Policy Matters

CENTRE NOTIFIES A APEX COMMITTEE TO IMPLEMENT THE CRUCIAL PARIS AGREEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

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Meera Bhardwaj

The Centre has recently constituted an Apex Committee to implement the crucial Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This committee will function as a National Authority to regulate carbon markets in India under the Paris Agreement in the post-2020 period. This Inter-Ministerial Committee will supersede the National CDM Authority constituted under the Kyoto Protocol.

This is also to ensure a coordinated response on Climate Change matters so as to protect the country’s interests and ensure that India can meet its obligations including its submitted NDCs (Nationally Determined Contribution). 

Notifying the formation of a 17-member Apex Committee on 27.11.2020, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has included only officials from various central departments but not included any experts. However, the committee has the power to seek experts from universities, academic institutions, NGOs, civic society, consultants, legal help, industry, commerce, etc and also co-opt other members depending on the need.

Set up under sub-section (3) of section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986), the Apex Committee will function as a National Authority to regulate the “Carbon Markets” in India under Article 6.2, Article 6.4 and Article 6.8 of the Paris Agreement in the post-2020 period. 

Now what is India’s promise on Climate Change?

India has submitted its NDC in 2015 for implementation of Paris Agreement only post-2020.

  • Three quantitative goals namely reduction in the emissions intensity of GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from the 2005 level.
  • Achieving about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.
  • Creating an additional Carbon Sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Further, under the Paris Agreement, each country has to take a “Global Stocktake” periodically. So, India will take stock every five years with first in 2023 on the implementation of long-term goals as also assess the collective progress made towards achieving emission reduction and adding green cover. It will also issue guidelines on carbon pricing, market mechanism, and similar other instruments that have a bearing on climate change and NDCs.

    ALL THE ABOVE PICTURES ARE SOURCED FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Secretary, MoEF&CC will be Chairperson while the Joint-Secretary will be the member secretary. The other 15 members will be from agriculture, industry, finance, water resources, energy, health, earth sciences, rural development, housing, etc. The Apex Committee shall furnish report about its activity at least once in six months to the Central Government. 

The targets and goals set by Paris Agreement for India is not so easy to achieve given the country’s development issues and political compulsions, say activists, academicians, environmentalists, climate experts and forest officials.

A former PCCF, “In this apex body, there is only one member from the Forests Wing of the MoEF&CC. And in the functions to be performed by this Apex body, there appears to be no concrete role to be played as also activities that are to be initiated from Forest Wing to make the “Forests” – the major component in the list of actions on ground. This may be conservation and increase in the forest cover of the country. The forests have to be the key component in the List of Targets and activities taken to be taken on Ground if we have to meet the Paris targets. We have to not only limit the Carbon Emissions by 2030 but more importantly take up conservation and increase in the area under good forest quality cover. However, this no way appears to have any place at all in the manner in which this apex committee has been notified.”

Conservationists add, “We really do not understand as the Centre has been clearing and approving clearance of forests since 2015. In this background, how do they plant to increase the carbon sequestration when they are destroying the existing forest cover. Here the question of increasing the area under forest cover seems inane in this background.”

How are they planning to increase the forest cover when in many mineral rich states of India, the Centre has cleared and approved coal and other energy guzzling projects left and right. Further, under national road connectivity and expansion program, massive tree cover has been decimated for NH development, activists stress. Every action of this government is contrary to their open talks on conservation of existing forest resources and rivers ecosystems.

Further, “Resource Efficiency” is also critical in the larger context of Climate Change, because the primary cause of global warming is the inefficient use or over-exploitation of the natural resources around us, says Shankar Sharma, Power Policy Analyst. The projected pace of economic development is going to put pressure on already stressed and limited resources and may lead to serious resource depletion and environment degradation affecting the economy, livelihoods and the quality of life. 

He adds, “Further, material use is also closely associated with the problem of increasing wastes, which when suitably processed could deliver valuable secondary resources. In this larger context, what is critically important is the emphasis given on the need to unlock the enormous opportunities for resource efficiency and manage the complex interactions between water, energy and food security.  The starting point for building a sustainable roadmap for the water-energy-food nexus is resource efficiency to address the problems of global warming.”

They have systematically weakened existing norms and guidelines related to forests and wildlife in favour of large industries, adds the former chief wildlife warden. This has compromised and destroyed the ecological integrity and strength of the country which means, the future generation will be deprived of basic needs like air, water and life supporting resources. In the background of fulfilling the Paris Agreement, now can we expect this government to forfeit the race to achieve a five trillion economy and the so-called GDP ascension even as our economists and the greedy corporate world berate and drag the government towards unsustainable development and living.

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