An evaluation of India’s actions against Climate Change

Synopsis: Events like Uttarakhand and Texas demand urgent climate action. However, the actions of India against climate change are not sufficient.

How Uttarakhand floods and extreme events in Texas are related to Global warming?

  • Natural disasters such as Himalayan glacier flooding and extreme cold wave in Texas (USA) are the consequences of global warming.
  • In 2013, glacial flooding caused over 6,000 deaths in Uttarakhand. Melting of the Himalayan glaciers due to increased global warming has caused floods and landslides in Uttarakhand.
  • Further, the decrease in ice cover reduces the amount of light reflected back (Low Albedo) contributing to an additional rise in temperature.
  • Similarly, the extreme cold weather in Texas and the double-digit negative temperatures in Germany this year, are consequences of global warming.
  • The warming of the Arctic-peninsula at a rate almost twice the global average has damaged the Polar vortex. (The “vortex” refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles).
  • As a result, the cold winds that are restricted to the north poles were able to move south, causing extreme cold weather in sub tropic countries.

Why India’s response to Global warming is not satisfactory?

India has taken many steps to mitigate climate risks. However, the measures taken are not proportional to the risk posed by climate change, particularly to India.

  1. India is the 3rd largest carbon emitter after China and the United States. Also, India is particularly vulnerable to global warming. For instance,
      • HSBC ranks India at the top among 67 nations in climate vulnerability (2018)
      • Whereas, Germanwatch ranks India fifth among 181 nations in terms of climate risks (2020).
  2. In spite of being highly vulnerable to climate risks, India hasn’t committed itself strongly to climate mitigation measures. For example, While China has announced carbon neutrality by 2060, India is yet to announce its target.
  3. Also, public spending in India to mitigate climate risks does not reflect the urgency to shift towards cleaner and renewable power sources.
  4. Further, instead of strengthening climate safeguards the governments both center and state are diluting it. For example, unsustainable construction of hydroelectric and road projects in Uttarakhand.
  5. Similarly, Kerala ignored the Gadgil and Kasturirangan report on western ghats which called for regulation of mining, quarrying, and dam construction in ecologically sensitive places. The neglect contributed to the massive floods and landslides in 2018 and 2019.

What needs to be done?

  1. First, a significant step would be, including policies for climate mitigation explicitly in the government budget, along with energy, roads, health, and education. Moreover, specific growth targets including timelines for switching to cleaner energy will be required.
  2. Second, the government needs to launch a major campaign to mobilize climate finance.
  3. Third, India’s Central and State governments must increase allocations for risk reduction for building climate-resilient infrastructure. For example, agricultural innovations to resist droughts.

Sustainable growth depends on timely climate action. For that to happen, policymakers need to understand the connection between carbon emissions, atmospheric warming, melting glaciers, extreme floods, and storms.

Issues in the Process of Decarbonization

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