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Limiting mercury rise to 2 degrees can avoid droug
Limiting mercury rise to 2 degrees can avoid droug

Vishal Gulati

New Delhi, Nov 8 (IANS) Just limiting the rise in mercury by two degrees can make a difference, literally!

It can avoid droughts in India and devastating cyclones such as the one that recently hit Haiti, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Erik Solheim said on Tuesday.

In an exclusive online interview with IANS ahead of the first meeting of the Paris Agreement's governing body at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) at Marrakech in Morocco next week, he said: "The global warming train is now on track, but it must speed up. It's urgent."

"Yes! Marrakesh will be the action meeting," Solheim said.

"In Marrakesh we will celebrate the huge negotiating successes of Paris and later of Kigali, where we phased out dangerous climate gasses in refrigerators and air-conditioning systems (hydrofluorocarbons/HFCs)," he said.

"Now we need to turn to action. The good news is that action has started. Last year was the first in which we globally invested more in solar and wind energy than in oil and coal," Solheim said.

Born in 1955, the former Norwegian minister contributed to a number of peace and reconciliation efforts, most notably as the chief negotiator of the peace process in Sri Lanka. He has also received several awards for his work on the climate and environment, including UNEP's "Champion of the Earth" award.

For this green politician, who spent his lifetime fighting for the environment, the world has definitely started its transformation.

"We need to reach our goal of avoiding more than two degrees temperature rise. There are reasons for optimism. Our common action will mean less chance of extreme heat and drought as India experienced earlier this year. And fewer devastating cyclones as the one which recently hit Haiti."

After the amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was endorsed in the Rwandan capital of Kigali on October 15, Solheim told this IANS correspondent in an interview that India wanted fair deal in Kigali and got it.

"India knows that the subcontinent is more vulnerable to climate change than many other parts of the world. So India has desired to phase out the dangerous climate gases. Understandably, India as a main player in international affairs has also wanted a fair deal, a deal which also serves Indian development. That is exactly what we have got," Solheim had said.

On the climate talks in Marrakech from November 7 to 18 in the context of the developing and developed countries, Solheim said the developing world is more vulnerable to climate change than the developed.

"Heat and extreme weather is a bigger concern in the south than in the north. South Asia and small island development states have contributed little to emissions causing climate change, yet must expect the most severe consequences."

"This is why we need to act in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. And that's why the most developed countries must contribute more financially and share technology," the UN environment chief said.

Fortunately, he said, many developing nations are taking the lead in the green shift.

"The world's biggest solar plant has opened in Morocco, soon to be surpassed by Dubai. Costa Rica has doubled its tree cover in the last two decades, while Brazil has reduced deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent. Uruguay is nearly 100 percent renewable in its energy mix, while Chile has seen the lowest price for solar energy and is running the Santiago Metro partly with solar energy."

According to him, China is global leader in solar and wind energy as well as in green high-speed rail. "There are many examples of the leadership provided by the developing countries."

Solheim believed India is also on track to reduce its carbon emissions.

"It was extremely encouraging that Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi signed the Paris Agreement and made a point of doing it on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday (October 2), so that the old wise man can inspire us all. I admire the strong commitment by the Indian government to turn to renewable energy, particularly solar."

"Cleaning the air of the big Indian cities provide huge opportunities for action which will be both locally and globally helpful. The Ganga river clean-up is another process with major global and local benefits," he said.

"Tree planting in the Himalayas and along the Ganga will keep water and soil and reduce pollution, while abating climate change at the same time."

As for the biggest polluters like China and the US, he said: "We will see a huge turnaround in their economies providing enormous business opportunities. Growth and environment will go hand in hand."

However, an optimistic Solheim thinks the Marrakech climate talks hold the key to the bright future despite the Paris Agreement becoming international law on November 4.

"We are making international law through binding political commitments which states will deliver upon. The Montreal Protocol protecting the ozone layer may serve as a role model. It has been immensely successful. The ozone hole in the Arctic is now in decline."

Solheim said stronger action is needed in energy, agriculture, transport and forestry, adding the good news is that this will provide a fantastic opportunity to create millions of new clean and exciting green jobs.

The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties and the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12) are scheduled to be held in Bab Ighli in Marrakech till November 18.

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