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IPCC AR6 WG1: Science Need to Back by Political Actions

Pragya Sherchan

The UNFCCC COP 26 was concluded in November at Glasgow, Scotland. Every individual’s concern was: Will the global leaders take urgent and ambitious actions on greenhouse gases emission reduction as warned by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? However, the two- week long intense negotiation ended with adoption of watered down (a compromise and a hope) “Glasgow Climate Pact” from “Glasgow Climate Emergency Pact” and with the last minute change from coal ‘Phase-out‘ to ‘phase-down’.

Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published Working Group I (WGI) report on Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis as a part of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) in August 2021. The report unequivocally highlights “observed increases in well-mixed greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations since around 1750 caused by human activities”. This has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land, leading to widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere.

 IPCC is the United Nations body created by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988. It was created to provide policy makers with regular scientific assessments on the current state of knowledge on climate change, its natural, political and economic impacts and future risk and possible response options for adaptation and mitigation.  Till date IPCC has had five assessment cycles and published five Assessment Reports.   In 2007, the IPCC and Vice-President Al Gore of the United States of America were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to build up and disseminate greater knowledge on human-induced climate change via AR4.  Likewise, the two authors- Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann from IPCC have also got the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics for research that advances understanding of complex physical system such as Earth’s Changing climate. Now, IPCC is in its sixth assessment cycle. The IPCC is divided into three Working Groups viz. Working Group I: deals with The Physical Science Basis of CC; Working Group II: deals with CC Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability; and Working Group III: deals with the Mitigation of CC.

The AR 6 WG 1 report has made the following conclusions on global temperature projection and the impacts.

  • It is indisputable that human activities are causing climate change making extreme climate events, including heatwaves, heavy rainfall, and droughts, more frequent and severe.
  • The earth’s global surface temperature was 1.09˚C (≈ 1.1 ˚C) higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than compared to the pre-industrial period.
  • Business as usual emission scenario temperature rise to 1.5 ˚C will be crossed in the next 20 years, and 2 ˚C by the middle of the century.
  • Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with further warming.
  • Every additional 0.5 ˚C of warming will increase hot extremes, extreme precipitation, and drought as well as weaken the earth’s carbon sinks present in plants, soils, and the ocean.
  • Snow melting is faster, glacier retreat and mass loss are unprecedented in at least 2000 years. Sea-level rise has tripled compared to 1901-1971.
  • The frequency of occurring climate events is once in every 10 years in the pre-industrial period has increased to 2.8 times in the present context with 1˚C warmer and with the further increase in temperature from 1.5 ˚C, and 2 ˚C the frequency would be 4.1 times and 5.6 times.
  • There is no going back from some changes in the climate system. However, some changes could be slowed and others could be stopped by limiting warming.
  • Unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in GHGs emissions, limiting warming to 1.5˚C and even 2˚C will be beyond reach.
  • To limit global warming, strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in CO2, methane, and other GHGs are necessary. This would not only reduce the consequences of climate change but also improve air quality.

The report also provides a thin chance to stop the negative climate trends by mid-century by stopping the use of fossil fuels and stopping deforestation. It has called upon the global community to take climate action immediately as there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.

The current greenhouse gases reduction commitment is highly insufficient to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 ˚C. As the global carbon emission needs to reduce by 45% from the 2010 level in the next nine years and net-zero by 2050. But, ironically the world is heading towards 2.4˚C by the end of this century, based on the current NDC submitted by 194 countries.  The developed nations continued to shirk their historical responsibilities, obstructing funding for Loss and Damage. The COP26 did not secure a stable climate but it set directions for future climate actions, with improvements.

Though the outcomes did not meet the expectations of countries like Nepal, still a least developed and vulnerable country to climate change must urge the high emitting countries to take ambitious and urgent targets for climate emergency to save the world. For this strong political will is crucial at the international, national, and local level. In Nepal, the local election is on the forefront, now it is time to make environment and climate change issues of the political manifesto to tackle the climate emergency.

