2. Key points
- Forests absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide that is emitted in various economic activities, keeping a check on global warming.
- At the Glasgow climate meeting in 2021, more than 100 countries took a pledge to stop and start reversing, deforestation by 2030.
- Several countries and corporates, keen to present an environment-friendly image, now try to ensure that they avoid the consumption of any product that might be the result of deforestation or illegal logging.
- And Europe and the United States have passed laws that regulate the entry and sale of forest-based products in their markets.
- This is where the certification industry comes in offering a multi-layer audit a system that seeks to authenticate the origin, legality and sustainability of forest-based products such as timber, furniture, handicraft, paper and pulp, rubber and many more.
3. Sustainability and Certifications
- Stopping deforestation does not mean forests cannot be harvested in a sustainable manner for the products.
- Periodic harvesting of trees is necessary and healthy for forests. Trees have a life span, beyond which they die and decay.
- Also, after a certain age, the capacity of trees to absorb carbon dioxide gets saturated.
- Younger and fresher trees are more efficient at capturing carbon dioxide.
- The problem arises only when trees are felled indiscriminately and the cutting of forests outpaces their natural regeneration.
- The approximately three-decade-old global certification industry began as a way to establish, through independent third-party audits, whether forests were being managed sustainably.
- Over the years, a range of certifications has come to be offered for various activities in the forestry sector.
- Forest Stewardship Council or FSC;
- The Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certifications or PEFC.
- FSC certification is more popular and in demand and also more expensive.
- Organisations like FSC or PEFC are only the developers and owners of standards like, for example, the International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) or the Bureau of International Standards (BIS).
- They are not involved in the evaluation and auditing of the processes being followed by the forest managers or manufacturers or traders of forest-based products.
- That is the job of certification bodies authorised by the FSC or PEFC.
- The certification bodies often subcontract their work to smaller organisations.
- PEFC does not insist on the use of its standards.
- Instead, as its name suggests, it endorses the "national" standards of any country if they are aligned with its own.
- Two main types of certification are on offer:
- Forest management (FM) and
- Chain of Custody (CoC).
- CoC certification is meant to guarantee the traceability of a forest product like timber throughout the supply chain from origin to market.
4. Forest certification in India
- The forest certification industry has been operating in India for the last 15 years.
- Currently, forests in only one state Uttar Pradesh are certified.
- Forty-one divisions of the UP Forest Corporation (UPFC) are PEFC-certified, meaning they are being managed according to standards endorsed by PEFC.
- These standards have been developed by the New Delhi-based nonprofit Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF).
- Some other states too obtained certification, but subsequently dropped out.
The Bhamragad forest division in Maharashtra was the first to obtain FSC certification for forest management.
- Later, two divisions in Madhya Pradesh and one in Tripura also obtained FSC certification.
- UPFC too had FSC Certification earlier.
- However, all of these expired over time. Only UPFC extended its certification but with PEFC.
- Many agroforestry projects such as those run by ITC and several paper mills too have forest management certification.
- The forests here are meant for captive use of the industry.
- There are a large number of CoC Certifications, but the dropout rate is 40 per cent.
As of now, there are 1, 527 valid CoC certifications by FSC and 1, 010 that are suspended, expired or have been terminated.
5. India-specific standards
- India allows the export of only processed wood, not timber.
- The timber harvested from Indian forests is not enough to meet the domestic demand for housing, furniture and other products.
- The demand for wood in India is 150-170 million cubic meters annually, including 90-100 million cubic metres of raw wood.
- The rest goes mainly towards meeting the demand for paper and pulp.
- India's forests contribute just about five million cubic metres of wood every year.
- Almost 85 per cent of the demand for wood and wood products is met by trees outside forests (ToF).
- About 10 per cent is imported. India's wood import bill is Rs 50, 000 -60, 000 crores per year.
- Since ToF is so important, new certification standards are being developed for their sustainable management.
- PEFC already has certification for TOF and last year, FSC came up with India-Specific standards that included certification for ToF.
- Environment Ministry launched the FSC's India standards in June 2022.
6. The Government's standards
- Long before private certification bodies set up operations in India, the government had moved to define national standards for the management of forests.
