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Current Affairs December 2018

  • Green Climate Fund (GCF), the largest multilateral fund’s contribution has remained only $10.3 billion and most of the climate finance has flowed into preventing carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • The growth in the climate specific finance actually declined from 24% between 2014 and 2015 to 14% between 2015 and 2016.
  • India’s commitment under Nationally Determined Contributions in Paris agreement 2015:
    1. To reduce its emissions per unit of GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by the year 2030 compared to the 2005.
    2. At least 40 per cent of its total electricity till the year 2030 will be generated through renewable sources of energy and which will create around 2.5 to 3 billion tones of additional carbon sinks.
    About Green Climate Fund (GCF):
  • The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was adopted as a financial mechanism of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the end of 2011 in COP 16 (Cancun Summit) to channelise funding from developed countries to developing countries to enable them in mitigating climate change and also adapt to disruptions arising from a changing climate.
  • Till 2019, developed countries are expected to make available $100 billion annually to developing countries.
  • It is intended to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country for combating climate change.
  • It finances activities to both enable and support adaptation, mitigation (including REDD+), technology development and transfer (including CCS), capacity-building and the preparation of national reports.
  • It has an independent legal status and personality and nationally designated authorities have a paramount role to play. This has been achieved after many rounds of different negotiations.
  • The GCF follows a ‘country-driven approach’, which envisages effective involvement of various stakeholders at all levels and also enables the developing countries to evolve their climate policy keeping in consideration their immediate development priorities like poverty reduction and improving standards of living for a large proportion of their population.
  • It is based in South Korea and governed by a Board of 24 members and initially supported by a Secretariat.
  • The World Bank serves as the interim trustee of the GCF, and the fund functions under the guidance of and remains accountable to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties.
    About Paris Agreement:
  • It is an international agreement to combat climate change established in 2015 in CoP 21 at Paris aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus reducing the threat of dangerous climate change.
  • 195 nations are signatory to it.
  • It has 29 articles and it is widely recognized as a historic deal to stop global warming.
  • It came into force on 4th November 2016.
    The aims of Paris Agreement: 1. Keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2o Celsius above the pre-industrial level. 2. To limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5o Celsius. 3. Strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
    Issues related to the Paris Agreement:
  • Article 9 of the Paris Agreement calls for financial support from developed countries that is significantly derived from public funds, which “should represent a progression beyond previous efforts”. However, there has been little progress on finance, technology transfer and capacity development.
  • Even according to the recent Summary Report of the Standing Committee on Finance under the UNFCCC, the total finance flows were around $38 billion in 2016, and much of this has been through multilateral funds. According to the 2018 Oxfam Climate Finance Shadow report estimates that net new finance amounts to only $16-21 billion.
  • While the U.S. has withdrawn from Paris agreement, other developed countries are not doing that much better. Australia and France have had political turmoil due to their climate policies even while experiencing severe weather events.
  • The inability to have any agreement between developing and rich countries is likely to impede progress on the rulebook.
  • The ethical foundations of the climate change fights on the global stage are based largely on the occupation of atmospheric carbon space by rich countries, leaving little room for growth by the poor nations which are more prone to be affected by the climate change.
  • Many developed countries like many countries of Europe are still heavily reliant on coal.
  • Way forward:
  • Ministry of Finance, Government of India calls for a credible, accurate and verifiable numbers on the climate flows from developed countries. This will encourage and persuade all countries that commitments made will be fulfilled.
  • Countries with average income exceeding $15,000 typically have the capacity and finance and technology to reduce their emissions dramatically. As a matter of fact, they must also alter their lifestyles considerably.
  • Trying to change what was agreed at Paris, as has been insisted upon by the U.S, is tantamount to renegotiating the PA, according to emerging economies and poor countries. There is need of greater diplomacy on this part to keep the agreement intact as developed countries have tendencies to create agreements favouring their own interests.
  • To realise the commitment under intended nationally determined contributions by various countries, countries have to trust each other, which would mean that fulfilling obligations is a foundation of future ambition and action.
    TOPIC: GS II, BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL GROUPINGS
    24. Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news:

    Qatar has recently announced its withdrawal from Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC.