Nepal’s Pathways to Decarbonizing the Transport System

Shovana  Maharjan

Transport accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The World Resource Institute’s Climate Data Explorer provides data that in 2016, global CO2 emissions (including land use) were 36.7 billion tonnes CO2; emissions from transport were 7.9 billion tonnes CO2. Transport therefore accounted for 7.9 / 36.7 = 21% of global emissions. Almost all (95%) of the world’s transportation energy comes from petroleum-based fuels, largely gasoline and diesel. Globally, around one-third of carbon emissions is contributed by the transport sector in recent times. In Nepal also, transport-related emissions make up the second-largest energy-related carbon emission. Hence, the transport sector has become one of the significant contributors to the increase in urban air pollution, along with increased dependency on petroleum import, Nepal’s trade deficit, road fatalities, and growing socio-economic and public health costs.

The statistics of the Department of Customs shows that Nepal imported petrol, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, aviation fuel, kerosene, fuel oil and lubricating oil worth NRs 214.48 billion (approximately 1.9 billion USD) in 2018-19. To address carbon emissions, urban air pollution, and the reliance on imported fossil fuels, Nepal needs to move to decarbonize its transport system. Electrifying the transport system is the key to transport decarbonization – in this electrification, renewable energy would play a significant role. Nepal has the opportunity to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  and climate commitments, strengthen the economy, and improve the quality of life by moving away from fossil fuel-dependent transport regimes, increasing energy security and prioritizing the most efficient mobility system with the electrification of the transport system.

The second or revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) by Nepal was communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2020. By that, Nepal has committed to increasing the sales of all-electric private passenger vehicles including two-wheelers by 25% by 2025 and increasing the sales of all-electric four-wheeler public passenger vehicle sales by 20% by 2025. Similarly, by 2030, sales of all private passenger vehicles including two-wheelers will be increased by 90%, and that of all four-wheeler public passenger vehicles by 60%. The country has also committed to constructing 200 km of the electric rail network.

In order to meet these commitments, the Government of Nepal has included some special provisions for promoting e-vehicles in its budget for the financial year 2021/22. The government is planning to purchase a minimum of 100 electric vehicles and install 500 charging stations across the country with the involvement of the private sector. Also, the government has forwarded its plan to displace all light vehicles which are run with petrol by electric vehicles by 2031. Upon the conversion of petroleum-powered vehicles to electric ones, the government will be providing a discount on registration fees and road tax for five years for electric vehicles. It will be charging no excise duty and reduced custom tax for e-vehicles. The government has allocated about NRs. 10.03 billion for the railway development. While on paper, the policies and plans sound very good but the problem lies in their implementation. If real changes should happen, the policies and plans have to be implemented. For this, the government needs to analyze the current situation and take all the concerned stakeholders’ voices into consideration, without letting the documents gather dust awaiting implementation endlessly.

In this context, Prakriti Resources Centre (PRC) and WWF Nepal organized a webinar on “Nepal’s Pathways to Decarbonizing the Transport System” on 15 July 2021 to discuss the need for decarbonizing transport, opportunities, challenges, and the way forward. The discussion in the webinar centered around the current scenario of transport development, policies and plans, and Nepal’s efforts for promoting electric and sustainable transport and sharing international best practices that Nepal can learn from.

Mr. Prashant Khanal, Urban Mobility Expert and the lead presenter, shed light on different aspects related to the possibility of promoting e-mobility in Nepal. Between 2011 and 2016, he said, Nepal’s road-transport CO2 emissions grew by 113%, adding that Nepal is one of the top 10 countries where transport emissions are projected to see a sharp increase from 2010 to 2050. The country is experiencing a rapid growth of motor vehicles run by petroleum. He informed the participants that in the Kathmandu Valley alone, while the share of walking and cycling has sharply plummeted, that of private vehicles has increased significantly from 13% in 1991 to 30% in 2011, and the share of public transport has remained static. Given these circumstances he stressed the need for Nepal to embark on the path of decarbonizing its transport system. The transformation of our transportation should not be just about reducing emissions, it should also address inequality in mobility access, road safety, and the causes and effects of traffic congestion in order to create just mobility systems. Electrifying Nepal’s transport system leads to hugely increased electricity demand. Increasing the share of renewable energy (solar, biogas, wind) in the country’s energy mix is essential to meet the future electricity demand and make the energy system resilient.

