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India at UNFCCC(COP 26) declined to join Deforestation declaration, this has been followed by India declining joining several such international platforms related to climate change.
Apprehensions have been raised that the official reasons given for not joining these initiatives are not justified.
Why India has not joined the Deforestation declaration?
Consecutive Indian state of forest reports (2019, 2021) have shown a growth in India’s forest cover. Although, this may justify India not joining this initiative but its methodology has been questioned and thus puts the estimates under doubt.
What have been other recent instances of India declining to join some international initiatives and what have been the official reasons?
India declined to join the dialogue on Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) at the COP26.
It is supported by 28 countries (including forest-rich tropical countries like Brazil and Indonesia) and seeks to encourage “sustainable development and trade of agricultural commodities while protecting and managing sustainably forests and other critical ecosystems”.
India also voted against a recent draft resolution to allow for discussions related to climate change and its impact on international peace and security to be taken up at the UN Security Council.
India was of the view that matters related to climate change should not be discussed at the UNSC as it largely deals with matters related to security. Also decisions at UNSC can be taken without developing countries involvement and will give a very biased view.
Why are these official reasons are termed unjustifiable by some?
Although India’s objections are justifiable on paper but they fail to acknowledge the diverse ways in which climate change is linked to global trade, deforestation, agriculture, and international peace, among other issues.
For context, consider India’s palm oil trade. India is the largest importer of crude palm oil in the world and sources majority of this from Indonesia and Malaysia.
Palm oil cultivation been the biggest driver of deforestation in the two countries endangering the critical wildlife and indigenous communities there.
This has also caused forced displacement of indigenous communities, land conflicts between indigenous communities and palm oil companies.
This shows that various issues like trade, climate change, deforestation are interlinked and that the official reasons may have failed to see the larger picture.
Although government has recently taken some steps to cut down on import of palm oil.
What has been this initiative?
Government has decided to launch a National Mission on edible oils-Oil palm under which Palm oil cultivation will be promoted in the North East and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
However , there have been apprehension that the scheme may lead to similar kind of problems in the north east region that the South east Asia is facing due to palm oil cultivation.
The problem becomes much more grave in the light of the fact that ISFR 2021 shows that there was a net decrease of 0.6 per cent of total forest cover in the North East states compared to ISFR 2019.
Source– This post is based on the article “Why India is unwilling to discuss forests at the international fora” published in Down to earth on 22st Jan 2022.