India’s Steps Towards Sustainability

04 May 2012 | Environment | By Team Halabol

India recognizes the need to adopt a sustainable growth model, and this gets reflected in the next five-year plan targets. This is totally in their face – for various developed countries that question India’s commitment, and shamelessly hope that we would somehow shift the burden from their shoulders, even if that calls for our citizens living from hand to mouth.

0Comments Read MoreCarbon Emissions, Durban meet, Kyoto Protocol, Sustainability, Sustainable Development

Developed countries, in spite of their opprobrious colonial and imperial pasts, never fall short of toeing the line with double standards. They pollute the planet to the maximum extent, and then expect developing countries like ours to spend the same on environment protection as they do. For record, all countries except the US have signed and ratified Kyoto Protocol. Canada openly criticized India’s contribution, only to show its dichotomy and backing out from Kyoto Protocol (after having signed and ratified it way back).  

The leaders of the first world thought they could have it their way at the last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (held in Durban, South Africa), and could scheme poor countries into falling for their flawed ideals. It looked like they would win, till they ran into Jayanthi Natarajan, the Indian Minister for Environment and Forests, in December 2011. Thanks to her, India emerged the undisputed leader against the first world. Here is what our leader said:

Am I to write a blank cheque and sign away the livelihoods of 1.2 billion Indians without even knowing what the EU 'roadmap' contains? I wonder if this is an agenda to shift the blame on to countries who are not responsible (for climate change). I am told that India will be blamed. Please don't hold us hostage. We will not give up the principle of equity.

The meet was held to establish a new treaty to limit carbon emissions, but the problem is that developed countries never talk beyond total emissions. Poor countries, due to vicious cycle of poverty, have high populations, which add up to net emissions being more for them. There is a need to look at per capita emissions, and that is what our minister tried to explain. Even then, India’s contribution to global emissions (5%) is lesser than that of China (17%), US (16%), EU (11%), Indonesia (6%). When we compare per capita emission stats (totals emission per person), we find that for India, they are way lower than all top ten polluters (for India, it is 2.1 tonnes, as against 24.1 for the US, 23.2 for Canada, and 5.8 for China).



Unless those who are impoverished are brought to an acceptable level of living, with access to food security and medical facilities, how can they be expected to contribute in similar way as developed countries? This would be like a double whammy – first these countries were made poor by colonial and imperial design (through exploitation and drain of wealth), and now when they are barely managing to recover from centuries’ loss, they are being held hostage to such treaties. Developed countries progressed at the cost of impoverished countries. So it is only fair that the former contribute more, and even supply technology to poor countries to improve their industries. That is what developed countries don’t want to do. They want to make profits at technology transfer, too, claiming technological innovations their intellectual property. They don’t even get to the question as to what has let their citizens develop a secure life that could help foster scientific prowess – that is nothing but the centuries of exploitation that filled their state treasuries.


Courtesy: University of Wollongong – New South Wales

Perhaps emboldened by her Indian counterpart, China's minister stood up in support and slammed the EU. Xie Zhenhua said, in the typical Chinese tone:

What qualifies you to tell us what to do? We are taking action. We want to see your actions.

China has also been angry at EU for their controversial European Union Emissions Trading Scheme that requires all airlines using airports in EU to pay a tax for their greenhouse gas emissions. India has also opposed such draconian sanctions.

The Background

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty signed at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. The treat aims to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at such a level that it would prevent dramatic climate changes. Kyoto Protocol was the first step in that direction, but as we mentioned the US, the biggest per capita polluter, never agreed to ratify it.

Per Capita Pollution by Various Economies

Courtesy: Wikipedia

In Durban climate talks, the world agreed to a new global climate change regime that will come in to force starting 2020. India took over centre-stage, and prevented EU’s demand – that all countries, in spite of their economic status, be made liable to control emissions – from coming into force. India maintained that the principle of equity cannot be done away with.

Come June and the 195 parties to the UNFCCC shall start negotiating a new global regime – that will be finalised by 2015 and become operational from 2020 – at Rio.

India Initiated

According to the latest Economic Survey, India has announced a domestic goal of reducing the emission intensity of its GDP by 20-25 per cent (at the 2005 levels) by 2020. The following are the key enablers of this vision as per the latest economic survey of the government:

National Solar Mission: The program Seeks to deploy 20,000 MW of solar electricity capacity in the country by 2020. The first phase (2010-12) is currently underway during which 1,000 MW is planned to be installed, and about Rs.4,337 crore will be spent on it.

National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency: This mission aims to create new institutional mechanisms to enable the development and Energy Efficiency strengthening of energy efficiency markets. Various programmes initiated under it include the PAT mechanism to promote efficiency in large industries, and the Super-Efficient Equipment Programme (SEEP) to accelerate the introduction of deployment of super-efficient appliances. A total of Rs.425.35 crore will be spent on the first phase to be completed in 2012.

National Mission on Sustainable Habitat: It has been envisioned to promote the introduction of sustainable transport, energy-efficient buildings, sustainable Habitat and sustainable waste management in cities. About Rs.1,000 crore would be needed to realise these goals.

National Water Mission: This mission is to promote the integrated management of water resources and increase water use efficiency by 20 per cent, and a whopping Rs.89,101 crore will be spent on it.

National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-sytem: The Himalayas, as grand they are, are also a relatively new ecosystem and too fragile at that. This program, therefore, establishes an observational and monitoring network for Himalayan glaciers, and looks forward to promote community-based management of ecosystems. More than Rs.1100 crore would be spent on these goals.

National Mission for Green India: This program would result in afforestation of an additional 10 million hectare of forest lands, wastelands and community lands, over the next 10 years, with a cost of Rs.46,000.

National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture: The focus of this mission is on enhancing productivity and resilience of agriculture, in order to reduce vulnerability to extremes of weather, long dry spells, flooding, and variable moisture availability. It will invite a total investment of Rs.108,000 crore.

National Mission on Strategic Knowledge  for Climate Change: This program would aim to identify challenges arising from climate change. It will also look into the possibility of diffusion of knowledge in the areas of health, demography, migration and livelihood of coastal communities. A total of Rs.1050 crore will be spent on it.

Clearly, India’s doing all she can do in her capacity to prevent a dark future of our planet. India’s leadership show at Durban and her commitment to sustainability is something every Indian should be proud of.

The opinions expressed by authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, Halabol is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.
Previous Post
Burying Plastic in Ocean: Grave Problem
Next Post
Making Sense of the Environmental Debate: Risk, Science and Society