Subscribing to the views of the lead presenter, Mr. Bhusan Tuladhar, Environment Expert in the Sajha Yatayat Board, described the promotion of e-mobility as the best option for decarbonization. He emphasized the need for promoting public e-transportation by discouraging the use of private vehicles. However, he said, the budget for the financial year 2021/22 has no provision that facilitates the promotion of public transportation. Speaking of the need to expedite systematic reformation combined with the assurance of return on the initial investment to attract the private sector, Mr. Tuladhar pointed out that domestic finance like from the pollution tax on petrol would be enough if the government sincerely plans to mobilize available resources in promoting public e-transportation.

Representing the private and financing sectors, Mr. Dinesh Dulal, Head of Energy Department in the NMB Bank Ltd. stressed the need for consistency in policies and practices and the need for minimizing the initial cost through subsidies to convince the private sector of the promotion of e-transportation. He also suggested that the government should formulate appropriate policies and develop an investment-friendly e-vehicle sector in which the financing institutions become confident to invest. Prof. Dr Rejina Maskey furthermore also highlighted the importance of converting public vehicles into electric ones as 35% of petroleum imports and emissions are occurring due to public vehicles.

Presenting a different perspective, Ms. Shristina Shrestha who is an Urban Planner, opined that while decarbonization focuses on aspects as city planning and urban design with more cycling lanes and walkways, it equally demands that social and gender considerations are taken into account in the process. Mr. Shyam Sundar Sapkota, Provincial Transport Operation and Management Board Member of the Bagmati Province informed the webinar participants that the provincial government is planning to gradually displace the petrol-based vehicles by 2031. In the budget of 2021/22, he said, the provincial government has announced its decision to promote a public-private partnership for the promotion of an electric mass transit system.

The webinar concluded the necessity of promoting the public e-vehicle as public vehicles are the major emitters. The private sector engagement in promoting public e-vehicles should be encouraged through favourable policies and fair incentives by the government. While expressing its commitment to achieving the ambitious targets in the NDC, the government is also trying to fulfill the commitments which are reflected in the new policies and provisions of the recently announced budget and provincial plans, too. Of equal importance are necessary infrastructure like charging stations, roads, quality assurance of the vehicles, and most important is the provision of an adequate, and reliable supply of energy through the energy mix approach.

 

Localizing climate actions a way to achieve Nationally Determined Contributions

Pragya Sherchan, Programme Officer

Prakriti Resources Centre (PRC) 

“The Earth should not be a worse place after my life than it was when I was born here.” – Rob Stewart, a Canadian award-winning biologist, environmentalist, conservationist, photographer and filmmaker.

I picked up the quote because it nudged me into a brief indulgence in retrospection, and made me feel somewhat nostalgic too. My own little earth or my birthplace is already no longer what it used to be when I was a kid. This very thought or a kind of my own conclusion catapulted me to a vantage point from where I am seeing the awe-inspiring beauty of mother nature fading away fast, and her divine gifts losing the vibrancy of their lives.

Photo: Traditional architectural houses of Mustang: Lupra Village 

I belong to Mustang in Nepal, a beautiful mountainous region also known as the district beyond the mountains, desert of Nepal, forbidden kingdom, rain-shadow zone, etc. I grew up by playing in nature with nature. I found myself in complete harmony with the white and bright snow-capped mountains, and the snow and glacier-fed rivers and waterfalls. I’ve not yet forgotten the taste of cold and fresh natural spring water. The sprawling grassland just beneath the mountains studded with herds of yaks and sheep, the wild animals I used to frequently catch sight of, the sights and sounds of different species of birds that mesmerized me. Now I am living in Kathmandu due to my job. When I remember Mustang, memories of all these gifts of nature, which I always feel myself as a part of, immediately spring to my mind.  

Having opened my mind to you about how I feel about my place of birth, it is painful for me to tell you that Mustang is no longer the Mustang of my childhood. I am observing and noticing gradual changes in my surroundings. The ever-smiling mountains have started wearing gloomy faces. Fast snow-melting is gradually turning the mountains into black rocks. We have experienced sudden avalanches and recurring flash floods. Landslides are becoming prominent in Mustang in recent years. Mustang was also known as rain-shadow zone. So, traditionally as well as because of the climate and weather it has almost all existing houses there are made of mud and stone with mud flat roofs. But of late our roofs leak when it rains.  People are now building new concrete houses using corrugated sheets for roofing.

Needless to say Mustang is also famous for high-quality delicious apples, potatoes, and other vital grains and cereals. The production and qualities of these fruits and crops are declining due to new diseases, insects, unexpected and heavy rainfall and hail-storm, and less sunshine hour. Apple farming that began in 2053 BS (1996) in the villages called Lete, Taglung and Ghasa gradually expanded to other areas of Lower Mustang. But the three villages, which ushered in apple farming, do not have a single standing apple tree today. The delicious fruit is on the verge of extinction also in the lower Mustang areas. The Upper Mustang farmers are attracted towards apple farming as they are also observing good harvest and quality. In Nepal, the standard altitude for apple farming is 3,000 masl, but now it is growing even above 3,500 masl.   

Photo: Apple orchard in Lower Mustang: Khanti Village

These phenomena or illustrations lead me to relate them to the growing impacts of climate change in my place. Many villages and cities across the world are witnessing similar changes and suffering differently. Climatic hazards vary with topography. Mountains and ice-lands area are facing rapid ice and snow melting triggering Glacier Lakes Outburst Floods and sea-level rise. Coastal areas are hit by cyclones, hurricanes and sea-level rise. Landslides and flash floods are common in hills and the plains. Vulnerabilities to climatic hazards on a specific location depending on multiple factors and mainly livelihood base, ecological diversity, population and level of preparedness. Climate change is a common global problem but climatic hazards and their vulnerabilities are localized and vary with locations. So, we need local solutions to the problems of climate change.

Nepal is developing policies and plans to address climate change. National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), Local Adaptation Plan for Action (LAPA), National Climate Change Policy and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are some of the key policy documents. These documents contain many good provisions that aim to build community resilience to climate change impacts. However, these policies are not rolled out fully and honestly. One of the main reasons behind their non-implementation is they are not localized yet. To begin with, localization calls for their contextualization and their integration into local government level planning and programming, effective implementation, monitoring changes, and building on experience and learning. Ironically, however, many local governments are not even familiar with these policies not to talk of their roles in addressing climate change and any initiative from their side. Localized climate actions would pave the way for identifying and applying effective and sustainable climate solutions protecting places like Mustang from falling victim to climate change, and complement the fulfillment of the country’s national and international commitments on climate change. 

Having said all this, I again feel like thinking about my own place, first. I am pinning my hope on the local government in my area (Mustang) would awaken to the urgency of taking action, and together with citizens like me and others start the process of localizing the existing policies and help Mustang to return to the Mustang of my childhood. Together, we might generate a “Mustang model”!!

MDB investment can support climate-resilient COVID-19 recovery in developing countries

Authors: Deborah Murphy, IISD and Prabin Man Singh, PRC

The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in disruptions to and a weakening of the global economy in 2020. This health crisis and its economic impacts have demanded the attention, management and resources of both Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and developing country governments. The NAP Global Network reports adaptation to climate change may not be a priority in the short term for some governments and mobilizing resources for adaptation may be challenging as governments grapple with the added expense of COVID-19 responses, revenue loss and increased debt.

