Last week, 195 countries agreed to a climate deal in Paris. Whether the deal is a “historic turning point” or whether it is a series of “piecemeal pledges”, only time will tell. For now, it is a blueprint for future action. The agreement obliges the nations to invest in time-bound mitigation and adaptation measures and establishes a framework for financing, technological innovation and transfer of technology and capacity building of communities to tackle climate change.
It obliges the developed countries to contribute $100 billion per annum by 2020 to help developing countries pursue a low-carbon development. At the same time, the final agreement represents a climbdown by developing countries, including India, from some of their stated positions. For example, the notion that the matrix for measuring progress on adaptation should not be internationally determined or that there should be differentiated reporting requirements for different countries has been given up.
While the principle of equity and common-but-differentiated-responsibility is embedded in the letter and spirit of the new global charter, reference to “historical responsibility” as a determinant for “equitable access” to global atmospheric resources has been jettisoned. Indeed, it was necessary to move away from an antagonistic idiom of political discourse that was fixed in the notion of historical guilt of the western world but then every age must write its own history.
In Paris, the world has turned a page to establish a just world order through sustainable development, premised on the inviolability of human rights, the right development, gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity, as promised in the preamble of the Paris accord.
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar will need to show courage and intellectual integrity to vindicate ‘climate justice’ by securing a national consensus on how to balance the imperatives of economic development and the environment. The first step in that direction would be to respect the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology and its unanimous rejection of the TSR Subramanian committee report. The Subramanian panel was entrusted with the task of reviewing and suggesting amendments in environment-related laws in 2014.
In living up to the challenge and expectations of the people, it is hoped that the government will take note of the recommendations of the House committee. “Environment concerns cannot be construed as being at cross purposes with development. Genuine environmental concerns could not be ignored”. It also states that, “The fact that institutional machinery has failed to manage the holistic nature of the environment, for whatever reasons, have become passive spectators by abdicating their responsibilities of enforcing and implementing environmental laws/statutes cannot be refuted…”
The Committee concluded: “…. Flawed regulating regime, poor management of resources, inadequate use of technology, disincentives to environmental conservation, absence of a credible, effective and accountable enforcement machinery leading ultimately to lack of enforcement of environmental norms and laws, are challenges that are required to be addressed without any delay….”
Will the government ensure that programmes on promoting clean energy, converting waste into wealth, safe and sustainable green transportation, lessening pollution and efforts to enhance a carbon sink through creating a forest cover do not remain largely on paper? Will the minister for environment walk the talk after Paris?
Ashwani Kumar is an MP and chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change
The views expressed are personal