• Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023


Our purpose in this take is neither descriptive to trace the genesis of regular conferences of parties, i.e., COPs, nor to engage in any narrative construction to highlight the gravity of the impending threat of climate change anew; rather, our purpose is precisely to share a few our genuine concerns on the eve of COP 27 scheduled to be held at Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh during 6th to 8th November 2022.

Let us begin with a benign finding relating to the dip in Carbon dioxide emission in 2020-21. According to UNEP’s report, there was a 5.4% drop in CO2 emission in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic-induced fall in industrial production, although it has industrial demands picked up again since mid-2021. But what can we infer from it? First, CO2 is a cumulative pollutant; hence its harmful impact cannot be made out in a short spell. Secondly, during the Covid pandemic, some governments world over relaxed environmental laws. It hurts environmental protection. protection. The third and most dangerous thing is that climate negotiation is a complicated process of multilateral trust-building among nations. But during Covid-19, we saw how trust in international politics plummeted to the nadir. It was not only harmful in exposing the hiatus between the North and South, but even what we saw in the case of the Paris Agreement in 2016 was that it mandated the developed countries to take the reign of leadership instead of putting in place and acting through an inclusive coalition to take climate negotiation forward. So, will that happen now in COP 27? It is a veritable question to speculate.

Besides, we think this time, some other issues will predominate COP 27 negotiation concerning new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), i.e., the target of reduction of CO2 and other GHGS,Net Zero Emission, Carbon marketing mechanism etc.

Now, if we look around, we can see that despite the request to all parties to communicate the new NDC, only 121 parties have submitted this till 2021. India, however, surprised the world by announcing a NET-Zero year. Prime Minister Modi, in particular, has talked about “Panchamrit,” i.e., five nectars—i) to increase non-fossil energy capacity, ii) to bring down the economy’s carbon intensity, iii) fulfilling energy requirements through renewable sources like solar and wind power, iv) reduction of one billion ton of CO2, and v) setting the target to achieve Net-Zero emission by 2070 as a commitment to climate change.

So far, so good, but many questions abound.

Firstly, what is our existing policy? Is our budgetary allocation sufficient to achieve the target, or whether “Panchamrit” is a mere political gimmick that diverts and distracts our attention from more clear-cut short-term and long-term goals?

Secondly, usually in fixing the target for the reduction of GHGs, we go either by base year or baseline scenario from which we talk about the amount of reduction of such gases over time. Again, the reduction can be applied to agriculture, shipping etc. But we do not find anything in India’s projected pledge of “Panchamrita.” Our PM only talks about “reduce, reuse and recycle for a sustainable future” under the banner of mission LiFE(Lifestyle for Environment) announced during CoP 26.

It is noticeable that EU27 within the group of G20 has already talked about enhanced mitigation pledge, but how far poor or developed countries can follow that is seriously questionable. These apart, the Indian vision of intensive afforestation or forcing corporate houses to undertake green projects like planting saplings in their project sites as a condition of land acquisition is tenuous indeed.

Thirdly, whether “Panchamtita” is political rhetoric or not—the future will tell. Still, there here is hardly any endeavor of soul-searching that can be traced to the legacy of India’s ancient intellectual tradition, its heritage and incorrigible wisdom. The mandates of the great Isha Upanishad carry the teachings concerning the innate connection between the small self and the higher self. It says, he who sees all beings in the Self and the Self in all being, he never turns away from it (i.e., the Self). So, we, being the baton holders, are to perform our sacred duty to protect the environment for the sake of protecting Mother Earth, including the posterity to whom we promise to bequeath fresh water, pure air and so on. This profound realization that human beings are not machines; rather, they are equipped with deeper consciousness and devout responsibilities which unite them with nature through a bond that has to be taken care o constitutes the essence of the hymns that preach “one tree is equal to ten sons.” So real bliss, health and lasting happiness can be obtained through harmony with nature and proper supervision and care. For example, we need to change our attitude toward global commons. But what we want to say here is that our approach increasingly falls short of this broader perspective in the sense a sort of instrumental vision is overtaking our spiritually or culturally oriented indigenous ideological underpinnings. Thus a shift is conspicuous in that we have permitted a quid pro quo in the form of corporate social responsibilities that protects the interests of business en route to tokenism in the name of addressing ecological concerns and engaging in philanthropic endeavors. Following the Indian Companies Act of 2013, any corporate house is liable to spend 2% of its profits on such activities, which would be a means to achieve sustainable development.

Finally, a few words are to clarify the implications of Carbon neutrality. It is about net zero emission for CO2, which cannot stop global warming, although it can help to reduce the proportion of CO2 in the net accumulation of GHGS. So our actions need to be transparent and fair without ambiguity or for political mileage. It is a burning global problem, and the choice is extremely narrow—either diminish CO2 or perish.

(The article is solely the opinion of the authors. The views expressed here are solely personal and not in any way connected to any organisation or any political party ).

Dr. Gouri Sankar Nag & Dr. Rajkumar Modak

Dr. Gouri Sankar Nag Professor & Head, Department of Political Science, SKB University, W.B & Dr. Rajkumar Modak Professor, Department of Philosophy, SKB University, W.B.

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