Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A beginner's guide to what transpired at the Paris climate summit

What did you bloody greenies do ? What is this Paris climate deal?
After 21 years of haggling and delays, governments of the world collectively agreed to take action domestically and internationally to tackle climate change by cutting their carbon emissions/ The “Paris package” to which the legally binding instrument – the “Paris agreement” – is annexed aims to contain the increase in the global average temperature to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” – a more ambitious goal than had been expected. This new climate deal will come into force in 2020.

Meaning how, exactly?
Mainly by boosting clean energy investments while conserving and enhancing forests and other ecosystems. Boosting clean energy investments means more finance for research and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency, with the hope that burning of fossil fuels will be phased out by end of the century. However, nowhere in the text are the words fossil fuels, coal or oil used. Conserving and enhancing forests should mean more “predictable, sustainable, large-scale pay-for-performance finance”. Right now, the cash box is more or less empty, but hopes are tied to private financing.

Is renewable energy really ready for all this?
I caught a plane from Kochi airport, the world’s first fully solar-powered airport. I think it is.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tourists From The Dark Side

August 15, 2015, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala: The elephant turned his head around as soon as the mobile phone rang. Incredulously, the young man ignored the loud caller tune and continued taking pictures of the glaring pachyderm. His wife also turned her attention and phone towards the elephant to nonchalantly shoot a quick succession of pictures using her camera flash. The driver started the jeep and could be heard cursing the couple as he reversed and swiftly drove away.

Ajayan, the upset jeep driver, told me later that he had informed the young honeymooning couple very clearly before the trip that “they are not allowed to use camera flash, that phones must be on silent, they should not wear bright colours and if they did not follow rules I could not guarantee their safety. But the two of them were ‘hopeless’ and broke every rule. I had to leave in a hurry not because the elephant had shown any signs of discomfort or displeasure, but because I know even elephants have limits to their patience.”

On January 20, 2015, not very far from here, allegedly provoked by a camera flash, an elephant lost his patience and killed Bhupendra (52) and Jagriti Ravel (50) in the Gavi forest of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The forest guide accompanying them was forced to abandon the couple after they failed to heed his warning to stop taking pictures and run. This is not an isolated incident but typical of the rising animal-tourist conflict unfolding in our parks. (See box: ‘The Last Selfie’)

-Continue reading the covers story in Sanctuary Asia magazine.