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Analysis

Can the trapped Paris Climate Agreement be rescued?

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Two months ago, all 12 boys and the coach of a Thai football team were rescued after being trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for 18 days. Many termed their rescue against heavy odds a miracle.

Sadly, the six-day United Nations Special Climate Conference that concluded on September 9 was not able to rescue the trapped Paris Climate Agreement in the well-lit conference centre in southern Thailand. Many of the delegates wondered if it was about pronouncing the promises only to dodge them.

The Paris Climate Agreement has been hanging from a cliff right from the day US President Donald Trump, a year back, announced his official plan to withdraw from it. Though hundreds of American mayors and thousands of businesses — and even its allies like France — have been seeking to defy the consequences of Trump’s withdrawal, the agreement is getting dangerously close to its fatal consequence.

The good news is that the Paris Agreement has entered into force on November 4, 2016, in less than a year from its consensus adoption on December 12, 2015, in Paris. However, it is yet to be operationalised because its modalities, procedures and guidelines are yet to be agreed upon by its 180 Parties (countries that ratified the Paris Agreement). Indeed, the Paris Agreement in its present form is just an agreement of intent.

These “rules”, as per the time-table agreed in Paris, have to be ready no later than 2018. The Bangkok Climate Conference was a late addition to the schedule after dismal progress was made at the annual meeting of the subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCCC) in Bonn in May 2018. The Bangkok Climate Conference was the last major negotiating meeting before the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24) in Poland in December, when finally the Paris Agreement will be in mission mode.

The exercise in Bangkok turned out to be progress in planning but a stalemate in its objective of operationalising. The Paris Agreement remains trapped in a complex maze of the caves of finance for mitigation and adaptation for the developing countries, deployment of market mechanisms, periodicity of stocktaking and transparency, flexibility for developing countries in reporting.

Formulating the rules on the cyclic and iterative nature by enhancing the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), earlier considered an innovation in international agreements, is now proving to be formidable.

It all boils down to the fact that world is now setting the new norms of not keeping the promises made on global cooperation. Not walking the talk and smartly gyrating the agreed goals is now the global attire of the diplomacy. And each of these new patterns are being justified, sometimes diplomatically and, many times with international arrogance.

Take, for example, financing for mitigation and adaptation for the developing countries. The “polluter to pay” norm has been the anchor in the multilateral environment agreements right from the 1992 Rio Agreement, but is now being openly flouted. The promise of providing “additional” finance through the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was first proposed by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then President Barack Obama in Copenhagen in 2009, is supposed to become fully operational in 2020, i.e. developed countries would provide — starting with $10 billion per year in 2012 to reach $100 billion per year from 2020 onwards — to help developing countries pay for climate adaptation and mitigation.

What has happened to that promise? As of today, GCF has pledges of $10.4 billion whereas the actually committed is only $3.5 billion. The GCF as institution itself is in chaotic state. The GCF head, an Australian, abruptly resigned in July 2018 after just two years in the job because of “personal reasons”. The deputy head from Nicaragua did not even attend the July meeting of GCF, where no projects were approved. “GCF is melting down faster than Antarctica,” one of the delegates in Bangkok said.

In Bangkok, the developed countries smartly proposed to count all the finances provided by the private sector, philanthropy, FDI and regular international development aid of 0.7 per cent of the GDP as part of the promised $100 billion. They also proposed dilution of the financial reporting rules, thereby flouting the agreement on “additional climate financing”.

Not walking the full talk by the star performers on climate change has also resulted in the angry reaction from civil society, and supported by countries, on such climate-hypocrisy.

An example is the Global Climate Action Summit convened from September 12 to 14, 2018, in San Francisco, under the leadership of California Governor Jerry Brown. The summit’s theme is “Take Ambition to the Next Level”. It will be a star-studded international event to showcase climate action at all levels and to inspire enhanced commitments and god-speed action from countries to realise the goals of the Paris Agreement. Indeed, California, the richest US state, has done more in policy setting and its implementation in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency than any other country in the world. Its firebrand governor can be termed as climate’s game-changer.

In Bangkok, Brown was booed by civil society representatives for his soft approach towards oil producers in California by allowing them to drill for oil. “How can we expect a leader to take climate ambitions to the next level when he himself, from the back-door, takes it to a lower level,” queried one demonstrator in Bangkok.

When state leaders arrive in Poland in December, they would have to muddle through the mess of the draft “rule book” mired in diminishing trust. By that time, the GHGs concentration, already higher by 42 percent as compared to 1992 levels, would have risen to the “next level”.

A rescue operation for the trapped Paris Agreement would be near impossible.

(The author is Chairman TERRE Policy Centre, Pune and former Director UNEP. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])

Analysis

YouTube testing new video recommendation format: Report

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San Francisco, Jan 16 : Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube is testing a new video recommendation format that displays blue bubbles on the screen with relevant keywords and related topic suggestions, facilitating easier browsing, media reported.

“The screenshots obtained show these blue bubbles just underneath the video player showing more specific video recommendations,” The Verge reported on Tuesday.

The video-sharing platform is currently testing the feature with some users on its main desktop page as well as on the mobile app.

For sometime now users have been complaining that the videos recommended on the side on YouTube’s interface often have little to do with the current video, making recommendations a point of contention for the platform.

“It’s unclear if the videos that populate from the new recommendation bubbles will face similar algorithmic issues that YouTube’s recommendation feed currently suffers,” the report added.

