Is India palliating the climate change crisis?

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“The time for words has now moved to the time for action”

“It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit – written in history books yet to be printed – will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations”

-Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The COP26 (Conference of Parties 26) stirred both the positive and negative voices on the international stage. This year’s COP26 was held under the presidency of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in partnership with Italy. There could be a rather long story and debate about the other nations playing a part to counter the man-made devil of climate change. However, I would limit my opinions, views, and analysis to India only. Now, many people have been yelling about India and its contribution to the prevention of climate change. Though the views stand differed, but on the contrary, India has done its fair share of contribution towards the prevention of the same. The prime example is the Foreign Secretary of India, Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said that India is probably the only G-20 country to have fulfilled its NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). Not just this, he also assured the international community that India wishes to meet its NDCs in alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement with ‘full commitment’. Further, he also took into cognizance and assured the country that India will amplify the need for the employment of green credits as a priority over carbon credits. This move is also seen as a ‘taunt’ to the European Union Carbon Tax which was vehemently opposed by India and certain other nations. 

Now, coming back to the COP26 and the Indian perspective on it. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Narendra Modi outlined India’s detailed perspective towards countering climate change coupled with its promise to the Paris Climate Agreement and UNFCCC. He unveiled the four pillars on which the Indian plan for combatting climate change rests upon. The four pillars include Temperature, Mitigation, Finance, and Responsibility. Apart from this, there were two more important things that India boasted about in the COP26, i.e., sustainable agriculture, the IRIS, and India’s tryst with solar energy. Let us talk about each one of them point-by-point. 

  • Solar Energy and India:  At the UN Climate Summit, India made a mammoth yet factual claim that the solar energy capacity of the nation stands at 45 gigawatts, which is a drastic increase in the number by 17 times in the last seven years. Further, it also mentioned that the nation houses 17% of the world’s population, yet the nation’s historical cumulative emissions are at a mere 4%. All of these were presented by JR Bhatt, Advisor/Scientist in the Ministry of Environment at the 11th Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSVs) under the presentation on its 3rd Biennial Update Report (BUR). Furthermore, India also boasted of the nation tapping into solar energy and the position of power and responsibility it speaks with. Furthermore, it was also submitted to the UNFCCC about India’s achievement of a 24% reduction in emission intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the period of 2005-2014, and the significant increase of its solar program. As a result, India’s efforts were applauded by the international community as a whole. 
  • Sustainable Agriculture Policy Action Agenda for the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture and Global Action Agenda for Innovation in Agriculture:  India became one of the 27 countries to sign on the sustainable agriculture agenda, which enumerates and discusses new strategies and commitments to make agriculture (which is the primary sector of India) more sustainable and less polluting. Though this agenda sounds fancy on paper, it won’t really be an easy task for the Indian government to achieve. As the readers are aware of the fact that the stubble farming practice around the Indian states amounts to an excessive amount of pollution. The problem is increased manyfold by the absence of proper implementation of legislation(s) or even the absence of legislation(s) due to the centre-state disparities over the issue. 
  • IRIS (Infrastructure for Resilient Island States) initiative:  As a landmark move, India launched the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States initiative for the development of the small island nations, as they are prey to the rapidly growing climate change repercussions without access to the proper resources and technology on the know-how to combat the same. He was accompanied by his Australian and British counterparts, Scott Morison and Boris Johnson respectively and the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. Modi also emphasized upon the exploitation faced by the SIDS (Small Island Developing States) which sounded in alignment with Emmanuel Kant’s theory of core and periphery nations. 

Apart from all the activities mentioned above, India also put forward the four pillars as India’s commitment towards the counter-action against climate change. They are:

  1. Temperature & Mitigation: Even in Glasgow, India coupled with the other nations held talks about the continuation of the temperature target of 1.5 degrees as the pivotal object of the same. As we have witnessed throughout the COP over the years, the status of the target temperature of 1.5 degrees has shown great ambiguity with respect to nations. At times, this target was considered as a far-fetched cry, but at the same time, it was also equated to the temperature target of 2 degrees Celsius. Finally, Article 2 of the Paris Agreement at COP21 was finalized which said, “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees”.

Mitigation is literally defined as a reduction in the seriousness and painfulness of something. There has been plenty of issues not just in the COP26, but there has been a record of conflict with respect to mitigation techniques to combat climate change. However, in order to escape the legally-binding commitments enforced upon the bigger nations in COP21, the very same nations have tightened their NDCs compatible to 2 degrees Celsius, beginning with India. 

  1. Technology & Responsibility: When we speak of technology, finance with respect to climate change comes as a parcel. In the same manner, in the COP26 held in Glasgow, the target date for the mobilization of $100 billion has been postponed to the year 2025, which was promised at COP21. India strengthened its voice about the measures and intricacies and nuances of sustainable finance, coupled with the technology transfer by the developed nations to the developing nations and the underdeveloped nations. The Union Environment Minister of India, Bhupinder Yadav has also emphasized the pivotal role played by the private players for the same. He said:

“The fight against climate change cannot be undertaken by the government alone. Private sector companies should be encouraged in developing breakthrough technologies and mobilising finance.”

When we speak of responsibility, then India has been vocal about the criticism towards the developed nations being the perpetrators of the increase in climate change.  Because of this, India has called out several times the USA and Canada, who have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol coupled with the other developed nations like the members of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, and several other states of Central and Eastern Europe. 

Apart from this, India has also pledged to achieve net zero-emission by the year 2070, which was supposed to be around 2050. 

Coming towards the conclusion. Now we have all seen the picture presented by India at the global stage with respect to it combatting climate change. However, this task isn’t a child’s play. Rather, it has its own array of challenges like that of finance, technology, and infrastructure, et cetera to name a few. Furthermore, India’s ambitious initiative to become a climate change champion could be termed as a double-edged sword in my opinion. With the proper mechanism, infrastructure, planning, and implementation, India could achieve the goal. 

Therefore, I leave my readers with a question yet again, Is India palliating the climate change crisis?

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