India’s commitment towards environmental protection and climate change

By Saptarshi Basu Roy Choudhury on November 25, 2018

There is a rising consensus for environmental protection across the world. Climate change is a concerning issue all over the world due to its manifold detrimental aftereffects. The term is interchangeable with the phrase “global warming”. Both terms refer to the rise in the mean global temperature resulting from increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the Earth’s atmosphere (EESI, 2018). 

The emission of greenhouse gases, aggressive deforestation, and consistently increasing combustion of fossil fuels are some of the contributing factors of climate change. Consequently, there is an increase in the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, ethane, methane and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere. The figure below shows global greenhouse gas emissions by sector for the year 2014.

Figure 1: Average greenhouse gas emission from economic sectors responsible for climate change (IPCC, 2014)
Figure 1: Average greenhouse gas emission from economic sectors responsible for climate change (IPCC, 2014)

The greenhouse gas effect is drastic and has unexpectedly changed ecological phenomenon in the form of increasing global temperature. It has impacted the pattern of cloud cover and precipitation, melting of ice caps and glaciers, and increasing ocean temperature and acidity (Henderson, Reinert, Dekhtyar, & Migdal, 2017; UNFCCC, 2007).

Paris agreement is a step towards environmental protection

In this context, it needs to be emphasized that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty that was adopted on 9th May 1992. Its primary purpose was stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. UNFCCC further aimed at making an ecosystem that is able to adapt to climate change. This was to ensure natural food production is not at jeopardy and the worldwide economic development also takes place in a sustainable manner (UNFCCC, 1992). The Paris Agreement is a significant step by UNFCCC toward mitigation and adaptation of climate change.

The Agreement was brought into consideration at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC. The agreement is a legal framework that was adopted for implementing an internationally coordinated effort to tackle climate change (Streck, Keenlyside, & von Unger, 2016). It aimed at restricting the rise in average global temperature within 2 degrees Celcius above pre industrial level (UNFCCC, 2018). It also required further effort by the nations to limit the rise to 1.5 degrees Celcius.

Initiatives by India towards reducing the carbon footprint

India submitted its intended Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to UNFCCC on October 1, 2015. It stated its intention of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases by about 35% and achieving 40% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based sources. It also mentioned creating additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forests and tree covers by the year 2030 (Vasudha Foundation, 2017).

Since ratifying to this agreement, India is among the forerunners who have aligned their climate goals with the ecological conventions set by the Paris Agreement. Big players in India like Infosys, Mahindra, Tata Consultancy Services, Dr. Reddy’s and Essar Oil have joined the bandwagon in an attempt to reduce carbon emission from their supply chain. In addition, nearly 500 units across eight energy intensive sectors of India have also successfully reduced carbon dioxide emission from its supply chain to 31 million tones within the time span from 2012 to 2015 (Goswami, 2017).

An appraisal of environmental policies to curb climate change

India gave its consent towards protection of the ecology by means of adopting climate policies in the INDC commitment. In addition, India has also committed to better adapt to climate change through increased investments for development programs in sectors like agriculture, water resources, etc. which are more vulnerable to climate change. The country is committed to mobilizing funds for mitigation and adaptation of climate change policies. Furthermore, India is also focussed on development and transfer for building capacities and creating a corresponding domestic framework and international architecture (Agarwal, 2017).

Betz (2012) analyzed climate policies of India in line with the ecological commitments made by the country at UNFCCC. The author suggested that India has established itself as one of the deal breakers in international climate negotiations. India renounced its traditional climate strategies and made fresh commitments to reduce carbon emissions voluntarily. In line with the commitment made, India undertook initiatives at the domestic level to save energy and develop regenerative energies in a parallel manner. Thus, India could keep its commitment because of important business associations that were aligned with more eco-friendly development perspectives. Moreover, the commitment to reduce carbon emissions by India did not demand the implementation of any stringent regulations either. The table below shows India’s budget allocated versus the actual expenditure incurred towards these efforts.

Budget allocation
Expenditure (in Cr.)
2015-16 72 70.22
2016-17 42.01 41.39
2017-18 47.8 32.35
Total 161.81 143.96

Table 1: Budgetary allocation in India to adapt to climate change as per the Paris agreement (Rattani, 2018)

Lack of commitment at public administration

However, Sami, Singh, & Bazaz (2016) expressed that India has partially responded to the international call for addressing the issue of climate change from 2007 onwards. Nevertheless, noteworthy efforts at the level of public administration are still not at an appreciable state. Moreover, keeping up the environmental commitments made by India at the Paris Agreement will pose further challenges in the next few years.

The criticism of (Saryal, 2018) in this context is that India has partly shifted from the climate change commitments that were made at the Paris Agreement. The scholar justified his comments by remarking that this shift in climate change commitment of India in the later period has been driven by several factors. These include changes in the geographical and geopolitical scenario in contemporary times. The figure below shows the projected non-renewable energy consumption from primary sources. It predicts that there will be a rise in the consumption by India post-2020.

Figure 2: Projected non-renewable energy consumption by 2040 (Henderson et al., 2017)
Figure 2: Projected non-renewable energy consumption by 2040 (Henderson et al., 2017)

The Paris Agreement was implemented in 2015 with the primary purpose of minimizing the rate of emission of greenhouse gases and curbing the ill effects of global warming as a result of it.  India has been one of the active participants in this drive and committed to attain sustainability and reduce carbon emission. To meet the commitments public administration needs the power by virtue of which they can enable climate change policy drives at the local levels.


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