India’s Climate Policy Dilemma

Is climate change a sustainable development or an environmental challenge? The statement by the Minister for Environment and Forests that the European Union’s aviation tax will be a “deal breaker” is welcome because it reflects one of the policy goals of developing countries, and should elicit widespread support. As far back as 1972, in the Stockholm Declaration, there was a global consensus that “it shall be essential in all cases to consider the stage of development” in the applicability of standards valid for the most advanced countries for other countries, and has been reiterated since then. The issue of implementing national environmental policies through trade regulations has now been placed in the agenda of the Rio + 20 Conference to be held in June 2012, and should also be rejected. However, rather than remain in a reactive mode, it is time for India to take the leadership and put forward a new framework for shared prosperity within planetary limits. The time has come to make difficult choices and take a strategic view of global climate policy; the Minister must show a similar resolve with respect to the climate negotiations. The government must now review the challenges ahead around the use of natural resources, and seeks to base international cooperation on the principle of equity. This has become imperative because there are two widely different ways of considering India’s sustainable development and climate policy, enunciated in the Economic Survey. The policy statement acknowledges that climate change is both an environmental issue and an economic costs and developmental issue. However, in laying out India’s position in the on-going negotiations it fails to make a distinction between the two. The absence of a clearly defined strategic goal and strategy to achieve it, as in the past, will not lead to the intended outcomes, because the characteristic feature of the United Nations is that issues related to distribution have been kept out of the policy agenda. The environmental case indicates how climate change is impacting on the natural ecosystems. Urbanization is seen in the context of affordable housing and access to safe water and sanitation. The indicators of sustainable development have been identified in terms of well being (life expectancy at birth), resources (forest cover) and improving the future (female literacy). Green accounting will consider environmental costs of development and reflect the depletion of natural resources in generating national income and the stock of natural resources. Efforts needed to address climate change are framed in terms of mitigation and adaptation. This leads to the assertion that the stabilization level and timeframe for peaking of emissions is the most important global policy issue. Read the full text at: