Whither India on climate change!

Snigdha Kar

This blog is graced by guest articles from its readers from time to time. We have already seen articles by Sarabjeet Singh and Shyamal. The guest writer is free to choose from any of the subjects with which this blog is concerned and the topic post is also of his/her choice.

This time, on the eve of the Copenhagen summit, we have a guest post from a young climate change activist – Snigdha Kar who chose to write on the subject closest to her heart – Climate change and India!

Here is a short biodata :

Snigdha Kar is a Zoology graduate who has worked as an Environment Educator with BNHS. While working in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, she was fascinated by the importance of each species on earth and how each species is interdependent on the other. This experience has motivated her to work for saving the nature specially biodiversity conservation. She believes that awareness is one of the solutions for climate change, a major threat to biodiversity which has not received adequate recognition from the Indian wildlife community. Presently pursuing masters in Geographical Information Systems, Snigdha is a keen birdwatcher and photographer. Snigdha is an active member of the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN), a coalition uniting Indian youth and Indian youth-oriented organisations who are concerned about climate change.

Whither India on climate change!


Snigdha Kar

There has been considerable discussion on COP15 arising out of the meetings at Bangkok, Bonn, Barcelona and elsewhere. So many bilateral dialogues between countries, especially the debate between India, China and the global community, their follow-through the net, I am left wondering what exactly is it that we will be discussing at Copenhagen? More specifically, what will India be speaking and expecting : Will it be India’s stand of the developed world taking stringent emission cuts? Or Will it be the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012? Or Will it be common but differentiated responsibility? And Continuing with Annex I and Annex II definitions? Being part of Indian Youth Climate Network, I had the privilege of meeting some of the present and past negotiators like Mr. Shyam Saran, Mr. Surya Sethi, Dr. Nitin Desai, Ambassador Dasgupta and, best of all, informally with our Minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh as well.

We discussed and debate over lots of issues with these honourable negotiators but I am still very, very confused on how Government of India will approach the global negotiators. Obviously, they are not opening their cards at this stage but even after following and tracking the actions in detail over the last few months, I am unable to second-guess them. Right now I feel that our Prime Minister Dr. Singh might participate in the COP15 and through one of my contacts, I have learned that Mr. Pranab Mukerjee will be visiting Copenhagen for a day. (Current news reports have proved my belief right.)


The discussions have led me to believe with growing certainty that is a tangible difference in opinion between our negotiators. So would Dr. Singh be participating in COP to balance the two sides or will he pass on clear lucid instructions to guide the negotiators’ work?

Or to put it crudely, what’s the deal India desires?

If the US absolutely refuses to do things as we expect, which is quite possible then are we going to keep at it like the tongue reaches for a sore tooth? Will our preoccuation with the US monopolize our focus to the point that we say chuck the whole world, we will work within our borders to become the one developing country which did the best with the resources
available to us?

What are the chances of getting a fair and equitable deal at Copenhagen?

Many experts are predictably pessimistic; but being young, I don’t share their gloomy worldview. Today’s youth has a responsibility to make the policy makers accountable for their actions as whatever they do today will affect our future drastically. I sincerely hope that some kind of sane and positive political agreement will be made at the end of this year.

This is really a crucial time; the effects of global warming are very visible and the developing countries like ours are more vulnerable to the adverse effect of temperature rise. Our agriculture depends on monsoon; change in rainfall pattern has decreased our crop yield. We have a long coast line and will suffer if the sea level rises.

Sad to say, most of us should be aware of these likely consequences and their effect on our lives. I should not need to say too much on this.

Needed – A New Paradigm

Part of our problem is that we are hypocrites! When we talk about inequity in global climate dialogue, our policy makers conveniently forget about the inequity within the nation?

One of the leading Indian negotiators has said:

“I know there is inequity within India but this does not means that I will accept inequity in international forum.”

My question to him is what are you doing to reduce this inequity within our own country? Is it fair to dislocate thousands of people from the area they are living for years to build a nuclear plant? Must people living next to a thermal power plant need to experience the silent and deadly mercury poisoning but not reap any benefits of the electricity as they are not connected to grid?

Whom is this energy security for? The industries or the people who are rich and lives in cities like Delhi or Mumbai? Is it not the correct time to redefine the word “development” for which we are fighting in such global negotiations?

Its not that difficult to shift the paradigm of development toward a low carbon pathway. The National Action Plan on Climate Change has set very ambitious targets but I don’t any action or political will to push for action to meet those targets.

When nothing happens on ground, how can the result be anything but a big ZERO? The solar mission has set high targets which give us hope that poor villages will get clean, cheap and reliable domestic power supply. But once again, no steps has been taken. There is lack of communication between two ministries. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was not aware about the solar mission until the PM’s document was released.

Similarly the Ministry of Railways doesn’t quite know how to mitigate the overcrowding in the transport sector by multiplying India’s freight capacities manifold! So what the pessimists feel appears to be true! With so much institutional neglect, lack of political will and the myriad complications in Indian politics, what can any citizen of India reasonably expect from Copenhagen?

If the powers that be recognise the essetial need to address energy inequity in our country, then and then alone will our nation be secure even if we get the most favourable terms in Copenhagen.

Can the discussion at Copenhagen be about realising that its the duty of each one of us to save Nature from catastrophic effects of climate change and by each one of us I mean every country of the world. Rather than playing a blame game of who is responsible for what percentage of damage, can we agree on a common responsibility of protecting our future?

