The right time for India to have its own climate law

News: India has announced its environmental targets are Glasgow. To achieve those targets efficiently, India needs a climate law.

Our Prime Minister has recently a ‘Panchamrit solution’ which aims at reducing fossil fuel dependence and carbon intensity (reduce one billion tonnes of total projected carbon emissions by 2030). But before adopting new energy pathways, we must also consider the question of climate hazard, nature-based solutions, and national accountability.

Thus, India should frame a climate law to achieve its goals of climate justice, carbon space, and environmental protection.

Why do we need a climate law?

Inadequacy in present laws: Our existing laws like Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), are not adequate to deal with climate change. For example, Clause 24 of EPA says that if an offence is committed under the EPA or any other law, the person will be punished under the other law (for example, Code of Criminal Procedure). It means the EPA is subordinate to every other law.

To ensure comprehensive climate action: There is a need to integrate climate action — adaptation and mitigation — and monitor progress. Comprehensive climate action is not just technological i.e. changing energy sources or carbon intensity, but also nature-based i.e. restoration of ecosystems, reducing natural hazards, and increasing carbon sinks.

To avoid inequality: Climate actions need to ensure that our stated renewable energy goals like 500 Gigawatts by 2030 goal do not increase inequality or poverty.

Ensuring compliance:  environmental interventions are not followed properly at present. For example, NGT order to NTPC to cover coal wagons with tarpaulin on railways is not followed. It not only increases emission from coal, but also results in presence of respirable coal dust in the air.

What steps can be taken?

Setting up a ‘Commission on Climate Change’ that monitors action plans for climate change with the power and the authority to issue directions. The Commission could have quasi-judicial powers with powers of a civil court to ensure that its directions are followed in letter and spirit. It will ensure compliance with the environmental guidelines.

A legally enforceable National Climate Change Plan to ensure liability and accountability at short-, medium- and long-term levels.

Source: This article is based on “The right time for India to have its own climate law” published in The Hindu on 6th November 2021.

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