CHRISTINE CHISHA, Lusaka
THE realities of how climate change has affected India dawned to 100 journalists from South Asia and Africa who met in New Delhi a week ago for the annual media briefing on climate change.
The briefing started with a photo exhibition dubbed â€˜Backs to the Wallâ€™, an exhibition which brought to life the experiences of Indian people who deal with the harsh reality of climate change such as floods, advancing oceans, unyielding land and poor living conditions.
The photo exhibition portrayed effects on the flood-ravaged Kashmir district and the plight of the fisherfolk in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.
From the photo exhibition, a discussion on the subject of carbon emission budget emerged; of how much carbon dioxide effects contribute to climate change.
â€œSince the industrial revolution, the burning of fossil fuels has increased, which directly correlates to the increase of carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere and consequently the rapid increase of global warming,â€ Centre for Science and Environment Deputy Director General (CSE) Chandra Bhushan said.
He said the recent report by climate change experts has revealed that the warming of the planet has increased due to the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests forming what they are calling â€˜carbon cakeâ€™.
Mr Bhushan said according to the report, water is expected to become much scarcer. A significant percentage of the worldâ€™s plants and animals will be at risk of extinction.
Emphasising the importance of viewing increasing carbon emissions as a growing risk to humanity, Mr Bhushan said, â€œIt is due to the emission by developed countries that the world has reached this state where it has to restrict emissions.â€
This led to Centre for Science (CSE) Director General Sunita Narain to call for equity between developed and developing countries in the upcoming climate change negotiations.
She said as the worldâ€™s nations prepare for climate change negotiations in Paris later this year, it is important for developing countries to state their case strongly.
â€œClimate negotiations are considered by governments to be a soft issue while trade negotiations are given priority. It is critical that countries from South Asia and Africa send their best people and negotiate hard on climate change,â€ Ms Narain said.
For the past seven years, CSE has been holding briefings for journalists from South Asia and for the past two years from Africa. These annual briefings usually precede the UN Conference of Parties (CoP) on climate change.
â€œThis year, too, the climate change negotiations are very important. The world is already looking at the prospect of not containing climate change within two degrees Celsius,â€ she said.
Recently, the emission plans of 119 countries were put out by the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCCC). These emission reduction plans will not contain temperature rise below two degrees. There was a 25 percent â€˜ambition gapâ€™ until 2030.
On media coverage concerning climate change, Ms Narain urged journalists to research and take time to understand the politics around climate change so that there is equity and fairness in their reporting.
And speaking on the same fora, Kaah Aaron Yancho, a radio journalist from Cameroon said, â€œThe Western media has been shaping the agenda in Africa. We need to ensure that our policies are not affected by the powerful but biased foreign media.â€
He said the inequalities between the developed and the developing world and different developmental needs should be highlighted as well.
And Indiaâ€™s former Minister of New and Renewable Energy Secretary Satish Agnihotri said there is a huge inequality between rural and urban India.
â€œIf 10 percent of households in an Indian village have an electrical connection, it is considered to be electrified. Rural India needs more energy,â€ Dr Agnihotri said.
He said renewable energy could be an excellent alternative, though capital investment for renewable energy is huge.
Dr Agnihotri said global partnerships such as global sustainable electricity are in place to bring collaboration between countries, including developing and developed ones. â€œRich countries can immediately switch to renewable energy while the developing nations need to make a transition,â€ he said.
And the closing session of the two-day conference was attended by the French Ambassador to India Francois Richier and Zambiaâ€™s acting High Commissioner to India Sikapale Chinzewe.
Mr Chinzewe said climate change is not a single problem but a long list of issues which need to be solved collectively.
He said climate change agreements should not be treated to be between a rider and a horse, but between equal partners.
And Mr Richier said more than 40,000 persons were likely to attend the CoP in Paris, France, in December and that the French government would offer free visas to journalists.
He said: â€œThe climate situation is dire, yet we must still insist on consensus-building, not arm-twisting. We must concentrate on mainstreaming of everybodyâ€™s expectations. Lifestyle changes in Western societies can play a major role in climate change mitigationâ€.
This yearâ€™s climate conference in Paris might be the last chance to limit global warming below two degrees. Climate change affects everyone, but at different levels.
CHRISTINE CHISHA, Lusaka