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Evolution and Essentials of India’s Climate Policy

Context:

  • India’s climate policy has evolved significantly over the years, reflecting the country’s commitment to addressing the challenges posed by climate change.

The Evolution of India’s Climate Policy:

  • India’s climate change policies have primarily focused on supporting synergies between development and climate outcomes, and it has always been clear, consistent, and coordinated.
  • After the Rio Summit of 1992, the Divisions of Climate Change and Biodiversity in India’s then Ministry of Environment and Forests came to life slowly and steadily.
  • The Rio Summit of 1992 saw the emergence of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Forest Principles.
Do You Know?

– India has been a consistently strong voice of the Global South: the CBDR-RC (Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities) The principle was developed largely through Indian interventions at the

Rio Summit, 1992.

– India has been clear that the problem of climate change results from overexploitation of natural resources by developed countries.

Consumption by Developed Countries:

– The US accounts for 27% of the world’s excess material use, followed by the EU (25%). Other rich countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, and Saudi Arabia collectively accounted for 22%.

a. High-income countries with only 16% of the world’s population are responsible for 74% of excess resource use over their fair share.

– China has also overshot its sustainability limit by 15% of resource overuse.

– Over the same period, 58 countries representing 3.6 billion people — including India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh — stayed within their sustainability limits.

– While India is within the limits of its sustainability, high-income countries must reduce resource use by

~70% from existing levels to reach the sustainability range.

Major Determinants of India’s Climate Policy:

  • Geography: The Indian landmass has an area of 3.28 million sq km, accounting for 2.4% of the world’s geographical land surface area and 4% of the world’s freshwater resources.
  • India is the seventh largest country in the world.
  • It is one of the 17 mega-biodiverse countries, having four biodiversity hotspots, 10 biogeographic zones, and 22 agro-biodiversity hotspots.
  • Population: India’s 1.4 billion people account for almost one-sixth of humanity.
  • It is home to 7-8% of the world’s recorded species, with more than 45,500 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals documented so far.
  • The human-to-land ratio is very low in India at 0.0021 sq km and is continuing to recede.
  • Impacts: The Global Climate Risk Index (2020) prepared by Germanwatch puts India as the fifth most affected country in terms of experiencing extreme weather events, a sharp rise from its 14th position in 2017.
  • The World Bank report on the Impact of Climate Change on South Asia predicts that rising temperatures and changing monsoon rainfall patterns could cost India 2.8% of its GDP and depress the living standards of nearly half the country’s population by 2050.
  • Worldview: Our worldview is shaped by our ancestors — of living in harmony and consonance with nature.
  • The ‘Prithvi Sukta’ says that the Earth is our Mother, and sacred groves tell us that the idea of protection of nature and natural resources has seeped into our way of life.
  • Gandhi’s ideals of standing up for the last man, trusteeship, and the ability of the Earth to provide enough for everyone’s needs and not anyone’s greed represents a continuous strain of thought since time immemorial.
  • Actions: The logo of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) — ‘Nature Protects if She is Protected’ — shows our reverence, and respect for nature, and our focus on conserving it.
  • Despite having historical cumulative emissions of less than 4% (1850-2019) and 1.9 tonnes of CO2 per capita emissions, India has not dissuaded itself from taking resolute domestic and international actions that benefit the planet.

Role of Supreme Court in Climate Policy:

  • The Supreme Court of India has recognized the links between ecology, human dignity, and climate change and made important connections between human rights and global warming mitigation.
  • It stated, ‘Without a clean environment which is unimpacted by the vagaries of climate change, the right to life is not fully realized’.
  • It noted that the right to a healthy environment, safe from the ill effects of climate change, was a ‘fundamental human right’.
  • The court linked the right against climate change to Articles 21 (right to life) and 14 (right to equality), stating that the rights to life and equality could not be fully realized without a clean, stable environment.
  • It highlighted the interconnection between climate change and various human rights, including the right to health, indigenous rights, gender equality, and the right to development.

Conclusion:

  • India’s climate policy is informed by its vision of inclusive growth for all-round economic and social development, the eradication of poverty, a declining carbon budget, firm adherence to the foundational principles of the UNFCCC, and climate-friendly lifestyles.
  • It has created international institutions like the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to focus on the transition to renewable energy, separated carbon emissions from economic growth, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), and the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA).
  • As the world grapples with the effects of climate change, India’s climate policy will continue to evolve, reflecting the country’s commitment to sustainable development and environmental protection.