places the biodegradable component of the total municipal solid waste in India at 51 per cent, which seems to be an underestimate.

India has scientifically engineered landfills only for hazardous waste. Other than that, most Indian cities practice open dumping at sites that were originally allocated for developing sanitary landfills. The major challenge in solid waste management today, however, goes beyond sanitary landfills. Recycling and reuse of the waste is the first and foremost necessity. Recycling of waste itself can cause environmental pollution and therefore, the technological interventions need to address this challenge as well.
Cities should adopt the newer and better technology options for sustainable management of solid waste. Some examples are:waste paper recycling; composting and vermiculture; plastic waste recycling; and e-waste management.

Transport sector is one of the major contributors for GHG, particularly CO2, emissions. Of the two major fuels for the automobiles, namely, petrol and diesel, it is the diesel that consumes the major share of fuel, being almost 70 per cent, while petrol consumes about
30 per cent. Cities need to undertake integrated planning for the transportation sector with the objective of reducing the adverse climate impact from the transport sector. These include adoption of alternate technologies for laying of roads utilizing plastics and other waste; promoting multi-modal transportation system; smart vehicle parking systems; and efficient public bicycle systems for cities.

Hundreds of millions of people in urban areas across the world will be affected by rising sea levels, increased precipitation, inland floods, more frequent and stronger cyclones and storms, and periods of more extreme heat and cold. In addition, most of the vital economic and social infrastructure, government facilities, and assets are located in cities. The most affected populations are the urban poor who live in vulnerable locations.
Keeping in sharp focus these risks, cities will have to address the climate challenge. This would include defining relevant city policies and action plans; regulations on urban planning and environment to adjust to manage climate change; swift response to climate disasters backed with adequate managerial capacity and resources; creation of public awareness on climate change-induced hazard mitigation. Additionally, cities would also need to focus on the social sectors, to ensure sustainability of the outcomes. When properly planned, capacitated, and managed through appropriate governance structures, cities can not only facilitate attainment of the COP24 commitments, but would also bring about sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth for their residents as well as for the country.

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