The Glasgow Climate Change Conference now being held as part of a yearly meeting under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has delivered its first positive outcome. By agreeing to 'working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030', leaders attending the 26th edition of the conference dubbed in technical terms conference of the parties (COP), have apparently made a big stride towards conserving forests, ensuring restoration and sustainable use and management of forests, land and other terrestrial ecosystems. At least, this is what the declaration claims.
However, these are commitments and must be backed by pragmatic actions. That the world leaders are concerned about the capricious weather patterns and erratic and unpredictable changes in climate is for sure. Only more so, because no nation ---rich or poor---is discriminated against when the hostile environment is wreaking havoc with wide swathes of the planet. If floods and cyclones devastated the poor and underdeveloped countries recurrently, now forest fires, floods, heavy rain-induced landslides and cyclones are laying waste of several areas in the rich and highly developed nations.
No longer immune to the ever increasing natural calamities, the advanced countries cannot afford aloofness and their urgency to put together acts of deterrence against those alarming phenomena can now be no less pressing than that of the poor nations. But is not it somewhat intriguing that this agreement in principle concerns the rich nations only peripherally? Only three countries Brazil, Indonesia and African Congo have 85 per cent of the world's forest. It is quite heartening that Brazil with the Balsonero legacy of destruction of the Amazon, considered the lungs of the planet, has duly endorsed the agreement.
Then what will be the contribution of the rich nations when they cannot prevent and bring under control forest or bush fires that devastated some of the pristine forests in the United States of America and Australia causing death to hundreds of animal species, some of them rare, particularly in the latter? The forest fires and bush fires turn into infernos in these two countries with resources and technologies but still they stand helpless before such calamities. Other countries are also facing similar destruction of their forests. Even for a country like Bangladesh, fires in the Sunderbans have become a cause for serious concern. But in countries like this, the challenge is to arrest overexploitation and clandestine logging and land grabbing by powerful quarters in collusion with the forest department officials. Deforestation has already tipped the environmental balance in such countries but this does not refrain governments from leasing out forest lands for establishing factories and industries which pose a threat to the ecosystem.
Development of electric cars shows that with further improvement of technology they can be a viable alternative option for reducing carbon emission. Clearly, this will take time and not before a decade or two, the petrol and diesel guzzling vehicles as well as the jet fuel-dependent aeroplanes can be taken off the road and the aerial routes.
Then how can the world community meet the Paris Agreement goals, including reduction of vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and arrest the global average temperature to well below 2.0 degree Celsius and limit it to 1.5 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level? This is their avowed goals. To meet a challenge of this proportion, the first criterion is a drastic cut in carbon release in the atmosphere. But look at the pretentious arrangement for carbon purchase and sale under which rich countries take advantage of very low-using country's quota to retain a higher percentage of greenhouse gas emission. True, they pay for this advantage to poor nations but isn't it a self-deception? If the intention is to reduce carbon emission, cut its production by any means. Why take the advantage of lower production of the gas by poor nations? Help the rich nations must extend because, they are mainly responsible for raising temperature of the globe and turning its environment from bad to worse.
The issue is to make some sacrifice. How? Comfort and luxury have been taken to an outrageous level. From services of luxury yachts to personal aeroplanes, from the most expensive and luxurious hotels to possession of several stylish and costly cars the craving for comfort is unlimited. If the planet is in turmoil, all such facilities prove redundant. But as long as people do not encounter the ultimate disaster, they are the last to realise what a blunder it is to indulge in excessive material comfort. In the same way there is a need for bringing the use of personal cars and consumerism under closer scrutiny. Even the food industry requires to be streamlined in order to fight climate change. Instead of fanning consumerism, the need is to limit human requirements to a decent level with rational distribution of wealth for all.