    Causes behind Qatar’s withdrawal:
  • Major sunni countries cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar and shut their airspace to Qatari aircraft. Moreover they told foreign airlines to seek permission if flying to and from Qatar.
  • Saudi Arabia sealed Qatar’s only land border, and closed its ports to Qatari-flagged ships.
  • They claimed that Qatar had refused to end ties with “terrorists”, after Qatar declined to fulfil 13 demands that were presented to it, including cutting diplomatic relations with Iran and military ties with Turkey, shutting down the TV station Al Jazeera, and aligning with other Arab countries “militarily, politically, socially and economically which Qatar termed as “surrendering its sovereignty.
  • Qatar has long showed an independent foreign policy that does not always align with the priorities of its regional Arab neighbours. This includes having a close economic and diplomatic relationship with Shia Iran, Sunni Saudi’s great regional rival. As a result Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, directed Qatari citizens to leave within 14 days, and forbade their citizens from going to or staying in Qatar.
  • Qatar wanted to focus on its gas industry rather than on oil in which it is a small player. It is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and Australia is threatening to dethrone Qatar as the world’s biggest LNG seller as it ramps up production of the gas that is cooled to liquid to be transported by ships.
    current affairs december 2018
    Impact on global oil prices and on India:
  • Qatar is a tiny player in the oil production in the world constituting only 2% of OPEC’s total output per day.
  • However, over the last many decades, it has played a role mediating internal rivalries in OPEC and striking production-cut deals with producers like Russia. This is where its absence may hurt OPEC a bit.
  • It also has limited influence on OPEC’s pricing decisions.
  • From India’s perspective, its position as the world’s top LNG exporter and an influential player in the global LNG market is more pertinent.
  • Qatar is one of India’s oldest and biggest LNG suppliers. However, LNG pricing is not in OPEC’s domain, so Qatar’s decision is unlikely to impact these trends.
    Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC):
  • It is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1960 by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and Venezuela. Qatar joined in 1961.
  • It is a cartel of 15 countries that produce about 45% of the world’s oil and contain over 80% of its “proven” reserves.
  • Its headquarters is in Vienna, Austria.
  • It aims to coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its member countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets, in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers, and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry.
  • The formation of OPEC marked a turning point toward national sovereignty over natural resources.
  • Saudi Arabia dominates the cartel. OPEC has influence on global oil prices, which play a crucial role in determining the economic health of many countries, including India.
  • Indonesia and Ecuador are former members of the organization.

    VI. SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
    TOPIC: GS III, AWARENESS IN SPACE
    25. Soyuz
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news:

    A Soyuz rocket carrying Russian, American and Canadian astronauts took off from Kazakhstan and has reached orbit, in the first manned mission since a failed launch in October.


    Key points:
  • The Soyuz (SAW-yooz) is a Russian spacecraft. Astronauts and cosmonauts travel to the International Space Station on the Soyuz.
  • The Soyuz transports crews to the International Space Station and returns them to Earth after their missions.
  • The Soyuz is like a lifeboat for the space station. At least one Soyuz is always docked at the space station. If there is an emergency, the station crew can use the Soyuz to return to Earth.
  • The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS since the U.S. retired the space shuttle in 2011.
    TOPIC: GS III, ACHIEVEMENTS OF INDIANS IN SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY; INDIGENIZATION OF TECHNOLOGY AND DEVELOPING NEW TECHNOLOGY 26. India’s heaviest satellite GSAT-11
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news:

    ISRO’s heaviest and most advanced communication satellite GSAT-11 was recently launched from the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou in French Guiana.

