Now that COP26 has commenced in Glasgow, there has been quite a hustle bustle in the climate circles. Lots of new publications and data are pouring in and several pre-COP and during-COP meetings are held with leads taken by policy pundits, investors, researchers and the activists. Debate between developing and developed world however continues. Some describe this as a “climate divide”. Lobbying is already happening based on the geo-political interests and the power of leveraging. Perhaps this is the best time for the negotiators as they have the most enviable positions to make their buck.
My Professor friend invited me last week to join at a “climate party” organized by some of the famous and influential people in south Bombay. I asked Professor who those people were. I was curious to know about their interest in climate change. But I was quite disappointed when Professor said that for these people there wasn’t much difference between weather and climate. Idea was to drink and dine with some new global conversations other than COVID-19.
“Don’t get disappointed Dr Modak, there will be few like us who know the climate lingo” Professor said in an assuring tone. I wasn’t excited though. “Oh, so this is close to the Rotary and Lions parties that I generally try to avoid”, I said to myself.
We got out of the elevator and reached the banquet hall of the Taj where the climate party was held. A gentleman who had a square face like a CFO of a corporate, with a smirk, introduced himself. He asked if we used the elevator. When we nodded yes, he said that he chose to use the staircase instead to avoid GHG emissions that would be otherwise generated due to electricity consumption. He looked at us through his expensive bifocals as climate unfriendly or climate insensitive creatures. I noticed that most joining the climate party were not using the elevator.
I started wondering that now that we have created this elevator as an asset, shouldn’t we be using this asset for our comfort till end of its life and maintain well? I asked Professor what will happen to the recently built coal based thermal power plants – will we stop using these assets or abandon them in the interest of climate change? Professor muttered something. It sounded like ‘ oh Dr Modak, it’s a case of stranded assets and that’s another story’.
We met several more people near the counter where wine was served. I asked for a glass of wine and requested if they have a Grover or Sula in the interest of atmanirbharata (meaning self-reliance). The man supervising the bar said that they were serving wines only from those who were members of the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA). IWCA if you don’t know is a collaborative working group of environmentally committed wineries taking a science-based approach to reduce carbon emissions across the wine industry. Their goal is to share best practices that mitigate climate change impacts in vineyard and winery operations so that they can act collectively to decarbonize the global wine industry—applying direct solutions that avoid purchasing carbon offset credits.
The man at the counter said all this, nonstop. “So Gentlemen, options are Familia Torres from Spain or Jacksons from California . Both are gold members of IWCA”. He gave these two options.
I was wondering what happens to the GHG emissions arising through the transportation of the bottles from these far-off places. I was not surprised therefore to see that Professor made a choice for Familia Torres – as this location in Spain is much closer to Bombay compared to California.
The air of conversations in the center of the banquet hall was perfumed. I could hear the terms like NetZero, transitioning in and transitioning out, climate finance, climate justice etc. A woman wearing gold rimmed spectacles with a chain asked me” Hey, have we met before? Your face looks familiar” and before I could answer, she said “Well it doesn’t matter really”. I gave an awkward smile and introduced myself.
“Well Dr Modak, what is your view on climate justice?” Honestly, I wasn’t expecting such a loaded question.
The Woman continued while sipping Jackson wine of California and said “Dr Modak, accordingly to me, transition towards decarbonization today is simply unjust and very unfair. We in the developing world must fight together”
Just to sound technical I told her that developed countries who are responsible for major share of global GHG emissions on per capita basis, have to honour their commitment of 100+ billion dollars of grant as pledged in the Paris COP. These funds should be used to finance the developing world to support technology transfer for mitigation, adaptation and building resilience for a just transition. For a while I thought I was describing the multilateral fund set as a result of the Montreal protocol.
The Woman was impressed with all the jargon I used. “Wow, Dr Modak you sound so different. You were simply spot on. I must invite you to our next Rotary session. Money does matter for justice”. She smiled. I didn’t quite understand this last part of her sentence. All I noticed that she had lovely dimples.
Let me get you some starters Dr Modak. She said gathering herself and playing a good host
The Woman got me a vegan burrito bowl that had a sticker. It explained that 2.6 oz of tempeh with 4 oz cauliflower rice (0.49 lbs CO₂) was used instead of 4 oz of beef with 4 oz rice (6.56 lbs CO₂) leading to a savings of 6.07 lbs CO₂ per serving.
I tasted the “low carbon recipe” but didn’t find the dish that delicious. I decided however to compromise my taste buds in the interest of mitigating climate change. I thanked the Woman to show me a glimpse of the “future food” that you and I will be eating.
I started searching for the Professor. He was amidst senior management of companies like Adani, Reliance, Birla, Jindals – who were wearing black suits and ties with different shades of green. It was like talking to the “families” who run India Inc.
One who had a hexagon like face said ” I knew much earlier that PM would shift the NetZero target to 2070. My sources in the PMO leaked this plan to me”. He said this in a rather triumphant and loud voice. Clearly nothing was secret to these companies. They all had sensors almost everywhere better than Pegasus! I muttered to myself. All were talking about their decarbonization plans, investments in renewable power especially in solar and wind and once in a while the magical abbreviation ESG.
I was thinking whether NetZero was the path towards sustainability. I had read that the mega solar and wind projects have large land footprints, a potential threat to biodiversity and there are challenges in the future on how to manage wastes resulting from spent solar panels and end of life of wind turbines. I thought I should ask Professor regarding the “balance” between NetZero and sustainability. But he was busy in conversations.
When we were in the car returning home, I asked him these questions and more. Professor smiled and said – “well Dr Modak, we are all pledging to become NetZero by 2070. But the question remains whether the result will be a “small” or “BIG” zero. When he saw a question mark on my circular face, he pulled out a tissue paper and wrote something like this
100 – 100 = 0 is not the same as 300 – 300 = 0
He then patted on my shoulder and said, “All in the developing world are today looking for the big zero”. Now you figure out an equation for sustainability.
We didn’t speak in our rest of the journey home. The Climate Party was over.
Cover image sourced from https://www.thespruceeats.com/host-a-wine-tasting-party-4082453
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