- Based on the recommendations of an expert committee in 2005, the Environment Ministry had asked relevant institutions like the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management to draw up national forest standards.
- Considerable work was done and a draft cabinet note seeking the government's approval for setting up such standards was drawn up. However, the effort did not come to fruition.
- When the NCCF came into being in 2015, offering PEFC certification in India, the Environment Ministry nominated an officer on the governing board, lending it official legitimacy.
- But the nomination was later withdrawn. Last year, the Ministry associated itself with FSC, by launching its new India standards.
- The role of private certification agencies, especially in forest management certification has come under sustained criticism from a group of influential retired forest officials.
- In response to this criticism and also to the increasing complaints about corruption in the private certification space, the Ministry has restarted efforts to develop official national forest standards.
- The government says the "indigenous system of certifications" will be simple, transparent and easy to adopt, even by small farmers and tree growers.
- The benchmarks will adhere to internationally accepted norms but will take into account India's national circumstances.
- The purpose is to make available sustainably grown and managed forest products in the domestic market.
For Prelims & Mains
For Prelims: Forest certification, FM, Climate Change, Ministry of Environment, Glasgow climate meeting, FSC, PEFC, BIS, ISO, UP Forest Corporation, Forest Management, Chain of Custody, NCCF,
Previous year question
1. Consider the following States: (2019)
2. Madhya Pradesh
With reference to the State mentioned above, in terms of the percentage of forest cover to the total area of the State, which one of the following is the correct ascending order?
2. At the national level, which ministry is the nodal agency to ensure effective implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006? (2021)
(a) Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
3. A particular State in India has the following characteristics: (2012)
Which one among the following States has all the above characteristics?
(a) Arunachal Pradesh
1. Discuss the reasons for the declining forests in India and Suggest remedial measures to increase the forest cover in India. (250 Words)
Previous year's mains question
1. “The most significant achievement of modern law in India is the constitutionalization of environmental problems by the Supreme Court.” Discuss this statement with the help of relevant case laws. (250 Words) (2022)
2. The Porcupine Doctrine
- The Porcupine doctrine was proposed in 2008 by US Naval War College research professor William S Murray.
- It is a strategy of asymmetric warfare focused on fortifying a weak state's defenses to exploit the enemy's weaknesses rather than taking on its strengths.
- It is about building defenses that would ensure that Taiwan could be attacked and damaged but not defeated, at least without unacceptably high costs and risks.
3. How does this doctrine work?
- There are three defensive layers in the Porcupine approach.
- The outer layer is about intelligence and reconnaissance to ensure defense forces are fully prepared. Behind this come plans for guerrilla warfare at sea with aerial support from sophisticated aircraft provided by the US.
- The innermost layer relies on the geography and demography of the island.
- While the outer surveillance layer would work to prevent a surprise attack, the second one would make it difficult for China to land its troops on the island in the face of a guerrilla campaign at sea using "agile, missile-armed small ships, supported by helicopters and missile launchers".
4. Asymmetric system of Defence
- In its 2021 Quadrennial Defence Review, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence defined asymmetric systems as ones that are "small, numerous, smart, stealthy, mobile and hard to be detected and countered", and "associated with innovative tactics and employments".
- According to Taiwan's former Chief of the General Staff Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, these systems are "a large number of small things".
- These asymmetric capabilities will be aimed at striking the "operational center of gravity and key nodes of the enemy", it said.
- The geographic advantages of the Taiwan Strait shall be tapped to shape favorable conditions for us to disrupt the operational tempo of the enemy, and frustrate its attempts and moves of invasion at decisive points to strike a dispread enemy with a united blow.
5. Need for such a strategy
- China enjoys overwhelming military superiority over Taiwan.
- Over the past decade, Beijing has developed more accurate and precise weapon systems to target Taiwan.
- China has been more vocal about its intention to "reunite" the island with the mainland by force or coercion if needed.
- The PLA has already achieved the capabilities needed to conduct an air and naval blockade, cyberattacks, and missile strikes against Taiwan.
- PLA leaders now likely assess they have, or will soon have, the initial capability needed to conduct a high-risk invasion of Taiwan (following Russia's Path).
