DEAFENING SILENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Notwithstanding the fact that the ruling party in a democracy is prone to indulging in populist measures to remain in power, it would be disastrous to abandon long term goals in face of political expediency, particularly when the very survival of the human race is at stake. Unfortunately, the Finance Minister in his budget speech did not find it worthwhile to even mention this global crisis, let alone find the ways how to tackle it. Was it an ominous silence? Was the PMO clueless about the budget proposals? Is the government not serious about its international obligations and commitments?
PARIS CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
It might be called preposterous on my part to remind the honourable Prime Minister that only in November 2015 he visited a beautiful place called Paris to attend the World Climate Change Conference ( also called COP 21), where leaders of the world had gathered to find ways and means to tackle the manace of global warming. The 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the Paris Agreement after two weeks of intensive negotiations at the summit. Calling the Paris Agreement on climate change “a health insurance policy for the planet,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he never lost faith over his nine years in office that the international community could rise to the challenge and take steps to curb emission and boost climate-resilient growth. “It is a health insurance policy for the planet. It is the most significant action in years to uphold our Charter mandate to ‘save succeeding generations.’ For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and act internationally and domestically to address climate change.”
BUDGETARY PROVISIONS – CLUELESS GOVERNMENT
The Environment Ministry has got Rs 2,250.34 crore in the 2016-17 Union budget of which Rs 2,000 cr is under plan head and Rs 250.34 cr under non plan. Last year, the Ministry had got Rs 1668.60 crore of which Rs 1,446.60 crore was under plan and Rs 222 crore under non plan heads. The 2016-17 budgetary allocation marks an increase of Rs 581.74 crore over the current fiscal.
Finance Minister increased the cess on coal production from Rs 200 per tonne to Rs 400 per tonne. He also said the Clean Energy Cess would be renamed as Clean Environment Cess. When it was doubled from Rs 100 per tonne to Rs 200 per tonne last year, it was estimated that it would contribute about Rs 13,000 crore to National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) every year. With the value of this fund going up further with the latest hike, the entire budget allocation for Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for this year — Rs 5,000 crore — is proposed to come from NCEF. Half the plan outlay for Environment Ministry, about Rs 1,000 crore, is also proposed to be met through this fund.
Terming pollution and traffic situation in Indian cities as a “matter of concern”, FM also proposed to levy an infrastructure cess of 1 per cent on small petrol, LPG, CNG cars, 2.5 per cent on diesel cars of certain capacity and 4 per cent on other higher engine capacity vehicles and SUVs.
THE ALARM BELLS ARE RINGING
Any number of reports from the renownd organisations/institution/NGO’s around the world may be cited to support the view that the global climate change is for real and that human activities are primarily responsible for it. However, I would like referring to the Synthesis Report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) . The Synthesis Report distils and integrates the findings of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report produced by over 800 scientists and released over the past 13 months – the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever undertaken.
The Synthesis Report confirms that climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. “Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I. The report expresses with greater certainty than in previous assessments the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases and other anthropogenic drivers have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century. The impacts of climate change have already been felt in recent decades on all continents and across the oceans.
“We have the means to limit climate change,” said the Chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”
Is the Prime Minister of India listening? If not, we are waiting for a disaster. Forget the so-called Vikas, even our survival is in danger. This is not five star activism. Mind it, this the stark reality. The choice is yours.