There has not been any word from YouTube as of now on the working of these blue bubbles and whether or not they will roll out the test feature to a bigger group in the coming months.

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Analysis

2002 Gujarat riots: Judge P.B. Desai ignored evidence, says activist Harsh Mander

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Harsh Mander

New Delhi, Jan 9 : Special SIT court judge P.B. Desai “ignored evidence” that former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in a mob attack in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Housing Society during the 2002 riots, did all that was possible within his power to protect Muslims from the “rage of the mob” and instead echoed the position of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi that his killing was only a “reaction” to his “action” of shooting at the mob, says human rights activist Harsh Mander.

He says that “the learned judge”, who retired in December 2017, overlooked statements by surviving witnesses that Jafri made repeated desperate calls to senior police officers and other persons in authority, “including allegedly Chief Minister Modi”, pleading that security forces be sent to “disperse the crowd” and rescue those “against whom the mob had laid a powerful siege”.

Mander, who quit the IAS in Gujarat in the wake of the riots, makes these observations in his just released book, “Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India”, published by Penguin.

The 66-year-old activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as homeless persons and street children, goes on to quote the late journalist Kuldip Nayar to establish that Jafri had desperately telephoned him, “begging him to contact someone in authority to send in the police or the Army to rescue them”.

Mander says Nayar rang up the Union Home Ministry to convey to it the seriousness of the situation. The Home Ministry said it was in touch with the state government and was “watching” the situation. Jafri called again, pleading with Nayar to do something as the mob was threatening to lynch him.

In the chapter titled “Whatever happened in Gulberg Society?”, Mander contends that Jafri did everything within his power to protect “those who believed that his influence would shield them from the rage of the mob”. Mander says Jafri begged the mob to “take his life instead” and in a show of valour went out “to plead and negotiate” with the angry crowd.

“When he realised that no one in authority would come in for their protection, he also did pick up his licensed firearm and shoot at the crowd…,” Mander notes, describing it as the “final vain bid” on behalf of Jafri to protect the Muslims in the line of fire.

The author notes that in describing Jafri’s final resort to firing as an illegitimate action, the judge only echoed the position taken repeatedly by Modi, who had given an interview to a newspaper in which he had said that it was Jafri who had first fired at the mob.

“He forgot to say what a citizen is expected to do when a menacing mob, which has already slaughtered many, approaches him and the police has deliberately not responded to his pleas,” says Mander.

He says that it was as if even when under attack and surrounded by an armed mob warning to slaughter them, “and with acid bombs and burning rags flung at them”, a good Muslim victim should do nothing except plead, and this would ensure their safety.

Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri, according to Mander, was firmly convinced that her husband was killed because of a conspiracy that went right to the top of the state administration, beginning with Modi. The author notes that the court, in its judgement running into more than 1,300 pages, disagreed.

“It did indict 11 people for the murder but they were just foot soldiers,” observed Mander.

He further says that the story the survivors told the judge over prolonged hearings was consistent but Judge Desai was convinced that there was “no conspiracy behind the slaughter” and that the administration did all it could to control it.

“Jafri, by the judge’s reckoning, and that of Modi, was responsible for his own slaughter,” he laments.

Mander also argues in the book that recurring episodes of communal violence in Ahmedabad had altered the city’s demography, dividing it into Hindu and Muslim areas and Gulberg was among the last remaining “Muslim” settlements in the “Hindu” section of the city.

He says that Desai also disregarded the evidence in the conversations secretly taped by Tehelka reporters, mentioning that superior courts, according to Desai himself, have ruled that while a person cannot be convicted exclusively based on the evidence collected in such “sting operations”, such evidence is certainly “admissible as corroborative proof”.

“But he chose to disregard this evidence, not because there was proof that these video recordings were in any way doctored or false but simply because the Special Investigative Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India chose to ignore this evidence,” says Mander.

According to Mander, the Tehelka recordings “certainly supported the theory that there was indeed a plan to collect, incite and arm the mob to undertake the gruesome slaughter”.

The SIT was headed by R.K. Raghavan, today Ambassador to Cyprus. Mander contends in the book that just because the investigators did not pursue Tehelka recordings in greater depth, Desai concluded that the “recordings cannot be relied upon as trustworthy of substantial evidence and establish any conspiracy herein”.

In the book, Mander takes stock of whether India has upheld the values it had set out to achieve and offers painful, unsparing insight into the contours of violence. The book is now available both online and in bookstores.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

Number of suicides highest in Army amongst three services

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

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Ajit Doval

New Delhi, Jan 7 : The number of defence personnel committing suicide was highest in the Army amongst the three services in the last three years, data shows.

In 2018 alone, as many as 80 Army personnel are believed to have committed suicide. This number is 16 for Air Force and 08 for the Navy, Minister of State (MoS) for Defence Subhash Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Monday.

In 2017, the number of Army men who are suspected to have committed suicide was 75, while in 2016 this number was 104.

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

In his reply, the Minister said that various steps have been taken by the armed forces to create healthy environment for their officers and other ranks.

“Some of the steps include provision of better facilities such as clothing, food, married accommodation, travel facilities, schooling, recreation etc and periodic welfare meetings, promoting yoga and meditation as a tool for stress management, and training and deployment of psychological counsellors,” the reply read.

It said mental health awareness is provided during pre-induction training.

Besides, institutionalisation of projects “MILAP” and “SAHYOG” by the Army in Northern and Eastern Commands to reduce stress among troops has been done.

A helpline has also been established by the Army and the Air Force to provide professional counselling.

IANS

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