While MDB and developing country government attention on adaptation finance may have taken a backseat to COVID-19 responses in 2020, it is critical that economic recovery programs incorporate adaptation and climate resilience. The impacts of climate change are increasingly evident. The five-year period from 2016 to 2020 is expected to be the warmest on record, contributing to such impacts as disappearing Arctic ice, rising oceans, and more droughts and floods. In Nepal, extreme rainfall in 2020 caused 445 flooding and landslide incidents that claimed about 430 lives and displaced more than 5,000 people. This flooding, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected over 185,0000 people and claimed more than 1,000 lives in Nepal as of early November 2020, has severely disrupted economic activity. Economic recovery programmes for Nepal require additional financing from both domestic and international sources.

MDBs are at the forefront of addressing the challenge of the pandemic in many developing countries, and have committed hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and grants to first help tackle the health emergency and then move toward stimulus measures for economic recovery. In Nepal, the Asian Development Bank has provided grant funds of US$ 3 million for COVID-19 emergency response and a US$ 250 million concessional loan that is focused on social protection for the poor and vulnerable and economic support especially for affected small businesses. The World Bank has provided a concessional loan of US$ 29 million for COVID-19 emergency response and a grant of US$ 10.85 million for a school sector response to COVID-19. In addition, the World Bank has approved almost US$1 billion in concessional loans in 2020 to sectors that are critical to an effective COVID-19 economic recovery, including agriculture, urban development, energy, trade, forestry and strengthened financial sector stability.

A key lesson emerging from our research project, “Mobilizing Development Finance for Adaptation” is that adaptation must remain at the forefront in MDB and developing country government planning and programming. The Prakriti Resources Centre is working with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to examine opportunities to scale up financing for adaptation from the perspective of developing countries and MDBs. The African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Kenya and Libelula in Peru are also research partners of this project that is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Our preliminary research tells us that sustainable recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic means that investment decisions taken today need to incorporate a longer-term perspective that promotes infrastructure, urban, and agricultural systems that are climate resilient. Additionally, crisis response needs to stress the importance of access to the environmental determinants of health – including water and sanitation, and nutritious food – and addressing the expected impact of climate change on these sectors. In the short term, this includes ensuring that MDB investment in COVID-19 recovery accounts for adaptation priorities; as well as highlighting the contribution that adaptation finance can make toward national social and economic development goals.

Raju Pandit Chhetri, Executive Director of PRC, highlighted the linkages between Nepal’s COVID-19 recovery response, the country’s emerging adaptation priorities, and World Bank programming. He remarked that, “The World Bank is supporting Nepal to develop an adaptation investment plan. It is critical that this plan be linked to and support national processes to develop Nepal’s National Adaptation Plan and to update the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).” Chhetri further explained that the updating of the NDC and development of the NAP offers opportunity to guide adaptation action in the country’s pandemic response. But a critical factor in scaling up MDB support for adaptation is that the request that come from developing country governments. Government officials responsible for adaptation need to be engaged in discussions with MDBs; and MDB officials need to learn from and draw on country-led adaptation processes to identify priority actions.

While adaptation may appear to less of a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency is not diminishing. MDBs and the Government of Nepal can work together to factor climate adaptation needs in COVID-19 recovery investments that promote inclusive, climate-resilient and sustainable systems and communities that encourage economic and social development.

 

Climate Concerns

United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) was held in Bonn, Germany in November. It was presided by Fiji—a small island developing state from Pacific region for the first time in the history of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Hence, this Conference of Parties (COP) was also popularly dubbed as the ‘Pacific COP’.

COP23 was designed to be more a technical and process-oriented COP, as it needed to assist in the drafting of the ‘rule book’ for the implementation of Paris Agreement by 2018. However, expectations were also high as a highly climate vulnerable island country was chairing the meeting. The conference started with several references to the recent extreme events such as flooding in South Asia, hurricanes in the Caribbean and prolonged droughts in East Africa that had taken a huge toll on human life and property. This climate-induced evidence was highlighted with the aim to raise ambition and fulfill the expectations for the poor and vulnerable countries in tackling climate change.

