IAS Exam: Environmental Concern is changing the course of International Politics
The major environmental concern on the world stage started with the formation of 'Club of Rome' in 1968, which gave its very infamous report 'Limits to growth' in 1972. This was followed by the publication of Bruntland report in 1987 by United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) having the target of multilateralism and interdependence of nations in the search for a sustainable development path. Gradually, this gave the world concepts of 'ecological footprint', 'carrying capacity' and so on, which finally culminated into the earth summit and signing of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 to stabilize the Green House Gas in earth's environment. Thereafter, the international politics have been heavily influenced by finding the ways to contain global warming by prohibiting the emission of Green House Gases in the environment.
The environmental concerns are deep rooted and complex today affecting a large parts of the world and its inhabitants. This is probably the single most factor, every nukes and corners of the world is concerned about. Individual activists, NGOs, even various states have come together through many international organizations such as the United Nations, World Wildlife Fund etc. to derive plans related to environmental issues such as global warming, environmental pollution, ozone hole, desertification and reducing harmful chemicals in the atmosphere.
The conditions of the environment assert a major effect on human livelihood and the existence of ecosystem. These issues have become clearly political in nature in present times, due to following reasons:
1. Today's environmental problems are global in their cumulative consequences, as evident from the phenomenon of El-Nino and simultaneous droughts in various parts of the world.
2. The problems of contemporary times relate more to represent biodegenerative products of humanity, i.e. air, water and soil pollution, deforestation, ocean exploitation, desertification etc. However, in the past the problems were related to their accessibility rather than their exploitation. For example our ancestors had problems related to the biophysical parameters of nature, i.e. access to water, soil fertility, and temperature.
3. Contemporary problems of environment have been caused due to anthropogenic resources – industrial revolution, unmindful use of non-renewable sources of energy, exploitation of nature due to overpopulation and so on. Whereas, it was natural forces which created environmental problems for our ancestors.
4. We have little time addressing the problems like environment in individual capacity today. Hence, the international politics have been drawn by default to set the things right. Our ancestors in the past had more time, resources and space to deal with environmental threats than we do today.
India’s changing approach to global forums
India had been persistently and rightly so accusing the west of spreading the contemporary menace of global warming and environmental pollution since the industrial revolution days. Therefore, It has hard been fighting against any curb to prohibit its developmental opportunities in the garb of greenhouse gas emission. India has long maintained that its per capita greenhouse gas emission is significantly lower than that of the other countries of the world. India, along with other developing and emerging countries of the world have favored the reining in of greenhouse gas emission of the developed world and leaving the former to voluntarily control its emissions.
However, off lately, being a responsible soft power and aspiring to be a super power of the future, India has very well realized its responsibilities, as evident from its recent Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), containing
• Reduction in the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level
• To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
• To achieve about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030
In addition to this, India has also decided to anchor a global solar alliance, INSPA (International Agency for Solar Policy & Application), of all countries located in between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. The move envisions to capture maximum solar energy and use it to replace the fossil-fuel based energy. India has also called for REDD+, in the response to REDD, for the conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
India has fast engaging itself to multilateral and multiforum platform concerning environment. It had hosted the convention on Biodiversity in 2012 and is optimistic to actively engage with global forums like conventions on climate change, sustainable development, desertification, biodiversity and so on.
Reorientation of Global powers towards environment
The blame game and fixing the onus of responsibility of damaging the environment started with the very famous Kyoto protocol in 1997, which became effective in 2005. It couldn’t meet with substantial success, however it was a realistic initiation in curbing the menace and proportionately assigning the responsibility. Doha agreement of 2012 discussed the second commitment to be followed till 2012. Kyoto Protocol had a relatively fair assignment of responsibility and duty vis-a-vis developed and developing countries. However, due to major players like US, it was rendered toothless. Moreover huge emitter like China was not much accounted for.
Further negotiations were held in the framework of the UNFCCC Climate Change Conferences on measures needs to be taken after the Doha commitment period ends in 2020. This resulted in the 2015 adoption of the Paris Agreement, which is a separate instrument under the UNFCCC rather than an amendment of the Kyoto protocol, containing following provisions:
• Limit global average temperature rise 'well below' 2oc compared to pre-industrial times, d further try to strive for 1.5 degrees.
• It has been the first universal climate agreement, in which all the countries are comprehensively pitching in.
• Helping poorer nations by calling on developed nations to shed $100 billion annually to developing countries by 2020.
• All the countries are voluntarily required to publish their own greenhouse gas reduction targets in the form of respective INDC
• The agreement also envisages to make the world Carbon neutral by 2050
Apart from the concern of global warming, Global powers are also making endeavors for bettering the earth's ecosystem by:
• Preserving the biodiversity
• Containing atmospheric pollution
• Taking measures for mitigating Ozone hole depletion
• Curbing Ocean Pollution
• Prohibiting the contamination of fresh water
• Encouraging the afforestation and curbing desertification
• Cooperating to limit the use of harmful and non-biodegradable chemicals.