India’s transition from Climate Change to Climate Justice
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report enlists Climate Change as one of most pressing international issues. Though started in 1960s as an environmental concern, it has evolved into social rights issue for which a practical but principled localised solution is urgently required.
Vulnerability to climate change induced consequences spreads across socio-economic, demographic and geographic diversities. Coastal areas, the most affected by climate change, have high prevalence of climate-sensitive diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, and malnutrition. Unfortunately, the phenomena of climate change has created a social divide pushing countries with the lowest levels of historical emissions and development to suffer some of the most severe consequences of climate change.
The Paris Agreement accords equal emphasis to climate justice in ensuring climate positive impacts. Climate justice is about safeguarding the rights and interests of the poor and marginalized sections of society, who are often at the receiving end of climate change induced vagaries. The notion of “climate justice” has consequently emerged as a way to coalesce equity quotient in climate change.
Climate justice is not limited to compensating the affected, but providing them fair access to natural resources, technology transfer, equitable development and environmental rights. It endeavors to benefit the whole of mankind, irrespective of National affiliation and is premised on Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
At COP 26, the goal should be to secure climate justice by developing countries scaling up their mitigation and adaptation actions based on the provisions of the means of implementation (finance, technology transfer, capacity building) by developed countries. India faces the twin challenge of achieving poverty eradication and sustainable development. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always emphasised on the indispensability of climate justice in combating climate change. Today India leads the world in providing a sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Shri Narendra Modi, even during his previous stint as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, took keen interest in climate change measures. It was under his leadership that India took a quantum leap in the field of solar power generation when Asia’s largest solar park/field (500MW), spread across 3,000 aces was inaugurated in Charnka, Gujarat. This climate justice induced measure endeavoured to achieve solar power economically, thereby making it accessible to the most vulnerable and downtrodden lot. The Gujarat model of canal-top solar power generation project, apart from saving precious fertile agricultural land, also helps in water preservation in an otherwise water-scarce State.
As an environmentally conscious and responsible Nation, India has emerged as one of the leading countries to incorporate climate justice as an essential ingredient of climate change mitigating measures. It has voluntarily committed targets which are unprecedented to developing country standards. We have committed to reduce emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35% by 2030, from 2005 levels.
To achieve these targets, apart from gradually shifting to energy production through renewable resources, we also lay emphasis on consumption side changes by tweaking non-essential lifestyle choices.
To achieve the dual objective of reducing the electricity as well as water consumption in agriculture fields by replacing traditional methods with drip irrigation scheme Per Drop More Crop, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) has already started in many states which aims to provide agricultural solar pumps on 90% subsidy.
India's initiative of solar alliance is not only to shift the world power source from non-renewable to renewable energy but also provide affordable electricity to the most marginalised sections of the society. The initiative will not only shift jobs in the green sector but also provide ample opportunities to underdeveloped countries in becoming atmanirbhar in terms of energy.
The Government has launched a water conservation scheme that would focus on renovation of water bodies, regulating industrial consumption, harvesting rainwater and reuse of wastewater. Under the Jal Jeevan Mission-Har Ghar Jal scheme, every rural household is to be provided with a functional tap water connection by 2024. PM Ujjwala Yojana, is one of the many inclusive schemes which provides clean cooking fuel to poor households, apart from safeguarding the health of women and children from several respiratory diseases caused by burning of firewood, coal, dung-cakes etc.
The climate justice goals should also include protecting the faunas from the impact of anthropogenic climate change. India has taken lead by constructing world's largest wildlife corridor in the Pench Kanha Tiger Reserve. It is the only country having 60% of tigers population with the largest tiger conservation program, the only country having Asiatic lions and running many other species specific conservation programs.
Respect for nature is ingrained in India’s civilisational ethos and the same is exhibited from Prithvi Sukta in the ancient Atharvaveda to Doctrine of Trusteeship propounded by Mahatma Gandhi in modern times. India statutorily recognised the rights of the tribals who are playing a key role in maintaining thesustainable environment through their traditional knowledge.
Climate justice is an imperative for India, which needs to leverage its green and pro-nature commitment to ensure carbon and policy space for its developmental and global aspirations. Under Prime Minister’s leadership we are committed for an equitable environmental policy encompassing inclusive environmental consciousness rather than merely Government regulations.
(The writer is Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change & Labour and Employment)