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How Does India Fare With Regards To Its Environmental Contributions?

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Climate change is one of the most pressing issues that the world is collectively facing at the moment. It is contended that strengthening the global response is pertinent to combat the threat of climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adopted in 1992 that entered into force on 21 March, 1994, primarily aims to prevent anthropogenic interference in the earth’s climate system and stabilise Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

UNFCCC
The UNFCCC.

With this aim, the Conference of Parties meets every year to assess progress and review documents by countries on their plans to combat climate change.

COP And The Paris Agreement

The Conference of Parties (COP) is the core decision making body of the UNFCCC. The Parties are the States that have ratified the Convention. Their task is to review its implementation by reviewing the various documents and emission inventories submitted by the Parties.

The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany, in March 1995 and has met ever since. There have been 25 meetings of COP. The 26th COP meeting in 2020 was scheduled to be held in Glasgow, United Kingdom, but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is now scheduled for 1–12 November, 2021.

The COP meetings have resulted in several important decisions and agreements. For instance, COP 3 was one of the most important meetings held in Kyoto, Japan, that led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. It called upon the developed countries to reduce their GHGs and established legally binding obligations under international law.

Similarly, the Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 countries at COP 21 in Paris in 2015. It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change that aims to limit global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degree Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

However, the implementation of this agreement requires a comprehensive economic and social transformation. It works on a 5-year cycle of goals and actions carried out by countries. In 2020, countries were supposed to submit their plans for climate action — known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs, which was postponed to 2021 in the COP 26 due to the pandemic.

The NDCs are the goals and actions that the countries communicate as their plan to undertake to reduce their GHG emissions to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Means Of Implementation Of India’s NDCs

Modi Paris Agreement
India’s climate actions have mostly been funded by domestic resources.

The Paris Agreement provides a framework for financial, technical and capacity building to the countries that require it. Climate finance is essential as it is needed for mitigation and adaptation efforts by countries. As such, the agreement reaffirms the need for developed countries to offer financial assistance to those needing it to reduce their GHG emissions and in their pursuit of climate-resilient development.

India’s climate actions have mostly been funded by domestic resources. However, to achieve the goals set forth, the substantial scaling of the climate action plans should be complemented by financial resources and assistance from developed countries. There would also be additional investments required for strengthening resilience and disaster management.

The Paris Agreement also discusses technological development and transfer for achieving the goals of the Agreement. India has advocated for global collaboration in Research & Development (R&D), with regards to climate change adaptation and mitigation, particularly in clean technologies. It has also advocated for enabling their transfer and free Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) costs to developing countries.

The Agreement emphasises climate-related capacity building for developing countries and exhorts the developed countries to extend their support for the same. In this area, India aims for a manifold scaling up of the country’s renewable energy targets and India’s climate change goals linked to the implementation of policies such as the program on Smart Cities, Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) and the cleaning of rivers.

What Are India’s NDCs?

India ratified the Paris Agreement a year after submitting its Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC). Its NDCs for the period 2021 to 2030 are as follows:

  • To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation.
  • To adopt a climate-friendly and cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at a corresponding level of economic development.
  • To reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 33%–35% by 2030 below 2005 levels.
  • To achieve about 40% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030 with the help of the transfer of technology and low-cost international finance, including from Green Climate Fund (GCF).
Forest
There has been rapid deforestation in India.
  • To create an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5–3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • To better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programs in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region, coastal regions, health and disaster management.
  • To mobilise domestic and new and additional funds from developed countries to implement the above mitigation and adaptation actions to bridge the resource gap.
  • To build capacities, create a domestic framework and international architecture for quick diffusion of cutting-edge climate technology in India and collaborative research and development for such future technologies.

To achieve the above goals, India has begun to tread on the objectives of promoting a variety of renewable energies, such as by the introduction of newer, more efficient and cleaner technologies in thermal power generation, reduction in emissions from industries, transportation sector, buildings and appliances, waste, etc.

The implementation of the Green India Mission remains a priority. This Mission is a comprehensive program towards sustainable environmental development through which the country can protect, restore and enhance forest cover and other afforestation programs, and plan and implement actions and schemes to enhance climate resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

Union Budget 2021-22

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget on 1 February, 2021. Some of the key proposals to enhance India’s comprehensive environment protection efforts include:

  • Hydrogen Energy Mission in 2021-22 for generating hydrogen from green power sources.
  • Capital infusion of ₹1,000 crores to the Solar Energy Corporation of India.
  • ₹ 1,500 crores to the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency.
  • Centre’s clean air programme with a fund of ₹2,217 crores for air pollution control in 42 cities with a million-plus population.
  • Voluntary vehicle scrapping policy to phase out old and unfit vehicles.

Other proposals include the Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0: Allocation of ₹1,41,678 crores over a period of 5 years from 2021–2026; Allocation of₹4,000 for Deep Ocean Mission for 5 years; Launch of Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban), with an outlay of ₹2,87,000 crores to be implemented over 5 years for universal water supply in all 4,378 Urban Local Bodies with 2.86 crores household tap connections, as well as liquid waste management in 500 AMRUT cities.

India’s Progress So Far

kamuthi solar plant
India needs a consolidated mitigation plan which should include reducing fossil fuel subsidies and phasing out coal.

Even though India’s GHG emissions have more than doubled between 1990 to 2015, when India entered its liberalisation period, it remains less than other G20 nations. Among the G20 nations, India has one of the most ambitious targets set for reductions in GHGs. Experts believe that India has remained on track to achieve its NDC by 2030, which will be catalysed with the adoption of its National Electricity Plan, which aims to achieve 47% capacity from non-fossil sources by 2027 [1].

Any complacency cannot be afforded. A decrease in the budget allocation for the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change from ₹3,100 crores in 2020-21 to ₹2,869 crores is not an encouraging signal. This is especially true for the renewable energy sector, where India needs to step up its planning and implementation as we move towards attaining the Agenda 2030 goals.

Since the energy sector contributes massively to the production of GHGs, tackling this area could contribute to both the NDCs. In the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) released by non-profit Germanwatch, Climate Action Network International and NewClimate Institute, it was suggested that India needs a consolidated mitigation plan which should include reducing fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out coal, better coordination between the central and state governments and raising self-sufficiency by domestic manufacturing in the renewable sector.

With regards to the NDC about creating an additional carbon sink, not much is being done in the afforestation/reforestation sector. There is a lack of data about the Green India Mission and reports show that the Mission has been consistently missing its targets due to a lack of funding at the centre and state level. There needs to be a dedicated ministry or committee responsible for afforestation, which should be funded adequately and take the recommendations of an expert panel on mapping and planning.

The Clean Air Program for air pollution control in 42 cities with a million-plus population and the Hydrogen Energy Mission, which can reduce India’s carbon footprint, are important steps in the right direction.

India is well on its track to achieve its 2030 climate targets. However, it needs to do more in the mitigation and adaptation sector by creating a holistic mitigation plan. The COVID-19 pandemic and extreme environmental events such as Cyclones Fani and Amphan, and droughts in several parts of the country highlight significant setbacks in achieving the yearly targets and overall goals 2030.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdown temporarily brought down emissions to some extent wherein we witnessed nature in its pristine form, it will continue to rise unless a green COVID-19 recovery strategy plan is created and followed.

References:

  1. Climate Transparency (2018): Brown to Green: The G20 Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy, Climate Transparency, c/o Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform, Berlin, Germany

By Dr Simi Mehta, Ritika Gupta, Manoswini Sarkar, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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