BRICS’ Minister of Environment Meet: Members Show Changing Priorities

BRICS countries’ Environment Ministers gather to join heads on the various matters like politics and the environment, but off lately the discussions have been steering away from Climate Change and its mitigation

The day after India’s independence day saw BRICS countries’ Environment Ministers gather to join heads on the various matters like politics and the environment. The leaders, attending the 5th BRICS Minister of Environment Meeting held in Sao Paulo, Brazil talked about the importance of urban environmental management to improve the quality of life in cities. The environment ministers agreed to work together to resolve the multifaceted environmental issues faced by BRICS cities.

India: ‘Walk the talk’ on Nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the Indian environment minister boasted that the country has achieved the reduction in energy intensity while increasing the forest cover in the country. We have achieved reducing energy intensity by 25% and already 78GW of renewable energy has been made possible, while at the same time forest cover has increased by nearly 15,000 sq km and tree cover outside the forest is increasing rapidly” said the environment minister Prakash Javadekar.

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Energy intensity is the amount of energy used to propel the GDP by one percent or the energy used by the country to produce 1% of GDP. According to TERI, India has been seeing a drop in energy intensity of India’s GDP has been declining since 1981. NITI Aayog report has attributed the decrease is to energy efficiency of sectors like power distribution and other core sectors and overall integration of Renewable energy in the energy mix.

While Javadekar has been quick to laud them, but amongst the members India is still a large energy footprint and is amongst the top countries which are affected by Climate change-induced phenomena.

International Solar Alliance, National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and India’s Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDC) are a part of the solution but the pace has been slow.

Another major members like China, have also shown a reversal in their actions. China in 2018 recorded an increase in carbon emissions, for the first time since 2014. We have discussed in details how China has been getting a free pass for climate emissions. Its successful solar program piped by subsidies in the beginning, is one of its success story but health report cards of its citizen and air pollution (like India) is yet to be dealt with.

A new government led by Jair Messias Bolsonaro in Brazil, too have shaken the roots of sustainability among the BRICS nations. Presently the Chair of the group, Bolsonaro has been seen drifting away from the bone of contention- Climate Change in order to avoid ruffling any feathers against US. Bolsonaro is a well-known opponent of the concept of global warming and the Paris Climate Agreement and international media has coined ‘A second Trump’ for him.

Even Russia, has started to take its first step towards addressing Climate Change. In March this year, World’s fifth largest emitter, Russia started to think about considering climate legislation that could give it a framework for regulating carbon emissions for the first time.

The draft bill was to give the government powers to introduce greenhouse gas emission targets for companies, and charges for those that exceed them, with proceeds potentially going into a fund to support carbon-cutting projects. Till date, the country has stayed silent on Climate change but all may hopefully change as the Siberian forest fires ravaged one side of the once-frigid region and prompted the state to declare an emergency. The fires were not the only thing that kept the Russians awake, the heatwave in Alaska and floodings in many regions also wreaked havoc in Russia.

South Africa that averted the Day Zero in its country by the breadth of a hair, and has been on its heels ever since. An official report that was released last week pulled no punches and summarised that at least 5 extreme events are to hit the country and officials claim that the events are ongoing and have been damaging the country and its weather patterns. Tropical cyclone Idai alone destroyed crop over 780,000 hectares in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The African nations have been working to mitigate the effects of climate change but keep running into problems due to lack of funds and technical support. The report warns of one of the most devastating events is still impending.

BASIC Nations
BASIC Nations: Brazil, South Africa, India, and China.

From BRICS to BASIC

At the 28th Ministerial meeting on climate change in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Javadekar urges China, Brazil and South Africa to come together and initiate a global action against Climate Change.

BASIC comprises of Brazil, South Africa, India, and China.

“Brazil, South Africa, India, and China put together has one-third of the world’s geographical area and nearly 40% of the global population and when we unitedly speak in one voice, it shows our determination and when we unitedly speak in one voice this shows our determination and the BASIC Group could play an important part in making  Paris agreement accepted by all the countries in its true letter and spirit,” said Prakash Javadekar.

Well, the move though well-intentioned leaves a gap for action. Many international groups, BRICS or BASIC have been revolving around political and economic dialogues and stayed away from any uncomfortable topic like environment or Climate Change. We remain hopeful that soon this will change before any other extreme natural event happens.

Pictures credit: PIB

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