6. One China Policy
- One China is a longstanding US policy that forms the bedrock of its relationship with Beijing.
- Under the policy, the US snapped formal diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan and established ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing in 1979.
- The One China policy is a key cornerstone of Sino-US relations.
The One-China policy recognizes only the People’s Republic of China.
It states that there is only one sovereign state under the name China with the PRC serving as the sole legitimate government of that China.
The policy opposes two states holding the same name 'China' and the idea that China and Taiwan form two separate countries.
The policy does not recognize the existence of Taiwan.
Any country that wants diplomatic relations with mainland China must break official ties with Taipei. This has resulted in the diplomatic isolation of Taiwan from the international community.
7. How easy will it be for China?
- Missile strikes, cyberattacks, and air and naval blockades aside, undertaking a full-scale invasion across the Taiwan strait, with attendant risks of anti-ship and anti-air attacks, could present challenges for China.
- The PLA is estimated to have air and naval resources to carry out an initial landing of 25,000 or more troops, which could increase if it deploys civilian ships to meet its military objectives.
- However, it will have to first select and secure a suitable beachhead from among the handful that is available.
- Also, with small and agile weapons systems, Taiwan can turn its coastline into a kill zone that would deny China a walkover.
- Beijing would have to rely on cyberattacks, missile strikes on Taiwan's air bases and runways, and a blockade to choke it into surrendering.
|For Prelims: Porcupine doctrine, Professor William S Murray, 2021 Quadrennial Defence, Missile strikes, cyberattacks, and Taiwan Strait.|
GLOBAL METHANE TRACKER 2023
2. Key Points
- The report said 75 per cent of methane emissions from the energy sector can be reduced with the help of cheap and readily available technology.
- The implementation of such measures would cost less than three per cent of the net income received by the oil and gas industry in 2022, but fossil fuel companies failed to take any substantial action regarding the issue.
- The energy sector accounts for around 40 per cent of the total average methane emissions from human activity, as oil and natural gas companies are known to release methane into the atmosphere when natural gas is flared or vented.
- The greenhouse gas is also released through leaks from valves and other equipment during the drilling, extraction and transportation process.
- More than 260 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas (mostly composed of methane) is wasted through flaring and methane leaks globally today.
- Although it is impossible to avoid all of this amount, the right policies and implementation can bring 200 bcm of additional gas to markets.
- In the oil and gas sector, emissions can be reduced by over 75 per cent by implementing well-known measures such as leak detection and repair programmes and upgrading leaky equipment.
- It further mentioned that 80 per cent of the available options to curb the release of methane could be implemented by the fossil fuel industry at net zero cost.
- Based on average natural gas prices from 2017 to 2021, estimate that around 40 per cent of methane emissions from oil and gas operations could be avoided at no net cost because the outlays for the abatement measures are less than the market value of the additional gas that is captured.
- Ultimately reducing 75 per cent of the wastage of natural gas could lower global temperature rise by nearly 0.1 degree Celsius by mid-century.
- This would have the same effect on the soaring global temperatures as immediately stopping greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses and two and three-wheeler vehicles across the world.
- However, fossil fuel companies have done little to tackle the problem.
3. About Methane
- Methane is a greenhouse gas, which is responsible for 30 per cent of the warming since preindustrial times, Second only to carbon dioxide.
- A report by the United Nations Environment Programme observed that over 20 years, methane is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.
- There are various sources of methane including human and natural sources.
- Human sources of methane include landfills oil and natural gas systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, wastewater treatment and certain industrial processes.
- The oil and gas sectors are among the largest contributors to human sources of methane.
- NASA notes that human sources (also referred to as anthropogenic sources) of methane are responsible for 60 per cent of global methane emissions.
- These emissions come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, decomposition in landfills and the agriculture sector.
|In India, for instance, in 2019, the Ministry of Coal asked state-run coal miner Coal India Limited (CIL) to produce 2 MMSCB (Million metric standards cubic metres) per day of coalbed Methane (CBM) gas in the next 2 to 3 years.|
- CBM, like shale gas, is extracted from what is known as unconventional gas reservoirs where gas is extracted directly from the rock that is the source of the gas (Shale in the case of shale gas and coal in the case of CBM).