  • It was launched onboard Ariane-5.
  • The mission of the 5,854-kg giant 'bird' is to enable much faster Internet services than now to users down home over the next 15 years. Key points:
  • GSAT-11, described by the space agency as a giant satellite, is the heaviest ever built by ISRO. (Its next biggest is the GSAT-17, weighing 3,477 kg and which was also launched for ISRO in June 2017 by the same European launch operator Arianespace.)
  • ISRO has revealed that the satellite will be initially placed in the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and will be later raised to Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the equator). It will be using the Liquid Apogee Motor which will be onboard the satellite.
  • GSAT-11 is part of ISRO’s new family of high-throughput communication satellite (HTS) fleet that will drive the country’s Internet broadband from space to untouched areas.
  • According to ISRO, GSAT-11’s multiple spot beam coverage — 32 in Ku band and eight in Ka bands — will deliver an improved service of 16 gbps over the Indian region and nearby islands.
  • The satellite will also have VSAT Terminals which basically will ensure that it can handle large capacity platform to support a huge subscriber base.
    GSAT 11: How does it work?
  • GSAT-11 will use a ‘multi-spot’ approach to maximize its coverage area in the Indian mainland and islands — a far superior communication technology than existing INSATs and GSATs.
  • In a first for a satellite built by ISRO, GSAT-11 will carry a next-generation I-6K bus (communication satellite hub) to provide services in two widely-used wavelengths for telecommunications: the Ku- and Ka-bands. This makes GSAT-11 three to six times more powerful than any of ISRO’s (and India’s) satellite roster today.
  • It will provide up to 14 Gigabit/s in both voice and video broadband services anywhere in the Indian mainland or islands over its 15-year lifespan, according to ISRO.
  • The satellite has 32 Ku-band transponders and 8 Ka-band hubs on board. The Ku- and Ka-bands are different frequencies of microwaves in the electromagnetic spectrum.
    Significance:
  • GSAT-11 will bring far greater speeds (16 Gbps of it, no less) and capacity to meet growing demand for mobile and internet in households, businesses, and public organisations.
  • Large parts of rural areas still remain untouched by the scope of commercial telecom today — something GSAT-11 is designed to change. Under Digital India’s BharatNet project GSAT-11 will boost access to voice and video streaming in most, if not all, of rural India.
  • With India moving fast towards implementing ‘Smart Villages and Cities’, they can be efficiently linked through a large communication satellite.
    current affairs december 2018
    TOPIC: GS III, ACHIEVEMENTS OF INDIANS IN SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY; INDIGENIZATION OF TECHNOLOGY AND DEVELOPING NEW TECHNOLOGY 27. ExseedSAT 1, India’s 1st Private Satellite
    Source: Times of India
    Why in news:

    With the launch of ExseedSAT 1, Exseed Space has become the first Indian privately-funded startup to successfully send a satellite into space.

  • ExseedSAT 1 was launched into space by Space X along with 63 other satellites from 17 countries.
    About ExseedSAT1:
  • The mini communication satellite weighing just a kg with double the size of a Rubik’s cube (10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm) is made up of aluminium alloy.
  • The satellite would provide a big boost to private radio operators and help in coordinating messages among them and help the country in time of disaster.
  • The satellite looks to serve the amateur radio community.
  • The satellite with a lifespan of five years will allow people to receive signals on 145.9 Mhz frequency with the help of a TV tuner. Significance of recent Falcon 9 launch:
  • With this Falcon 9 launch, SpaceX broke two records. This was the US private space agency’s 19th launch of the year topping its previous annual record of 18, which was set last year. Second, the Falcon 9 rocket managed to deliver 64 satellites into orbit breaking the US record (India holds the world record for launching 104 satellites in one go on February 15, 2017). VII. PRELIMS/MISCELLANEOUS
    28. SHINYU U Maitri 18

