Parliamentarians from various political parties involved in environment-related political actions urged lawyers of the Global Legislators Organisation India (GLOBE India) and Indian Environment Law Offices (IELO) to sensitise them to the legal issues in preparation for the Paris convention on climate change in 2015. The Paris conference in December 2015 is expected to achieve a legally binding universal agreement on climate change that would come in effect from 2020.
The MPs met in Delhi yesterday in response to an invitation from these organisations and the British High Commission to discuss the importance of climate change initiatives. It emerged during the discussions that the Indian parliamentarians were already aware of the issues involving climate change and its adverse impact on humanity.
Former Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, taking the lead in the exchange of ideas, urged GLOBE India to organise a conference of more than two dozen parliamentarians as well as experts to discuss the legal framework. The representatives of four BASIC countries — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — could also discuss the issues to take a common stand on, the former minister said.
“Let us understand international law. It is very important. The issue of equity and legal binding issues are more important. These are central to the international debate and we are keen to know more on this,” he said. The issues need to be discussed threadbare so that there is awareness about the consequences of India signing any international protocol, said Ramesh at a seminar on “Towards understanding and mapping legal options and alternatives for establishing India’s approach to climate change negotiations”.
Ramesh said that India was getting over certain taboos in the matter. There was a time when the term “low carbon” was avoided in official communication among legislators, he informed. He appreciated the fact that President Pranab Mukherjee’s speech at the commencement of the new Lok Sabha contained the word “mitigation” that was never used officially before.
Bhubaneswar Kalita of the Indian National Congress (INC), the current president of GLOBE India, attended along with other members PD Rai (Sikkim Democratic Front/SDF), Kalikesh Narayan Deo (Biju Janata Dal/BJD), Anurag Singh Thakur and Sanjay Jaiswal (both of the Bharatiya Janata Party/BJP), and Vivek Gupta of the Trinamool Congress (TC). JD Seelam of the INC attended the event, too.
Kalita said that, not only Indian Parliament, but also the Legislative Assemblies of different Indian States have been discussing issues related to climate change. There was a need to take climate change initiative to the next level where parliamentarians should be able to get various options so that they could weigh them and take an informed decision, he said.
Jaiswal, BJP MP from Bihar, pointed out that the Union Budget had allocated a sizeable amount on environment upgrade and prevention of pollution. This shows the seriousness with which the country has already taken the issue of climate change.
Parliamentarians told the international observers of the programme that the efforts of the political executive in India can be appreciated by following a whole lot of related activities of politicians, not all of which may be done under programmes titled “climate change”. For instance, emphasis on renewable energy, work on the Western Ghats, water resources’ management, land use patterns etc went a long way in tackling climate change, they informed the audience.
Deo held that younger parliamentarians, particularly those who were first timers, needed to be made aware of the issues linked to climate change, so that they could effectively take up the issues at various forums.
Rai, Lok Sabha member from Sikkim, said that climate change was a real threat and his State was discussing the issue to find out ways to mitigate the sufferings.
The conference that initiated “the national inception consultation” highlighted that the exact nature of the legal framework that would be in operation in 2020 had been left undefined and was being developed by an ad hoc working group (ADP). This provided India and other developing countries a lot of scope to negotiate the legal framework suiting its pressing issues. India should analyse options and discuss them in details before taking a stand, GLOBE India said.
A presentation made before the parliamentarians highlighted the ominous impact of increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the world. If there are recurrent floods, drying up of lakes and changing crop patterns, the cause for these must be seen in the rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the organisers said. In January 2014, England witnessed the worst flood in the last 50 years. The increase in the nature of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases is due to the changes happening in the environment. The organisers attributed these incidents to global warming caused by human activity. The entire world must sit together and figure out a solution, they said.
Seelam said that the issue was also to create awareness in the 2.3 lakh panchayats about the need to prevent misuse and abuse of environment. Parliamentarians would do what was in the best interest of the nation, he asserted.
Other stakeholders and experts of climate change initiatives in India were also present at the conference.
Given the consistency of India in the environmental matter in international forums, irrespective of the political party that governs the country, it will be interesting to observe how groups such as these can influence the country’s stand in the global arena. The parliamentarians attending the event indicated that the activities the political leadership of the country takes up domestically and the language in which it speaks to the world need not always match.
GLOBE India is a cross-party group of legislators, working to play a critical role in guiding public policy on environment and sustainability issues at national level and balanced position in international policy framework.
IELO is working to promote environmental justice. It is carrying out a dedicated study on legal options and alternatives towards a legal outcome under international climate negotiations until 2015.