- The methane is held underground within the coal and is extracted by drilling into the coal seam and removing the groundwater.
- The resulting drop in pressure causes methane to be released from the coal.
- In recent years, scientists have repeatedly sounded the alarm regarding the increasing amount of methane in the atmosphere. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the atmospheric levels of methane jumped 17 parts per billion in 2021, beating the previous record set in 2020.
- While carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for much longer than methane, is roughly 25 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere and has an important short-term influence on the rate of climate change.
4. Global Methane Pledge
- The pledge was first announced by the US and EU and is essentially an agreement to reduce global methane emissions.
- One of the central aims of this agreement is to cut down methane emissions by up to 30 per cent from 2020 levels by the year 2030.
- Methane accounts for about half of the 1.0 degrees Celsius net rise in the global average temperature since the pre-industrial era.
5. Global Methane Initiative
- The Global Methane Initiative (GMI) is an international public-private partnership focused on reducing barriers to the recovery and use of methane as a valuable energy source.
- It provides technical support to deploy methane-to-energy projects around the world that enable Partner Countries to launch methane recovery and use projects.
- GMI focuses on three key sectors: Oil and Gas, Biogas and Coal Mines.
6. About Harit Dhara
- The Harit Dhara developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, through comprehensive research over a decade is an anti-methanogenic feed supplement prepared from natural phyto-sources.
- It is found very effective in reducing enteric methane emissions by up to 17 to 20 per cent when incorporated in livestock feed.
- The partial inhibition of enteric methanogenesis will have the dual advantage of stabilizing the global warming process and enhancing productivity by re-channelizing the saved biological energy.
7. Impact of Methane on Climate Change
- Methane is one of the main drivers of climate change, responsible for 30 per cent of the warming since preindustrial times, second only to carbon dioxide.
- Over 20 years, methane is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide, according to a United Nations Environment Programme report.
- It is also the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a colourless and highly irritating gas that forms just above the Earth's surface.
- According to a 2022 report, exposure to ground-level ozone could contribute to 1 million premature deaths yearly.
- Several studies have shown that the amount of methane in the atmosphere has dramatically shot up in recent years.
- In 2022, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the atmospheric levels of methane jumped 17 parts per billion in 2021, beating the previous record set in 2020.
- While carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for much longer than methane, methane is roughly 25 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere and has an important short-term influence on the rate of climate change.
For Prelims & Mains
For Prelims: Methane, Climate Change,
1. Discuss the global initiatives to curb Methane emissions. (250 Words).
2. What is Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) discuss the initiative's intended efforts to protect against climate change. (250 Words)
2. About Hubble Space Telescope
- The Hubble Space Telescope is a large telescope in space.NASA launched Hubble in 1990.
- It was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency.
- Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts.
- Expanding the frontiers of the visible Universe, the Hubble Space Telescope looks deep into space with cameras that can see across the entire optical spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet.
- The Hubble Space Telescope makes one orbit around Earth every 95 minutes.
- It has helped in discovering the moons around pluto. Evidence regarding the existence of black holes has emerged based on observations through Hubble.
- The birth of stars through turbulent clouds of gas and dust has also been observed.
- The Hubble telescope made observations of six galaxies merging together.
- On February 11, 2021, Hubble made observations of small concentrations of black holes.
4. Images recorded by the Hubble are spoiled by passing satellites
- A study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, reveals an increase in the percentage of images recorded by the Hubble that is spoiled by passing satellites.
- Thousands more satellites have been launched since then by SpaceX and other companies, and many more are expected to go into orbit in the years ahead, affecting the Hubble and potentially other telescopes in space.
5. Legacy of Hubble Space Telescope
- The Hubble Space Telescope’s legacy cannot be overstated.
- Because of the observatory, we now know, for example, that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, that most galaxies contain a supermassive black hole at their centers, and that stars form in violent processes.
- The Hubble images including the gorgeous clouds of gas and dust in the "Pillars of creation" and the view of nearly 10,000 galaxies in the "Hubble ultra deep Field" never fail to inspire.