Crucial times

The Bonn climate talks took place at a time when the United States, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter with biggest historical responsibility, had decided to leave the Paris Agreement.  Till date, 170 countries have ratified Paris Agreement and are committed to tackling climate change. With the US opting out, there is uncertainty on how the climate mitigation targets and the finance needed to address climate actions in the developing countries can be met. Many developing countries are worried that US may not do its bit in climate actions and provide finance to Green Climate Fund (GCF). Other developed countries like Canada, Norway and the European Union are also nervous that they might be pressured to take on additional burden after US withdrawal.

Climate finance was one of the major sticking issues at COP but was largely limited to procedural matters and no significant decisions were made. The developed countries mostly reiterated their commitments made in 2009 to jointly mobilize US$100 billion per year by 2020 in the form of long-term finance. The developing countries fought tooth and nail to secure the future of the Adaptation Fund. Currently, this international climate Fund established in 2001 to support adaptation actions in the developing countries sits under Kyoto Protocol. As a token relief, some developed countries including Germany and Sweden pledged around US$93 million into Adaptation Fund and US$92 million to Least Developed Countries Fund. These pledges provided some respite to the empty baskets that were established to support the poor and climate vulnerable countries. 

Another major expectation from the Fiji Presidency was the advancement of loss and damage agenda that has been put to low profile for long. This issue is associated with permanent, irrecoverable and long-term effects caused by extreme events due to climate change. Small island countries have been championing this issue at the climate talks. However, when Fiji was presiding the meeting, Association of Small Island Developing States could not hang on to it for long. Additional finance sought to address this issue was ignored by the developed countries. The discussion was procrastinated to another round of ‘expert dialogue’. 

In Bonn, one of the major symbolic wins for developing countries was pressuring the developed countries to agree on a process to review and enhance pre-2020 actions over the next two years. This was possible through leadership of China. Pre-2020 actions bind the developed countries to reduce their GHG emissions and provide finance to the developing countries. COP23 also set a path to a crucial process for 2018 called the ‘Facilitative Dialogue’ that was agreed two years ago in Paris. Fiji presidency renamed the expression ‘Facilitative Dialogue’ to ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, which is the Pacific concept for inclusive, transparent and constructive debate. Talanoa dialogue will hold series of discussions and assess whether the current climate mitigation action is in line with keeping the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This dialogue will also be informed by the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on global warming of 1.5°C that will be released in October 2018. The result of the dialogue is expected to feed into the climate ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that countries have to submit to UNFCCC every five years. 

As an important achievement for the Fiji Presidency, it successfully declared the ‘Fiji Momentum for Ambition’ comprising of three elements—pre-2020 implementation and ambition, Talanoa dialogue and Completion of the work programme under the Paris Agreement. These elements should assist in raising the climate ambition and implementing the Paris Agreement.

Mixed reactions

After the conference ended, many developing countries had a mixed reaction to the final outcome. With no major announcements on climate finance and lack of predictability, transparency and accountability in the long term finance, developing countries especially the poor and most vulnerable countries found it extremely hard to find success in this COP. The issue of loss and damage was almost sidelined at this island COP. The presence of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron could not stir much optimism among the poor vulnerable developing countries. 

Climate negotiators will have a busy year of 2018 in advancing the ‘Fiji Momentum for Ambition’ that will determine the successful writing of the Paris Agreement ‘rule book’ by COP24 in Poland next year. Paris Agreement was more of a political agreement but the technocrats will have to put this into action through a clearly defined stringent ‘rule book’. Failing to do so by the end of next year means Paris Agreement will end up in a bad destiny. This would be disastrous for both humanity and ecology. Underdeveloped and highly vulnerable countries like Nepal will be the first to suffer the most.

The author is the executive director of Prakriti Resources Centre. He attended COP23 held in Bonn, Germany. 

@rajupchhetri

Original post: My Republica