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Overview on India’s Climate Policy

  • Context(IE): Understanding India’s Climate Policy – A Expert’s Insight.

Evolution of environment policies globally and in India

  • The Rio Summit in 1992 introduced
    • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
    • The Convention on Biological Diversity.
    • Forest Principles.
  • India’s Response
    • Gradual integration of climate change and biodiversity concerns by India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests post-Rio Summit.

Determinants of India’s climate policy

  • India’s climate policy is based on five major determinants: geography, population, impacts, worldview, and actions.

Geography

  • India’s land area is 3.28 million sq km, making up 2.4% of the world’s land surface and holding 4% of global freshwater resources. It ranks as the seventh largest country globally.
  • India is one of 17 mega-biodiverse countries, with four biodiversity hotspots, 10 bio-geographic zones, and 22 agro-biodiversity hotspots.
  • The country experiences six distinct seasons, shaping its civilisation and economy.
  • However, climate change has disrupted this seasonal cycle in recent years.
  • The blurring of seasonal distinctions has led to increased unpredictability and negative impacts on both nature and society.

Population

  • India has a population of 1.4 billion, nearly one-sixth of the global population.
  • It boasts 7-8% of the world’s recorded species, including over 45,500 plant species and 91,000 animal species. The human-to-land ratio in India is very low, at 0.0021 sq km, and is decreasing over time.
  • Coping with this limitation requires understanding and integrated management of land and water resources.

Impacts

  • According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2020 by Germanwatch, India is ranked as the fifth most affected country by extreme weather events.
  • This is a significant increase from its 14th position in 2017.
  • The World Bank’s report on the Impact of Climate Change on South Asia (2018) predicts that India could lose 2.8% of its GDP due to rising temperatures and changing monsoon patterns by 2050.
  • Nearly half of the country’s population could also see a decline in living standards as a result.

Worldview

  • India’s perspective is influenced by its tradition of living in harmony with nature.
  • The ‘Prithvi Sukta‘ describes the Earth as our Mother and sacred groves emphasise the importance of protecting nature.
  • Gandhi’s principles, like standing up for the marginalised and practising trusteeship, echo this tradition of valuing nature.
  • The idea that the Earth can provide for everyone’s needs but not everyone’s greed has been a longstanding belief.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) logo reflects our reverence for nature and our commitment to conservation.
  • To effectively address global challenges like climate change, the world needs to embrace the ancient Indian philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘(One Earth, One World, One Future).

Actions

  • India’s actions are guided by science, evidence, and numbers.
  • Despite historical emissions of less than 4% and relatively low per capita CO2 emissions of 1.9 tonnes, India is committed to both domestic and international actions that benefit the planet.
  • It has established international initiatives like the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to promote the transition to renewable energy.
  • Unlike some developed countries, India has decoupled carbon emissions from economic growth and is progressing towards meeting its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets.

Unstable United States Stand

  • While President George H. W. Bush signed the UNFCCC in 1992, the US insisted on no specific targets for action.
  • President Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol, but President George W. Bush didn’t ratify it.
  • President Barack Obama signed the Paris Agreement, but President Donald Trump withdrew from it, only for President Joe Biden to re-enter it.
  • Given this record, it raises questions about the credibility of developed countries’ commitments to climate action.

India’s Approaches and Principles of Climate Policy

  • India’s climate policy is guided by its vision of inclusive growth, poverty eradication, and social development.
  • India adheres to the foundational principles of the UNFCCC.
  • It also promotes climate-friendly lifestyles and aims for clear, consistent, and coordinated policies.
  • India believes that development and environmental conservation are interconnected and should be pursued together for comprehensive development.
  • India attributes the problem of climate change to the overexploitation of natural resources by developed countries.
  • It advocates for the Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) principle, which was largely shaped by Indian interventions at the Rio Summit in 1992.

Why India Advocates for CBDR-RC Principle?

Disproportionate responsibility of developed nations

  • Excessive and unsustainable production and consumption patterns in developed countries have escalated climate change to a crisis level.
  • A recent study suggests that the United States and Europe bear the greatest responsibility for global ecological damage due to their overuse of natural resources during the study period.
    • The US accounts for 27% of the world’s excess material use, while the EU uses 25%.
    • Other wealthy nations like Australia, Canada, Japan, and Saudi Arabia together account for 22%.
  • Despite having only 16% of the global population, high-income countries are responsible for 74% of excess resource use.
  • China has exceeded its sustainability limit by 15%.

India within sustainability limits

  • However, 58 countries, including India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, with a total population of 3.6 billion, have stayed within their sustainability limits.
  • Meanwhile, to reach sustainability, high-income countries need to reduce their resource use by around 70% from current levels.

India’s efforts towards addressing climate change issues

  • The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) 2008, comprising eight missions, provides a framework for addressing climate change.
    • All 34 Indian states and Union Territories have developed State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs) aligned with the NAPCC objectives.
  • Civil society actively participates in decision-making processes related to climate change.
  • India has established global institutions such as the
  • India, along with Sweden, leads ‘The Leadership Group for Industry Transition‘ and promotes sustainable lifestyles through initiatives like the ‘Lifestyle for Environment‘ movement.
  • India’s long-term strategy to the UNFCCC aims for net zero emissions by 2070.
  • Despite having no binding mitigation obligations under the UNFCCC before 2020, India has successfully reduced the emission intensity of its GDP by 33% between 2005 and 2019.
  • India has significantly increased its solar energy capacity by over 26 times and doubled its wind energy capacity in the past decade.
    • It now ranks fourth globally in installed wind capacity and fifth in solar capacity.
  • India achieved its target of having 40% of its installed electric capacity from non-fossil fuels in November 2021, nine years ahead of schedule, and has since increased the target to 50%.
  • There’s a strong focus on providing basic services like pucca housing, continuous electricity, clean water, universal health insurance, and clean cooking gas, which contributes significantly to the fight against climate change.
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