We are sailing in one boat, now whomsoever has made the hole, its the responsibility of everyone to repair it otherwise all of us will sink. Somebody will have to come up with material to block the hole and that’s what the developing countries are asking for technology and financial transfer but it doesn’t mean that the developing countries can’t do anything without support. If someone put fire on your house, would you wait for him to support you to reduce the fire, come on its your home and you will have to save it.

There are ways in which each one of us can contribute to save the earth. Yes, I am talking about lifestyle change. I have done this and hope many of you are doing so. We still have the responsibility to make our policy makers accountable. I would like to request you all to raise your voice against issues which you think are critical. We have chosen our leaders and we can, must, will ask them what they are doing for our country.

About the Copenhagen deal, why worry about what America does or doesn’t, KP or not, common but differentiated or not? Are resources really a problem? If India just restructures its leaking and completely illogical subsidy structures then we could be in a position to fund not only our carbon sequestration but also projects in our neighboring countries. So the question of requiring funds from the West is gone. Are we going to have the guts to take leadership on dismantling our subsidies and creating resources within the country for everything from efficient and intelligent public transport to a spread of renewable like never before?

Are we talking technology for doing all this? I thought we had the best brains in the world? And anyway when we have the money from the source above then we can import the best solutions.

Sadly, the discussion in Copenhagen is not about climate change – its about the economics and politics of nations only. Whatever is the result of that deal, the fact remains that every leak has to be plugged in, every little done. There is no respite from responsibility in case of climate change. No sweet Lethe to bemuse us into procastination.

The time is Now for all of us – Copenhagen or not!

I would like highlight Anupam Mishra’s focus on ‘philosophical’ angle to the climate problem. So far, our emphasis has been on scientific solutions, which has caused more problems than it solves.

Science appeals to the mind, but philosophy fills the heart; both approaches are complementary for the optimal solution!

Lets try our best right now so that our descendants may live to see a clean, green world.

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11 Comments on “Whither India on climate change!”

  1. Though lots have been written about the global warming concerns, unfortunately i have not taken time to read into the details of the Copenhagen summit and the previous summits and its implication on India and world …. With what I read on past few days, the writer has put it right >> “Sadly, the discussion in Copenhagen is not about climate change – its about the economics and politics of nations only ”

    We squabble leaving the real issue unattended … *sighs*

    • Snigdha is a very rare and precious person IMHO. A person who acts, rather than a person, say like me, who just speaks! It gives me great happiness to host her post on my blog!

      As she puts it, the dealings in Copenhagen and the success they could enjoy are no reason for us to feel that the matter is disposed off; we still need to make lifestyle changes to help save the world!

      • Snigdha Says:

        Dear Lakshmi Rajan

        Thanks for reading this. I hope you will follow the discussions.

        Ashwin Sir

        Thanks so much for allowing me to post this at your blog.

        Sorry I couldn’t reply to the comments earlier as I am here at Copenhagen attending the Conference of Parties.

  2. We are big on discussions… and very low on actions. Infact we are “all talk and no action”.

    The article made for a good read.

    But the 1st and 2nd worlds… are great talkers. They are even better at holding conferences. Meanwhile they have no qualms about dumping all sorts of waste including nuclear waste into the waters of the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. All far away from “their” shores…

    • Snigdha Says:

      Nuclear waste is really very big issue for me as well. I have asked the govt about this but still no clear picture has ever came out. Many issues are involved with nuclear. This could be next blog.

  3. Avi Says:

    India has finally taken some steps towards tackling climate change.

    We now need to put pressure on developed nations. Let’s get out of our comfort zones and take action.

    12 December is the global day of action. I am gonna be there. Please join the movement. It’s the revolution of our era.


  4. Snigdha Says:

    Well done Avi……thanks

  5. Viveca Bhatkal (through Facebook)
    Domestic commitment to cut carbon intensity by 20-25% is a step in the right direction but to announce it on the eve of the meet does not make sense.We should have made it a part of the negotiations . India is responsible for just a bit over 2% of carbon dioxide emissions(in spite of the teeming pop). USA a whopping 29 plus %!!Let the developed countries be committed to transfer of clean technology and above all, alter their life style

  6. Robin Miller (through Facebook)
    Don’t worry about the US. We’re down from using 40% of the world’s resources (and generating 40% of the pollution) to under 30% — and dropping. Our richie-riches are determined to keep us “competitive” in the world labor (and labour) markets, which seems to mean they expect the majority of us to live in dirt-floored shacks, same as the rural poor …

  7. Sarvjeet Kapoor (through Facebook)
    Easier said then done. we took 60 yrs to reach a particular stage of technology and brought our economy to some shape. Our hold on clean technology is very limited. Till date we could not even fully exploit our solar energy. Research in Non Conventional energy is at a nascent stage. Target of reducing 25 % is far reaching unless Govt takes out some time from their dirty politics and concentrate of the uplift of India. We need to work very hard. Forget what US do or wish to do.

  8. Ashwin Baindur (through Facebook)
    Thank you for those thoughtful comments! The less developed countries see the problem as one of blame i.e. the West is responsible! The West already reeling from a recession is tightening its belt further to do its bit! These times are difficult for all. Its hard to see logic or reason when your child is not getting his required nutrition and your life style becomes threatened and you become vulnerable to disease and ill health.

    What we need most of all is to keep our cool, be open to innovative solutions no matter how strange and realise that ultimately the problem will only go away when each and everyone of us does his utmost!

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