Chairman’s remarks by Former Ambassador T. P. Sreenivasan at the inaugural session of the Seminar on Climate Change: Extreme Events and Environmental Resilience. Sharing Experiences for Sustainable Development. December 15, 2014.
Distinguished Panelists and participants,
I have a suspicion that I have been invited to chair this session, which focuses on disaster prevention because of the perception that higher education is the biggest disaster in the state. I do not think that higher education is a disaster, but I have discovered that we need to have four “M”s to deal with the problems in higher education, Motivation, Mobility, Mindset and Money. Perhaps they are equally relevant in climate change and disaster mitigation.
I would like to believe, however, that I am here because of my long association with environmental issues at the UN between 1972 and 1995. As you know, it was Indira Gandhi, who established the link between environment and development at the Stockholm conference in 1972. Although our focus today is not on international negotiations, it is useful to know what is happening in international fora as a backdrop to this discussion. The Lima Conference of Parties (COP) of the Climate Change Convention concluded yesterday “successfully”. As you know, no conference fails at the UN as a last minute compromise is always arrived at. What happened in Lama was merely a postponement of the crucial issues, which could not be resolved. The major issues like “common but differentiated responsibilities”, mandatory reduction of emissions, per capita emissions and funding are merely forwarded to the Paris Conference next year.
The Rio consensus, Kyoto Protocol etc were almost abandoned in Copenhagen and the recent understanding between the US and China augurs a new approach in which there will be no mandatory cuts. Each country will submit its own mitigation plan to ensure that the average temperature of the earth does not go beyond 2 degrees Celsius. From now on, it will be a different ball game in climate change negotiations and there will not be much of a contribution from the developed countries to the developing ones.
It is encouraging that several SAARC countries are represented here. The recent summit in Kathmandu has exposed the chinks in the armor of SAARC. We do not even know whether SAARC in the present form will survive for long. But climate change and disaster prevention are areas in which there is potential for cooperation either with or without Pakistan. I welcome the delegates from SAARC countries.
Our session is meant to share experiences of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and India. We have highly qualified and eminent people from these countries on the panel and I am sure that we will benefit immensely from this session.