Can India be Vishwa Guru through flippant statements like a glamorous pursuit?
Shankar Sharma, a well-known energy and climate policy analyst based in Karnataka, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that there are “striking examples” of accelerated degradation of natural resources in India, including forest cover and wildlife habitats, with “an unacceptable level of pollution / contamination of air, water and soil”.
He regrets in his letter, copies of which have been transmitted to Bhupender Yadav, Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC), Government of India, Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice President, Niti Aayog, that this is happening despite the fact that there are no official policy documents, scholarly articles or academic papers that establish that “such accelerated degradation of natural resources has had no deleterious impact on our people ”.
May I draw your kind attention to a few media reports and a statement attributed to the Secretary of the Environment, as in the link below, in which he allegedly said, “We are not anti-net-zero. But without adequate climate finance being definitively available, we cannot commit to this part. “
Assuming that these media reports are correct and that the views of the Secretary of the Environment truly reflect the current thinking of the Union government, I would like to draw your kind attention to many serious concerns of civil society groups in the short and long-term ramifications of such government thinking for the people of this country.
May I submit that a truly rational reflection on the part of all relevant political decision-makers in the country on all the associated consequences, especially from the point of view of the general well-being of the country, will reveal the harsh realities of such policy in which the third largest economy depends on climate finance from other countries to define a sustainable environmental preservation policy for its own people?
Considering that it has been widely accepted as a legitimate global demand that sufficient funding from the richest countries is needed for the poorest countries to help offset the high cost of the clean energy transition, if this were to be the only factor for India not to take the necessary course of actions for the sustainable development of its own people?
Aren’t there many more critical reasons for our country to decide what is good for the country regardless of external funding? It will be very disastrous and therefore deeply regrettable for a large and the second most populous country to tie its development paradigm closely to financial aid from rich countries.
Does this approach bode well for a country seeking a place as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a seat at the high table of global influence?
While India must continue to demand appropriate behavior from industrially developed countries, not only by massively reducing their own carbon footprint, but also by adequately helping poor countries to offset the high cost of transitioning to a carbon footprint. clean energy, it must also demonstrate to these countries a real leadership role by adopting much simpler life choices and all the associated policies in order to be able to move forward towards a sustainable future.
This is what a Vishwa Guru is supposed to do; always give appropriate examples and practice first before preaching.
Even though these lofty ideals are deemed by our authorities to be appropriate purely for the sake of glamorous pursuit, there are many credible reasons for India to plan for a smooth transition to a green energy economy at the earliest, and also adopt many economic, social and environmental policy factors; especially if we really care about the general welfare of every part of our own people.
Careful consideration of the various related issues in the three broad categories listed below should be able to convey the concerns of civil society.
Financial / commercial / economic perspective
Even if we only consider the financial / business / economic perspective, there can be very many serious concerns.
In the larger context of so many related reports / papers, will we not be deliberating on the existence of official policy papers, scholarly papers, or academic papers which have conclusively established that a “Business- As-Usual ”for India, in which the continued pursuit of the paradigm of high GDP growth, which is the root cause of the country’s high GHG emissions, will have no impact on the well- to be of the population?
Therefore, it is very unfortunate that many of our decision makers / authorities continue to advocate for a high rate of GDP growth year after year without reference to the overall impacts on the long term well-being of the country. The net cost to our society due to the high GDP growth rate paradigm is best explained by a recent study report “The Dasgupta review”.
The report concluded that all livelihoods depend on the health of the planet. He showed that while the global capital produced per person had doubled in the three decades since 1992, the stock of natural capital – that is, the quantifiable benefit that an individual derives from the services offered by nature – had plunged 40%.
Environment / climate change perspective
There is no doubt in the analysis of the scientific community that all the factors that have led or led to unacceptable levels of GHG emissions, and therefore to global warming, are also at the origin of the accelerated degradation of resources. natural, and therefore the transgression of planetary boundaries.
The striking examples of such accelerated degradation of natural resources in our country are the rapid disappearance of natural forest cover and wildlife habitats, and the unacceptable level of pollution / contamination of air, water and soil.
Do we have any official policy documents or academic papers or academic papers, which have conclusively established that such accelerated degradation of natural resources has not had deleterious impacts on our people since independence, or they will not cause any concern about the overall prospect of the well-being of our people in the future?
Can we say with certainty that our financial / economic / development policies in the recent past have all lived up to the letter and spirit of various laws of our own Parliament, various associated national policies and international conventions? ?
Social / health perspective
What is much more worrying about the prevailing environmental scenario, described as bleak by environmentalists, is the fact that high levels of GHG emissions with a continually increasing projection, as can be observed in the case of the India, undoubtedly indicate the unsustainable exploitation of already depleted natural resources.
This scenario, if continued, will lead to multiple societal catastrophes such as health issues and pandemics, erratic rainfall, unacceptable levels of air, water and water pollution / contamination. soil, reduced agricultural production, droughts, floods, forest fires, etc. .
The stern warning from none other than UN Secretary-General António Guterres should be enough to sum up the credible threats to our people. He said “Nature is angry” and “You cannot play with nature. Nature strikes back.
The Union government refuses to implement a set of policies that will begin to reduce the country’s total GHG emissions
One UN report by title “Preventing the next pandemic: zoonoses and how to break the chain of transmission”States that the increasing trend in zoonotic diseases is due to degradation of our natural environment – through land degradation, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction, climate change and other stresses.
Who has declared: “Biodiversity underpins the functioning of ecosystems on which we depend for food and fresh water, health and recreation, and protection against natural disasters.”
Some of the recent media reports (click here, here, here, here) can serve as a basis for the associated concerns of civil society.
In an article titled “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future”, 17 conservation scientists cited a number of key reports published in recent years, including:
How prepared is India for climate change? Not a lot. Temperatures in India could increase by 4.4 ° C by 2100, with an increased frequency of extreme precipitation events projected, and many more tropical cyclones to be born in the northern Indian Ocean and with greater intensity, according to a ministry report. of Earth Sciences (MoES).
As the second most populous country and with an already stretched natural resource base, can India afford to ignore such credible warnings about the inalienable link between a healthy environment, human health and prosperity?
Since the phenomenon of climate change is invariably linked to the unsustainable exploitation of our natural resources, our authorities should be mandated to justify the implicit / stated policy of the Union government which refuses to implement a set of policies that will begin to reduce the country’s total GHG emissions and improve the overall health of biodiversity in the country.
If given the opportunity, civil society can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that most linear projects or large projects in one location, which have been approved / implemented in the last few years. years, were either completely unnecessary, or the stated objectives could be achieved by credible alternatives with minimal impacts on biodiversity, or without any impact.
In this larger context, relevant secretaries / advisers / experts in the field may be invited to diligently consider all these and various other related matters from the point of view of the general welfare of our people, and then make appropriate recommendations to the government. Union Cabinet on the need for an early decision on a smooth energy transition and other related policy initiatives for the sustainable development of our communities.
Can the people of this country hope that under the leadership and leadership of the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the country will take very rational and timely political initiatives to put our country on the path of sustainable development and become truly a Vishwa Guru through his actions, and not just flippant statements as a glamorous pursuit?