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Essay on Why climate change is important for India’s Foreign Policy

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Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of this century. It is a global challenge that calls for global solutions. There is a need to think out of the box. Business as usual is no longer adequate. Foreign policy must do its part. The threat of climate change is not only global. It is also multidimensional, invisible, unpredictable, and transcends national borders. Traditional strategies and alliances are becoming ineffective against climate change, when the cause (greenhouse gas emissions) is not the result of a “hostile” enemy.

First we need to understand what is climate change exactly means. Climate change is basically a change in the pattern of the climate that lasts for a few decades to centuries. Various factors lead to the changes in the climatic conditions on the Earth. These factors are also referred to as forcing mechanisms. These mechanisms are either external or internal. Climate change is having a negative impact on the forests, wildlife, water systems as well as the polar region on the Earth. A number of species of plants and animals have gone extinct due to the changes in the climate on the Earth and several others have been affected adversely. It is important to keep a check on such activities in order to control climatic changes and ensure environmental harmony.

The Paris Agreement signed in December 2015 builds upon the Convention and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. India is responsible for 6% of the global CO2 emissions. This would mean India will have to shift significantly from coal-based power generation to renewable energy sources. As part of the initial commitments to the agreement, India also plans to reduce its carbon emission intensity – emission per unit of GDP – by 33-35% from 2005 levels over 15 years. It aims at producing 40% of its installed electricity capacity by 2030 from non-fossil fuels.

At the international level, India is emerging as a key factor in climate negotiations, while at the national and sub-national levels, the climate policy landscape is becoming more active and more ambitious. It is essential to unravel this complex landscape if we are to understand why policy looks the way it does, and the extent to which India might contribute to a future international framework for tackling climate change as well as how international parties might cooperate with and support India’s domestic efforts. At each level of decision making in India, climate policy is embedded in wider policy concerns. In the international realm, it is being woven into broader foreign policy strategy, while domestically, it is being shaped to serve national and sub-national development interests. While our analysis highlights some common drivers at all levels, it also finds that their influences over policy are not uniform across the different arenas, and in some cases, they work in different ways at different levels of policy. We also indicate what this may mean for the likely acceptability within India of various climate policies being pushed at the international level.

Still, India increasingly sees the local impacts of climate change and growing coal use. The biggest climate impact has been on changing weather patterns in South Asia. Over the last 50 years, rising temperatures have led to a nearly 10 percent reduction in the duration and rainfall levels of the annual monsoons that are vital to nearly all Indian agriculture. Moreover, the melting of Himalayan glaciers threatens the country’s other vital water supply. In addition, rising sea levels have put hundreds of millions of Indians at risk in low-lying population centres in the Kolkata and Chennai metropolitan regions. So Indians now take climate change more seriously. The India`s foreign policy is to promote an environment of peace and stability in our region and in the world to facilitate accelerated socio-economic development and safeguard our national security. India’s foreign policy also recognizes that the issues such as climate change, energy and food security are crucial for India’s transformation. The Government shall develop friendly and cooperative relations with all our neighbours and to strengthen engagement with major powers. Our goal remains a peaceful, stable and prosperous neighbourhood that means cooperation among the nations.

As the international climate negotiations increasingly show signs of adopting a ‘bottom-up’ regime, it is becoming increasingly important to understand what factors drive or condition climate actions in different countries. This is essential in order to understand what prospects there are for different countries contributing to the international negotiations and/or taking domestic action to respond to the climate challenge. India is an increasingly influential factor in global climate negotiations. It has among the world’s lowest per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet is the fifth largest source of GHG globally when accounted in total tonnes. This presents a challenging dichotomy for those tasked with devising an international climate agreement that simultaneously includes the bulk of global emissions and fairly apportions responsibility for taking action. Being among the most vulnerable countries to climate impacts, India has a very real stake in negotiations reaching a meaningful outcome and a growing awareness of its own potential role in helping achieve such an outcome. Yet at home, the Indian government knows it must weigh these goals against other domestic priorities, particularly the push to achieve high levels of social and economic development including reducing poverty.
Recent years have seen a shift in India’s approach to negotiations within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as more advanced climate policy action in the national and sub-national arenas. This trend toward a ‘multi-level governance’ situation, with a more independent sub-national dimension, makes it important to study the forces that are driving and shaping policy at each level. To understand what action to tackle climate change is politically possible and socially acceptable in India, it is necessary to look at the political economy in which decision makers are nested.

Indian Government has pledged to invest $100 billion in clean energy over the next five years, and to source 40 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030. India has also helped establish the International Solar Alliance (ISA), a multi-country organization of sun-rich countries focused on solar technology. His most recent budget includes more than a doubling of the government subsidies for solar power. During Paris agreement our prime minister Narendra Modi pledged to illuminate 18,000 energy poor villages by 2019 through a mix of fossil fuels and renewable sources. Whether or not India can move its power grid to renewable sources fast enough to slow the pace of its natural disasters is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

India is already on the path of clean energy revolution and is making significant accomplishments in achieving its pledge to the Paris Agreement. As a strategy to reduce its emission, India has embarked on a massive renewable energy programme. Being the largest democracy, India is a shining example of how stronger climate actions could be successfully aligned with development imperatives. India has played a crucial role in climate negotiations during the Paris Agreement.

Sources-

  • https://www.iisd.org/
  • https://www.brookings.edu/.
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
  • http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com
  • https://www.hindustantimes.com

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