COP27: Kolkata presents climate action roadmap, announces city-level summit

Kolkata was the only Indian city at the meeting on urban climate resilience organised by the Climate Action Network South Asia

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Wednesday 16 November 2022
Mayor-In-Council Member Debasish Kumar at COP27 in Egypt Photo: Jayanta Basu

Kolkata presented a report on its climate vulnerability as well as actions taken for mitigation and adaptation during a meeting at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change being held at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. 

After the deliberation, the civic body announced its decision to hold a city-level climate summit soon to further take forward its action against climate change.

Kolkata was the only city from the country part of the meeting focused on urban climate resilience organised by the Climate Action Network South Asia. The meeting was attended by representatives from several South Asian cities. 

Kolkata has been identified as one of the most vulnerable global cities to climate change in recent UN reports.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation received the invitation after recently announcing its support to the global pledge to cut fossil fuel – the first city corporation in India to take the step, Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim, who couldn’t be present at Sharm El-Sheikh, told this reporter

Most vulnerable

Recent global reports have highlighted the vulnerability of Kolkata particularly due to its proximity to Sundarbans; one of the world’s major biodiversity hotspots, said Debasish Kumar, mayor-in-council member of KMC, who was representing the city at the event at Sharm El-Sheikh.

“Reports have clearly pointed our risk to high heat, severe cyclones, intense rainfall within short duration and likewise,” noted Kumar, who is also the chair of KMC’s climate and solar committee, adding:

From Aila to Amphan, a series of cyclones have demonstrated our vulnerability, with toppling of thousands of trees, acute water logging, among other impacts.

About 15,000 trees were toppled in the city during Cyclone Amphan in 2020 alone, he reminded.

He highlighted that the civic body and state have already taken some steps like providing solar connectivity in eight major city parks and turning them carbon neutral; introducing electrical vehicles; undertaking plantation of trees. But he admitted that the city needs to do more to reduce the city's carbon footprint.

IPCC report highlights concerns

The recently released AR 6 IPCC report underlined both the city’s existing as well as predicted risks.

  • Increasing risk: Beyond 2040, climate change would lead to numerous risks and occurrence of multiple climate hazards, often in tandem
  • Loss of green cover: Substantial green cover was lost because of Cyclone Amphan
  • Inadequate resilience plan: Limitations of resilience plans to address vulnerability
  • Disaster mortality: It is the most vulnerable to disaster-related mortality among eight megacities – only one from India
  • Flooding: It is third among the 20 largest coastal flood-prone global cities, with highest estimated flood losses by 2050. The city also has a risk of subsidence because of sea-level rise and flooding. In future, rainfall may increase by 55 per cent
  • Cyclone rise:  Category 3-5 cyclones (extremely severe or super cyclones) likely to increase in Sundarban, also affecting Kolkata
  • Inundation due to sea-level rise: Bay of Bengal water expected to rise 0.6 metres by century-end; impacting Kolkata which already has an old and stressed drainage system
  • Highest temperature rise:  Warming in the city increased by 2.6°C in the last six decades, highest in the world followed by Tehran and Moscow
  • Further temperature rise: Average temperature may rise about 4.5 degrees by century-end, while maximum temperature may touch about 50 degrees Celsius, if present trend of global emission continues.

“Though the predictions are benchmarked against the figures from 1850-1900 as man-made emission has started since then; but the increase has been most pronounced in recent decades,” said a climate expert associated with Kolkata University.

Top priority, says Mayor

“I consider countering climate change along with air pollution of paramount importance for the city if we want to keep it habitable for the next generation,” said Hakim.

He welcomed the idea of holding a city-level COP (conference of people), that came up during the meeting at the Sharm El Sheikh, with the dual aim of making people aware at large as well as interacting with key stakeholder groups. This will accelerate the process of drawing up a holistic climate action plan for the city, he added.

“It’s a very good idea. We will definitely organise a Kolkata COP soon involving all stakeholders after I discuss the details with experts who are in Sharm El Sheikh and helping us in countering climate change,” said mayor Hakim to this reporter.

“We are committed to supporting KMC in its effort to counter climate change and prepare its climate action plan. I feel it’s a great idea to organise the climate COP for the city; and inputs from them can be used in preparation of such an action plan,” said Sanjay Vashist, the director of Climate Action Network South Asia.

Climate meeting with all city stakeholders is a good idea, but the civic body needs to walk the talk, said a city based environmentalist. Trees are still being cut and water bodies encroached up in the city, including East Kolkata Wetlands, they added.

Global organisations and experts present in COP27, including the World Health Organization also welcomed the idea of holding such a city-based COP and promised all the help in its execution, Kumar said.

The formal process for the conference will start following discussions within the civic body as well as clearance from the Mayor and state government, he added.

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