Climate Change : India's Initiative

India's Initial National Communication to UNFCCC

Climate change has concerned scientists for many years, but it only became a major international issue in the late 1980s. The 1987 report of the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development focused international attention on the threat climate change posed to the global environment and economy. High-profile international conferences were held in Toronto (1988), the Hague (1989) and Noordwijk (1989) to discuss the issue. At the same time, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to bring the world's leading scientists together, in order to develop an international consensus on the science of climate change. In November 1990, scientists and politicians met at the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva to review the consensus findings of the IPCC, which were so compelling that government ministers made a commitment to negotiate an international convention on climate change to be signed at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Negotiations began in February 1991 and were completed in May 1992. The result was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by over 150 countries at the Earth Summit. The ultimate objective of the Convention is:

stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

India signed the UNFCCC in 1993 and initiated concerted efforts on several fronts to comply with the relevant obligations under the UNFCCC, including the submission of an initial national communication. India has a large territory represented by complex geography and climate patterns. The high regional and sector variability in levels of social and economic development leads to similar patterns in vulnerability and adaptation measures due to climate change impacts. This necessitates in-depth regional and sector studies to estimate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as to assess vulnerability and adaptation measures across the country. In order to fulfill the requirements of the UNFCCC, the Indian government, through its various institutions and resources, has strengthened its researches on the (1) science of climate system and climatic change, (2) impact on social and economic development and (3) response strategies.

India is largely dependent on fossil fuels for its energy requirements. At present, coal accounts for about 60% of fossil fuel use in calorific terms followed by petroleum products (30%) and the remaining by natural gas. The relative emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) for 1989-90 from coal, petroleum products and natural gas were estimated at 328.4 Tg/yr (65%), 162.7 (32%) and 17.5 (3%) respectively (ALGAS, India, 1998). Electricity generation in India accounts for the largest share of coal consumption as out of the total installed electricity generation capacity 70% is coal-based. Though the major energy requirements of the country are met by fossil fuel sources, 72% of the Indian population lives in rural areas dependent on agricultural and related activities, use biomass resources like wood, agricultural crop residues, dung-cakes etc. for energy. In India, the amount of biomass burnt annually is estimated to be about 426 Tg or about 6.3% of the global level of 6800 Tg/yr. India also has a large cattle population that contributes around 40% to total methane emissions from the country (ALGAS, India, 1998). Industrial growth and increasing urbanization in India have led to associated environmental changes. The vehicular population has grown at around 13% per year during the last decade. Motor vehicles are estimated to contribute 8% of the total fossil fuel related CO2 emissions in India against the world average of approximately 15% (ALGAS, India, 1998). A variety of industrial processes, which transform materials by physical or chemical processes, are responsible for emissions of various greenhouse gases like CO2, CH4 and N2O.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, has initiated a National Communication (NATCOM) project for communicating to the UNFCCC about anthropogenic emissions of GHGs from various sources and their removal by sinks not controlled by the Montreal Protocol. As a UNDP project funded under the Global Environment Facility (GEF), NATCOM is as per the commitment under UNFCCC.

The NATCOM process comprises comprehensive scientific and technical exercises for estimating GHG emissions from different sectors, reduce uncertainties in current estimations, develop sector- and technology-specific emission coefficients pertinent to India, and assess the adverse impacts of climate change and strategies for adapting to these impacts. NATCOM will also provide the general description of steps taken or envisaged to implement the convention. NATCOM will lead to developing a reliable database and capacity that will help to fulfill commitments under the Convention. The process is also expected to initiate efforts to identify areas of Targeted Research on climate change according to sustainable development plans of the country.

Compiled from NATCOM resource documents

ICRP Bulletin                                              Vol.1 • No.1                                               Page 7