- But the number of satellites in orbit has significantly increased since the Hubble launched in 1990, and now it is staring at the cosmos through a field of satellites.
6. Findings of the study
- To quantify the effect of satellite constellations on Hubble, Sandor Kruk, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, and his colleagues analyzed an archive of images taken from 2002 through 2021.
- They had help from hundreds of citizen scientists who pored through images to tag those with clear satellite streaks.
- That data set was then used as a training set for a machine-learning algorithm that analyzed more than 100,000 individual Hubble photos.
- Their results show that the chance of seeing a satellite in a Hubble image from 2009 to 2020 is only 3.7 percent.
- But the chance of seeing one in 2021 is 5.9 percent an increase that they say corresponds to Starlink. By the date of the analysis, 1,562 Starlink satellites were in orbit. Another company, OneWeb, had lofted 320 satellites.
7. Threats posed by SpaceX Satellites
- The satellites could pose a serious threat to a telescope that hasn’t launched yet.
- At the end of this year, China plans to send Xuntian, also known as the Chinese Survey Space Telescope, into low-Earth orbit.
- Xuntian will have a larger field of view than Hubble, making it much harder for satellites to slip by undetected.
- And Xuntian can’t simply launch into a higher orbit. China’s plan is for the telescope to share an orbit with the Tiangong space station so that astronauts can refurbish it if necessary.
- There are simply too many unknowns at the moment, including the ultimate number of satellites.
SpaceX hopes to eventually expand the size of its fleet to 42,000 Starlink satellites.
- Many other companies are in the market, too: Amazon, the British satellite provider OneWeb, a Chinese company called Galaxy Space, and even governments.
- A combined 431,713 satellites are planned to launch in the coming years.
- SpaceX is a commercial spaceflight company that launches satellites and sends astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), including NASA astronauts. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to revolutionize space transportation, with the ultimate goal of making life multi-planetary.
- SpaceX designs manufacture and launch advanced rockets and spacecraft.
- It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010.
- The company made history again in May 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft attached to the International Space Station, exchanged cargo payloads and returned safely to Earth a technically challenging feat previously accomplished only by governments.
- Since then Dragon has delivered cargo to and from the space station multiple times, providing regular cargo resupply missions for NASA.
- On May 30, 2020, SpaceX sent its first two humans to the International Space Station (ISS) onboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon and has since launched many additional crews on behalf of NASA and other organizations.
For Prelims: SpaceX, Hubble Space Telescope, NASA, Black Holes, Earths orbit, Galaxies, Xuntian, and Low-earth orbit.
WORLD WILDLIFE DAY
- CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species
- The trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation
- It accords varying degrees of protection to more than 37,000 species of animals and plants, ranging from live animals and plants to wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, medicines, etc
- Currently, there are 184 parties to the convention, including India. The CITES Secretariat is administered by UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme) and is located in Geneva, Switzerland
- The Conference of the Parties to CITES is the supreme consensus-based decision-making body of the Convention and comprises all its parties.
- In India, apart from the Union Ministery of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is a statutory body under the Ministry that is especially meant to combat organised wildlife crime in the country.
- It assists and advises the customs authorities in the inspection of the consignments of flora and fauna as per the provisions of the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972, CITES and the export and import policy governing items.
- The species covered under CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need
- Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted rarely, only in “exceptional circumstances”, such as gorillas, and lions from India
- Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled to ensure their survival. For example, certain kinds of foxes and Hippopotamuses
- Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade, like the Bengal fox or the Golden Jackal from India
- Different procedures are given category-wise to engage in the trade of species in each of the lists
- One argument says having wildlife allowed to be traded further legitimises their movement and increases the possibility of their illegal trade
- However, issues of international conventions not going far enough to enforce their mandate are common in agreements of such a scale, given the number of parties involved
- They rest on the implicit agreement that while the bodies generally do not have powers to penalise, there is at least a level of commitment that ensures some common ground as a first step
- Critics claimed there were sharp spikes in elephant poaching globally after one-off sales were allowed by the CITES in 1999 and 2008, of recovered ivory or from elephant deaths due to natural causes.