In light of the recent IPCC report describing the consequences of unprecedented climate change, SIDDHARTH CHATURVEDI recommends changes in Indian policy to cope with our current reality.
India’s climate change policy dates back to 2008, when the National Climate Change Action Plan (NAPCC) was announced by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change (the Council). The NAPCC has eight missions, namely:
- The National Solar Mission,
- The National Mission for Reinforced Energy Efficiency,
- The National Mission for Sustainable Habitat,
- The National Water Mission,
- The National Mission for the Maintenance of the Himalayan Ecosystem,
- The National Mission for a “Green India”,
- The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, and
- The National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.
The above mentioned missions are implemented by different ministries, and there is no statutory body to control their progress. Precious time has passed since the policy was announced.
Internationally, a slew of measures have been announced by various countries to fight against climate change. These measures have so far proved insufficient to tackle the problem, as the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows.
The IPCC report categorically states that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature is expected to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next 20 years. coming years.
Although the NAPCC is headed by the Council, there is virtually no accountability on the part of the Council. Other than a report on its reconstitution in November 2014 and a meeting held in January 2015, there is no other information available in the public domain on subsequent meetings held or decisions taken by the Board.
This is of particular concern given that the Council needs to focus on a) developing a coordinated response to climate change issues at the national level, b) overseeing the formulation of action plans in the area of climate change. climate change assessment, adaptation and mitigation; and c) periodic monitoring of key policy decisions.
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This contrasts with Section 56 of the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008, in which the Secretary of State is responsible for reporting to Parliament, containing a risk assessment for the UK of the current and expected impact. of climate change. .
India may be reluctant to implement a carbon budget now, but it’s only a matter of time before it is forced to do so.
One of the arguments put forward by policymakers is that being a developing country, India cannot be put in the same category as developed countries like the United States, which are committed to becoming carbon neutral. by 2050. However, this argument does not take into account that as a developing country India will gradually evolve into a developed country, thus leading to increased demand and consumption levels.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) is the relevant trade union ministry dealing with climate change in India. Whereas in the UK a statutory authority called the Climate Change Committee has been established with the mandate to provide reports to Parliament on the progress made by the government in tackling climate change. It is also responsible for recommending changes and new policies to the government.
The Indian government should also aim to set up a body on similar lines in order to tackle the challenge of climate change in a holistic manner.
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Recommended modifications for incorporation
Over the next few decades, India is likely to face extreme weather conditions due to climate change. Therefore, any political decision must take regional needs into account when developing a national strategy.
Many Indian states have submitted their own National Climate Change Action Plans (SAPCC). However, these CCPAs, at best, outline a vision for tackling the problem of climate change. There is no prescribed oversight mechanism (like the UK Climate Change Committee) to ensure the implementation of the policies mentioned in the APCCs.
It is the urgent need for India to integrate further changes into its climate change policy. Although the Indian government has not adopted specific legislation on climate change, it would be recommended to incorporate at least two of the provisions mentioned in a private invoice tabled by Kalikesh Singh Deo, MP for Lok Sabha of Biju Janata Dal, in 2015. It was called the Climate Change Bill of 2015 (the Bill).
Chapter 3 of the “carbon budgeting” bill imposed on the Union government the obligation to present carbon budgets for each budget period, starting from the years 2015-2020. The bill also provided that it would be up to the government to present to Parliament, “A report presenting proposals and policies to respect carbon budgets for current and future periods”.
The second proposal that could be incorporated as mentioned in the bill is the establishment of a “Carbon Trading Scheme” which would be controlled by a Carbon Trading Authority.
Prior to the start of such an initiative, it will be the responsibility of States to first define in a comprehensive manner the goals they plan to achieve in any given year based on their own regional needs. These goals could be submitted to the union government, which could then activate a live dashboard. with the number of goals that a particular state has achieved.
At the end of a given year, the Union government could publish a national ranking of states called the ‘Climate Change State Ranking Mission’. It would also help raise awareness of the issue and enforce accountability.
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Courts in India and beyond
As the legislature and the executive attempt to mitigate the damage through relevant laws and policy measures, courts around the world have also shown a keen interest in addressing issues related to climate change. In its judgment in the case of Massachusetts v Environmental Protection Agency (2007), the United States Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. state of Massachusetts had the locus standi sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The majority opinion ruled:
“The EPA’s steadfast refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions poses a risk of both ‘real’ and ‘imminent’ harm to Massachusetts. “
In 2015, the High Court of Lahore, in Asghar Lehari v Federation of Pakistan, considered that:
“The right to life, the right to human dignity, the right to property and the right to information under Articles 9, 14, 23 and 19A of the Constitution read with the constitutional values of political, economic and justice social provide the judicial toolbox needed to process and monitor the government’s response to climate change.“
These two judgments demonstrate that the courts can play an active role in resolving the issue of climate change, whether the nation is developed or currently considered to be developing.
The Supreme Court in India has played a transformative role in realizing citizens’ rights. Courts may soon be faced with “climate change related litigation” and may need to properly recognize climate change as an issue that seriously restricts basic citizens’ rights.
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Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity today. It is expected that with the worsening environmental situation in India, drastic changes are urgently required in India’s climate change policy.
It is high time that the Union government considered adopting significant changes in its current climate change policy in order to respond to the changing realities of our time.
(Siddharth Chaturvedi is an undergraduate law student at Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur. The opinions expressed are personal.)