National plan on climate change: A plan without actions

National plan on climate change: A plan without actions

National plan on climate change: A plan without actions

The coming days will decide whether India will play its role effectively, showing the leadership qualities. Back home, the action plan prepared to deal with climate change by India is full of more rhetoric than addressing the real issues.

Though India is not one of the biggest polluters, we are not far behind, securing fifth place after China. In order to identify the problems and address this issue, the Indian government drafted a National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in June 2008.

The plan advocates a strategy that promotes the adaptation to climate change and to further the enhancement of the ecological sustainability of the development path. The core aspect of the plan is formulation of eight national missions for achieving the key goals in the context of climate change. The focus is on increased understanding of the climate change, adaptation, mitigation, energy efficiency and natural resource conservation.

Like all action plans, the NAPCC looks great on paper, with a clear objective of addressing the issues that lead to increased carbon emissions. However, the basic foundation of the plan is faulty. It is complacent of the fact that the average per capita emission of India is only 1.5 tonnes, much lower than the world average of 4.5 tonnes. This hides the fact that about 150 million Indians have adopted lifestyles of developed countries and are already on the path of high carbon pathways. In order to meet their needs the government is evolving policies with short term gains ignoring the issues of sustainability.

A look at the energy and transport sector in the country shows the way the government is headed towards increasing the carbon emission. The share of coal in power generation is 67 per cent and the plan is to increase this with building more ultra mega thermal power plants with capacities of 4,000 MW each. Coal produces more CO2 than any other fossil fuels. The efficiency of these plants is very low with only about 30 per cent. Instead of addressing the issue of increasing the efficiency of existing plants, the power ministry is eager to establish more coal based power plants.

Subsidy for fuel

In the transport sector, the government is creating conditions to propagate privitised vehicles that add to carbon footprint and causing health problems. According to a recent study in India, buses are subsidised to the extent of Rs 33 lakh per day, while cars are subsidised at Rs 72 lakh and the two wheelers Rs 151 lakh per day. Instead of taking action to minimise these anomalies which actually  favour the automobile industry, the government could have evolved policies to support public transport that would benefit a large number of people, especially those who are with low carbon footprint.

The biomass-based economy of the rural households in the countryside is less prone to emission of greenhouse gas in comparison to the fossil fuel based economy of the urban rich in India. The plan fails to recognise the positive contributions of the rural communities and support them through policy initiatives.

The prime minister claims that if the emission limits are imposed on the developing countries, they might not be able to address the issue of poverty alleviation and meet the basic needs of a large number of people. This rhetoric fades into thin air as we see millions of biomass-based communities are disfranchised from having access to clean drinking water due to polluted rivers or the huge number of ecological refugees that are displaced by dams and mining projects.

The Economic Survey, 2009 has categorically stated that every year we lose 2.6 per cent of GDP to address the problems related to climate change. By accelerating the economic growth with high carbon emission the sufferings of those who are directly affected by climate change is bound to worsen. In order to lessen their sufferings, we need to initiate immediate actions. We need to address both production and consumption patterns and show willingness to change the lifestyle issues towards adopting low carbon pathways.

Unfortunately, the entire action plan was prepared by the bureaucrats and it lacks people’s participation. It is not only undemocratic, but it has failed to address the real issues faced by communities.

Under this bleak scenario there is little hope for any concrete action from NAPCC. If the intention of drafting such a plan is only to allure the international audience and to seek the funding to meet the demands of numerous missions, it is futile on our part to expect any serious action to combat the issue of climate change.

(The writer is working on environmental issues)