  • The first bilateral air exercise SHINYUU Maitri-18 between Japanese Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) and Indian Air Force (IAF) began at Air Force Station Agra.
  • The theme of this exercise is joint Mobility/Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief (HADR) on Transport aircraft.
  • The focus of the exercise is set for IAF and JASDF crews to undertake Joint Mobility/ HADR operations.
  • IAF and JASDF will also practice display of heavy loading/off loading during this exercise.
    29. Swadesh Darshan Project
  • Peren-Kohima-Wokha Project under Tribal Circuit has been recently inaugurated at Kisama Heritage Village in Nagaland.
  • This is the first project to be implemented in the state under Swadesh Darshan Scheme of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. About Swadesh Darshan scheme:
  • It is one among the flagship schemes of the Ministry of Tourism for development of thematic circuits in the country in a planned and prioritised manner.
  • Under this scheme the Government is focussing on development of quality infrastructure in the country with objective of providing better experience and facilities to the visitors on one hand and on other hand fostering the economic growth.
  • It was launched in 2014 -15 and under this scheme, 73 projects are expected to be completed this year.
  • 8 projects have been inaugurated as on date under the scheme.
    30. India Water Impact Summit - 2018
  • Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has recently inaugurated India Water Impact Summit 2018 which is jointly organized by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies (cGanga). About the summit:
  • The India Water Impact Summit is an annual event where stakeholders get together to discuss, debate and develop model solutions for some of the biggest water related problems in the country.
  • The Summit will focus on three key aspects: 1. Spotlight on 5 states: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi and Bihar. The objective is to showcase the efforts and works going on within the respective states. 2. Ganga Financing Forum: It will bring a number of institutions to a common knowledge, information and partnership platform. 3. Technology and Innovation: To provide an opportunity to technology and innovation companies from around the world to showcase their solutions for addressing the problems prevalent in the river basin. 31. Soil Health Cards scheme
  • Soil Health Card Scheme has been taken up for the first time in a comprehensive manner across the country under which soil health cards are recently provided to all farmers so as to enable the farmers to apply appropriate recommended dosages of nutrients for crop production and improving soil health and its fertility. The unique features of SHC scheme are:
  • Collecting soil samples at a grid of 2.5 ha in irrigated area and 10 ha in un-irrigated areas.
  • Uniform approach in soil testing adopted for 12 parameters viz. primary nutrients (NPK); secondary nutrient (S); micronutrients (B, Zn, Mn, Fe & Cu); and other (pH, EC & OC) for comprehensiveness.
  • GPS enabled soil sampling to create a systematic database and allow monitoring of changes in the soil health over the years.
    32. Agriculture Export Policy, 2018
  • The Union Cabinet has approved the Agriculture Export Policy, 2018 with the aimed to double farmers’ income by 2022 and doubling the agricultural exports and integrating Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains.
    Objectives:
  • To double agricultural exports from present US$ 30+ Billion to US$ 60+ Billion by 2022 and reach US$ 100 Billion in the next few years thereafter, with a stable trade policy regime.
  • To diversify our export basket, destinations and boost high value and value added agricultural exports including focus on perishables.
  • To promote novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional Agri products exports.
  • To provide an institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues.
  • To strive to double India’s share in world agri exports by integrating with global value chain at the earliest.
  • Enable farmers to get benefit of export opportunities in overseas market.
    33. Shahpurkandi Dam
  • The Union Cabinet has recently approved implementation of Shahpurkandi Dam Project, Punjab on river Ravi. Details of the project:
  • On completion of the project an Irrigation Potential of 5,000 ha in Punjab State and 32,173 ha in J&K State would be created.
  • Funding will be made through NABARD.
  • In addition to existing monitoring mechanism for projects by Central Water Commission, a committee headed by Member, Central Water Commission and consisting of concerned Chief Engineers of Punjab and J&K and other concerned officers would be constituted to oversee/monitor the implementation of project.
  • Implemented by Govt. of Punjab and to be completed by 2022. Need of this project:
  • Some of the water of the River Ravi at present is going waste through the Madhopur Headworks downstream to Pakistan whereas there is requirement for the same for use in Punjab and J&K. Implementation of the project would minimise such wastage of water.
