China has now become part of the rich nations league to be the “biggest polluter” of atmosphere. Seen as a major contributor to green house gas emissions, next to the US, it owes to the world what is being termed as “climate debt”.
Hammering the point was Ms Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Chairperson of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues. She was among those speaking at the two day Asia Pacific seminar on Indigenous People, Climate change and rural poverty. The US, she said, must do its bit and take the lead for countries like India and China to follow suit: “Not enough is being done and unless effective steps are taken the future generations will not be able to live a life of dignity” she said.
Leading the Indian delegation was India’s youngest minister Agatha Sangma Minister of state for rural development.
In a pitch for the Indian government, Sangma spoke about India’s effort to focus on “inclusive growth” and the different policies to help the poor, disadvantaged and marginalized segments of the population.
Ironically, India does not recognise indigenous people. They are neither defined or described under the Constitution. The closest any community can come to the concept of indigenous people are the scheduled tribes of which Agatha Sangma is a part. She belongs to the Garo tribe in Meghalaya in India’s north eastern state: “Scheduled tribes in India and the indigenous people are not on the same footing. But the issues of rural poverty and climate change are common” Sangma told Hindustan Times. The tribals, she said, were the first to face the brunt of climate change and it is thus imperative that they be protected.
Reiterating Indian government’s sensitivity to the scheduled tribes Sangma said that the next step for the government would be to incorporate the traditional knowledge of the tribals into policy and tackle implementation of its stated policy.
Earlier in her keynote address Sangma said that India is aware of vulnerability of the poor to climate variability and change. Its National Action Plan, she said, outlines a strategy for addressing climate change through sustainable development. India, she claimed, would pursue a strategy of low carbon growth for inclusive development. While doing this, she highlighted some of the Indian government’s schemes for rural employment, watershed development and skill development of the rural poor. More importantly she pledged that India would, in the next three years, be a country which is what she called “open defecation free”.