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Colonial mindset on environmental issues

Rich countries have to come out of their colonial mindset, that they are the rulers of the world and can do anything they desire. It should not be forgotten that even these rich countries will not be spared from the heat of the global warming. — Dr. Ashwani Mahajan


Recently, the United Nations Environment Conference ‘COP 26’ concluded in Glasgow, UK. India was hugely praised in this conference, when, realising the importance of issue, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi himself participated in the conference. He was appreciated particularly for expressing country’s commitment towards the environment in five points, which was named as ‘Panchamrit’. They included, by 2030 increasing the capacity of non-fossil energy to 500 GW, meeting 50% of our energy needs from renewable sources, reducing carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes, reducing carbon density by 45% and by 2070 making the country ‘carbon neutral’, what we term as ‘Net Zero’.

Today’s environmental crisis is actually linked to the existence of humanity. The devastation caused by the climate change is now affecting the common man all over the globe. Cloudburst in Himalayan region; extremely low rainfall in some regions and excessive rainfall in some other, and due to that droughts and floods; smoke impacting the lives and causing diseases burden; all are impacting the lives in the country today. Life on small islands is even more in danger due to rising sea level in the world and today environmental hazards are also becoming the cause of large scale displacement. If we don’t rise to the crisis, this earth will not remain a habitable place in the next few decades.

In view of this concern, environmental conferences have been organized under the auspices of the United Nations since 1994, which is also called ‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’. At the Environment Conference held in Kyoto, Japan, in 2012, a treaty was signed, known as the ‘Kyoto Protocol’, according to which, countries decided targets to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. The ‘Kyoto Protocol’ was the last such agreement, in which developed countries accepted their responsibility to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and the less developed and developing countries were exempted from the responsibility of reducing the emission of these gases for some time, in view of their development needs.

After the 2015 Paris’s Environment Conference, India, with a liberal change in its earlier stance, unilaterally pledged to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and made it clear that India would not only live up to its ambitions but also raise the same. But India had also made it clear that developed countries should desist from blaming India for environmental degradation or global warming. The reality is that if seen from the historical perspective, today the world is suffering the consequences of what happened in the last 100 years. Whereas, America is responsible for 40 percent of greenhouse gases ominous, Europe’s contribution is 10 percent, and China contributed 28 percent to the emission of greenhouse gases; India is responsible for merely 3 percent for these emissions.

India had said even then, that where as the responsibility of rich countries including China is so much; and in Copenhagen, they had pledged to provide $100 billion to poor countries to deal with the environmental crisis. But it is a matter of misfortune that that much amount is not visible anywhere in COP26 final document. Rather, all efforts are being made to put the blame on India for environmental crisis due to over usage of coal. In the draft of the final document of the Environment Conference of Glasgow (UK), the rich countries included the condition to phase out coal and when India refused to accept the same, and forced for replacing the same by, phase down a campaign has started in western media to defame India that it is becoming an obstacle in the way of solution to environmental crisis.

Where, as the media in the west is trying to portray India as the villain of the environmental crisis for not accepting the condition to phase out coal usage in the final document; countries like America, Europe and China, who are mainly responsible are no where being held responsible. We need to understand that singling out coal will not serve the purpose. India’s argument and rightly so, that other fossil fuels like petroleum and gas are equally responsible for emissions. Since the US and Europe have an advantage in using them (petroleum and gas), there is no mention of reducing emissions from these fossil fuels in the final document, which is downright unfair.

Unsustainable consumption is the villain

Today, when the developed countries are calling India, a hindrance in the environmental treaty, they have to introspect and realise that the reason for the present environmental crisis is the uncontrolled consumption in those countries, which is reflected in the fact that America and Europe, where only 14 percent of the total world’s population lives, account for 50 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions of the last 100 years. Not only this, even today the per capita emission of greenhouse gases in India is only 1.77 metric tons, while in America it is 14.24 metric tons and in England it is 4.85 metric tons, in China also the per capita emission of greenhouse gases is 7.41 metric tons. The main reason for excessive greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries is wasteful and reckless consumption, which is due to their lifestyle. Developed countries today are not ready to concede that the present environmental crisis is due to their stubbornness of not to change their lifestyle. The people of these countries and their leadership have to realise that they have to control their consumption to overcome the current environmental crisis. Whether it is the goal of not allowing the world temperature to rise more than 1.5 degrees from the pre-industrial level, or the reduction in smoke, the only solution is the end to reckless consumption, for which the developed countries have the major responsibility.

Apart from this, the efforts made by developing countries and underdeveloped countries like India, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and global warming will require the use of technology. This technology is available only with developed countries, which they want to share at a hefty price. On the other hand, developing and underdeveloped countries will have to increase the use of renewable energy such as solar energy, wind energy etc., for which they will need more investment and technology. The need of the hour is that if the earth is to be kept habitable, the developed countries will have to make available their resources and technology for the same. Rich countries have to come out of their colonial mindset, that they are the rulers of the world and can do anything they desire. It should not be forgotten that even these rich countries will not be spared from the heat of the global warming.   

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