  • On completion of the project, an additional irrigation potential of 5000 ha in Punjab State and 32173 ha in J&K State would be created.
  • Punjab would also be able to generate 206 MW of hydropower. Background:
  • The project was initially approved by the planning commission during November, 2001 and was included under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Scheme (AIBP).
  • Revised cost of the ShahpurKandi Dam National project was approved on 24th August, 2009 however, the works could not progress much due to non-availability of funds on the part of Govt. of Punjab for power component and later interstate issues with J&K.
    34. Hand-in-Hand 2018
  • The annual exercise, Hand-in-Hand has been recently conducted between India and China at Chengdu, China.
  • The aim of the exercise is to build and promote close relations between armies of both the countries and to enhance ability of joint exercise involving tactical level operations in an international counter Insurgency/ counter terrorist environment under UN mandate.
    35. International Year of Millets in 2023
  • Food and Agricultural Organisation Council has recently approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023.
  • This will enhance global awareness to bring back these nutri-cereals to the plate, for food and nutrition security and hence increase production for resilience to challenges posed globally by climate change.
  • Endorsement of India’s proposal comes in the backdrop of India celebrating 2018 as the National Year of Millets for promoting cultivation and consumption of these nutri-cereals supported by increase in Minimum Support Prices (MSP) of millets.
  • Millets consists of Jowar, Bajra, Ragi and minor millets together termed as nutri-cereals.
    36. Sahariya Community
  • Recently, the plight of the Saharia community has come to the fore who are facing poverty, unemployment and malnutrition for years. current affairs december 2018
    About Sahariyas:
  • They are ethnic group in Madhya Pradesh and mainly found in the region of Bundelkhand and some parts of Rajasthan.
  • They speak a Munda language that belongs to the Austro-Asiatic language family.
  • They are one of the 75 scheduled tribes in the country who are recognised as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
  • They little contact with the outside world.
  • They use the “slash and burn” method of cultivation. Issues related to the community:
  • The Sahariya tribal community in Shahbad region in Baran district recorded 47 starvation deaths during the 2001 drought, suffers from extreme poverty, unemployment and malnutrition.
  • The benefits of additional days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the supply of essential items under the Antyodaya Yojana are not fully available to them.
  • Daily wage labour and agriculture are the main sources of livelihood in the region. 37. Train 18
  • India's first indigenously designed locomotive-less (engine less) train has been recently tested and breached the 180 kmph speed threshold thus becoming the country's fastest train.
  • It is touted as next generation Shatabdi Express and will connect metros with other important cities.
  • It is scheduled to become operational in January 2019. Question:
    1. How far can be abolition of capital punishment in India can be justified? Critically analyse the arguments in favour and against the issue highlighting recommendations of various committees.
    2. Critically analyse the arguments in favour of and against the Women Reservation Bill. Suggest measures to make women representation more comprehensive in the parliament.
    3. Critically analyse the recently launched witness protection scheme. Do you think that witness protection regime in India is strong? Highlight major recommendations of various committees regarding.
    4. Discuss the recent changes made under Maternity benefit amendment act 2017. Highlight the positive and negative impacts of the amendment.
    5. Despite taking a number of steps for enhancing nutrition level in India, its performance has remained low. Critically analyse the causes of it while highlighting India’s performance in the Global nutrition report 2018.
    6. While going through its deportation policy, India also has to take care of not only the humanitarian aspects but also its national security as well as external interests. Critically analyse this statement in the context of the issue of deportation of Rohingya community from India.
    7. India has attempted to secure its interests at the time when the world is divided into a number of groups. Critically analyse this statement in the context of recent G 20 summit.
    8. Critically analyse the shift in the policy of European Union towards India highlighting its recently released new strategy paper. What are the causes behind this move?
    9. Paris agreement is a landmark and an ambitious step towards preventing global warming and climate change yet its implementation seems questionable. Discuss.
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