Declare a Planetary Climate Crisis: SAPACC to UN

Representatives from 5 countries launch South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis (SAPACC) to “tackle climate crisis”

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Three hundred and fifty people representing civil society organisations in the South-Asian continent have launched the South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis (SAPACC) taking note of the urgent situation to tackle the climate crisis. They have filed a petition to the United Nations demanding to declare a “planetary climate crisis” in view of the “most pressing issue facing the planet”.

Party to this network are representative from countries like Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The representatives met in Hyderabad, India on September 18-21.

The members include farmer’s organizations, trade unions, indigenous people’s organizations, fisher-folk groups, women’s organizations, indigenous people’s groups, environmental groups and other civil society organizations, youth groups, scientists and other professionals, and numerous concerned individuals from all over South Asia.

Referring to the Paris Agreement, their note said, “Under Article 2 of the Paris Agreement on climate change, member nations/parties to the Agreement agreed to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change”, including by “(a) Holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2oC above pre-industrial temperatures, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels”. However, there is little evidence that they have done so. Emissions have continued to soar, as have global temperatures.”

South Asia has been at the receiving end of the climate crisis especially because of the huge inequality faced by and within these regions. On one hand are some of the richest of the rich, on the other these regions house some of the poorest and most marginalised. A large proportion of this is also indigenous population.

Glaciers in Nepal have decreased by more than a quarter of their area since 1977. Sea level rise is accelerating in Bangladesh and the Maldives. Pakistan has faced severe flooding and also deaths from heat stress in recent years. In India, the crucial southwest monsoon has reduced in many parts of the country; heat stress is increasing; droughts are spreading, floods and water stress have become frequent–severely impacting the urban and rural poor. A combination of heat and humidity will make many parts of this region uninhabitable.

Accelerated sea level rise will displace tens of millions in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Pakistan. IPCC’s 1.5oC Special Report of October 2018 states we have only twelve years before things get significantly worse.

A Global Climate Risk Index released at the Katowice summit in Katowice, the Polish city, in 2018 showed that intense cyclones, excessive rainfall and severe floods make India and its neighbours among the worst affected countries in the world.

It showed that countries in South Asia are among the most vulnerable globally to the impacts of climate change. India has been ranked the 14th most vulnerable nation in a list topped by Puerto Rico, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Sri Lanka was in second place after Puerto Rico. Nepal was ranked the world’s fourth most vulnerable country in this latest edition of the index, while Bangladesh was ranked ninth.

In 2017, merely one year, there were 2,726 deaths in India that were directly related to extreme weather-related events — heat waves, storms, floods and droughts. India suffered an economic loss of about USD 13.8 billion in the year, the Global Climate Risk Index 2019 said.

Between 1998 and 2017, more than 526,000 people died worldwide and there were losses of USD 3.47 trillion as a result of more than 11,500 extreme weather events, said the index report prepared by Berlin-based environmental organisation Germanwatch. Globally, 11,500 people died because of extreme weather events and economic damages totalled some USD 375 billion, it said.

A Fortune India report noted, “The United Nations Climate Change Organisation says that by the end of this century climate change could cut up to 9% of the South Asian economy every year, and an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report entitled ‘Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia’ predicts that by 2050, the collective economy of six countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka—will lose an average 1.8% of its annual gross domestic product; by 2100, the loss will be 8.8%.”

The climate crisis has also been exacerbated by a pantheon of world leaders with deep ties to the industries that are the biggest source of plant-warming emissions. Not only this, they have been initiating punitive actions against the dissenters and protesters who raise any issues on the subject. These leaders don’t also refrain from denying climate science and environmental protection in order to influence their political constituencies.

In the United Nations Climate Action Summit, one could see how far presidents and prime ministers were willing to go for the environment. The United Nations secretary general, Antonio Guterresexpects around 60 countries to announce what he called new “concrete” plans to reduce emissions and help the world’s most vulnerable cope with the fallout from global warming.

The SAPACC representatives welcomed Guterres’ statement in which he talked about a “course change”. He said, “Unless we make a course change by 2020, we face the possibility of runaway climate change with disastrous consequences”. The representatives urged him to ensure that their petition with the demands listed below be placed before the UN General Assembly and other UN bodies concerned with the climate crisis.

A complete list of the demands put forward by the SAPACC:

·      The United Nations immediately declare a planetary climate crisis, and initiate ecologically, socially, economically appropriate and time-    bound action plans to mitigate it;
·      The greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries be reduced drastically to reach net zero by 2030, and of developing nations by 2040.  This should be non-negotiable and binding.
·      That all nations take responsibility for the injuries and damage caused by climate change in proportion to their historic emissions, and must include adaptation needs of less developed nations, small island developing states, and South Asian nations;
·      Degraded land, water, air, forests, and biodiversity be restored as healthy ecosystems, also incorporating indigenous knowledge;
·      A comprehensive policy framework for the rights of full rehabilitation of climate refugees be formulated and implemented; and
·      The country emissions accounting framework be restructured to include outsourced emissions in the consuming country’s account.



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