Thursday, 28 January 2016

India climate plan

India has a long history and tradition of harmonious co-existence between man and nature. Human beings here have regarded fauna and flora as part of their family. This is part of our heritage and manifest in our lifestyle and traditional practices. We represent a culture that calls our planet Mother Earth. As our ancient text says; "Keep pure! For the Earth is our mother! And we are her children!" The ancient Indian practice of Yoga, for example, is a system that is aimed at balancing contentment and worldly desires, that helps pursue a path of moderation and a sustainable lifestyle. Environmental sustainability, which involves both intra-generational and inter-generational equity, has been the approach of Indians for very long. Much before the climate change debate began, Mahatma Gandhi, regarded as the father of our nation had said that we should act as ‘trustees’ and use natural resources wisely as it is our moral responsibility to ensure that we bequeath to the future generations a healthy planet.

The desire to improve one's lot has been the primary driving force behind human progress. While a few fortunate fellow beings have moved far ahead in this journey of progress, there are many in the world who have been left behind. Nations that are now striving to fulfill this 'right to grow' of their teeming millions cannot be made to feel guilty of their development agenda as they attempt to fulfill this legitimate aspiration. Just because economic development of many countries in the past has come at the cost of environment, it should not be presumed that a reconciliation of the two is not possible.

It is possible for people to live in harmony with nature by harnessing its potential for the benefit of mankind without undue exploitation leading to irretrievable damage and consequences that block the progress of others. There is a need to evolve a set of precepts, a kind of commandments, especially for the youth of the world, that help in developing a unified global perspective to economic growth so that the disparity in the thinking of the 'developed' and 'developing' countries could be bridged. The removal of such barriers of thought and the creation of a regime where facilitative technology transfer replaces an exploitative market driven mechanism could pave the way for a common understanding of universal progress. If climate change is a calamity that mankind must adapt to while taking mitigation action withal, it should not be used as a commercial opportunity. It is time that a mechanism is set up which will turn technology and innovation into an effective instrument for global public good, not just private returns.

The challenge of climate change calls for extraordinary vision, leadership, compassion and wisdom. Human ingenuity and intellect will also play an important role in addressing this challenge. The cumulative accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) historically since industrial revolution has resulted in the current problem of global warming. This is further compounded by the tepid and inadequate response of the developed countries even after the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and delineation of obligations and responsibilities. As a result, an ‘emission’ ambition gap has been created calling for enhanced global actions to address it. India, even though not a part of the problem, has been an active and constructive participant in the search for solutions. Even now, when the per capita emissions of many developed countries vary between 7 to15 metric tonnes, the per capita emissions in India were only about 1.56 metric tonnes in 2010. This is because Indians believe in nature friendly lifestyle and practices rather than its exploitation. By enhancing their efforts in keeping with historical responsibility, the developed and resource rich countries could reduce the burden of their action from being borne by developing countries that carry the additional responsibility of finding resources to meet their development needs and strive to improve their Human Development Index (HDI).

With the responsibility of ensuring a reasonable HDI for the country and the economic progress of its vast population, India has attempted to follow a path 'cleaner' than the one followed by many countries in the past. Today these countries may be in the forefront of  development, even providing a model of growth to other developing countries. However, if India compares the emission intensity of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms at present with those countries at a similar level of development, it is seen that their emissions then were far more than India’s at present. This is as much on account of India being open and innovative in embracing new technology and a cleaner way of doing things, as it is from the inherent principles of sustainability ingrained in its thought process.

If the world indeed is concerned about its new investments to be climate friendly, it must consider the opportunity provided by a country like India where economic growth could be achieved with minimum levels of emissions by employing new technologies and finance for achieving low carbon growth. Developed countries can certainly bring down their emission intensity by moderating their consumption, and substantially utilize their investments by employing them for development activities in countries housing a vast majority of people barely living at subsistence level. The ratio of emission avoided per dollar invested and economic growth attained would be relatively more favourable in case of investments made in India.

Mahatma Gandhi had once said, “One must care about the world one will not see”. Indeed, humanity has progressed when it has collectively risen to its obligation to the world and responsibility to the future.

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