Climate Action in the Indian state of Uttarakhand

Earth is passing through the crisis of climate change due to the global warming conditions. The never-ending emission of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) due to several indifferent, inattentive, unconcerned and unmindful countries is triggering critically negative changes in the ecological systems of the Earth, resulting in the increase of global warming that ultimately changed the climatic conditions leading to the present alarming situation.

This has been happening for a long time and continues despite the fact that the Kyoto Protocol -- an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- committed its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets. It is to be reminded that during the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, thirty-seven industrialised countries and the European Community had committed to reduce GHG emissions to an average of five percent against 1990 levels; and during the second commitment period, Parties committed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18 percent below 1990 levels in the eight-year period from 2013 to 2020.

But, that was not to happen due to the reluctance of several important economies and their consumerist production and profit. Respect and commitment towards the Kyoto Protocol were so low that the composition of Parties in the second commitment period was different from the first. Several Parties retracted their commitment to meeting their targets primarily through national measures; despite the fact that the Kyoto Protocol was designed to assist countries to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change by facilitating the development and deployment of technologies that would help increase resilience.

Today, the crisis seems daunting because even those countries, which have almost exhausted their own natural resources and now heavily depend on the developing countries for these resources, blame the developing world for indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources. The intention of the western world is to ‘discipline’ the fast emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and South Africa on this issue.  

Developed countries are increasingly appreciating the value of green technology, carbon trading, green bonus, conservation of the forests, for their own national interests. Indeed tools are needed to resist the dangers of the climate change; but, I believe it is the duty of the developed world to realise the damages caused by them, recognising that they are consuming most of the manufactured products no matter where they are made, and recognising the power they have to make the changes needed.

The increase in temperature is due to irresponsible human activities. The GHGs had reached a dangerous record level in 2013. The effects of GHGs or global warming are more noticeable in the Himalayan Region because of the volatile and sensitive nature of its ecology/environment. Now, the Himalayan glaciers will melt at a faster rate due to the climatic conditions and is creating irreversible degradation of the moisture regime leading to extinction of vegetation, trees and forests, agriculture, horticulture, and quality of oxygen in the absence of trees. This increase of glacial melt affects Indian coastal areas which are spread over several states of the country. Not only this, the degradation of the soil moisture regime will lead to a huge decrease in the agricultural opportunities that engage the largest workforce in the country.

An Asian Development Bank report “Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia”, apprehended 1.8 percent annual average decrease in the collective GDP of six South Asian countries including India by 2050, which is estimated to increase to 8.8 percent by 2100. Of course, urgent effective measures are needed to limit global temperature beneath 2-Degrees Centigrade and to ensure the decrease in the collective GDP is not less than two percent by the year 2100.

India, Asia, and the whole of the world is threatened by the dangers of the climate change and urgent effective measures are required from the local to the global level.

The above-mentioned were some of the thoughts that emerged in two workshops focused on climate change organised by the only Indian Green party and full member of the Global Greens – Uttarakhand Parivartan Party (UKPP) – on September 20, 2014 at Ramnagar, Nainital and the next day at Dehradun, both in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.

UKPP organised these workshops because it recognises that tackling with the issue of climate change is among the most vital issues of our generation and it was important to express solidarity with the Global Greens Climate Campaign that was launched in August 2014 with the purpose to communicate how climate change affected countries and communities around the world and what actions Greens were taking worldwide to create a sustainable future for all.

UKPP organised these workshops also because it was vital to express solidarity with the Global Day of Action on September 21, 2014 when a historic “Climate March” was organised in New York City and globally.  UKPP was already of the opinion that the UNFCCC Summit in December 2015 in Paris, France was critical in the sense that it expected to finalise a universally mandatory framework.

While the party’s first day workshop at Ramnagar -- titled as “Climate Change: Our Perspective in the Context of the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand” – outlined the Central Himalayan perspectives; the next day meeting in Dehradun, titled as “Climate Change: A Reference to the Uttarakhand-Himalaya Region”, reviewed the current ecological policies being implemented in the Indian Himalayan states and discussed how those bottlenecks were to be removed that violated the basic rights of living beings including humans and that too without compromising with the ecology/ environment.

The workshops cautioned the central and state governments about the ecological threats generated by climate change and produced the “Dehradun Resolution on Climate Change".  The Resolution envisions that all life forms including humans are integral part of our ecology.  Policies must therefore reflect the symbiotic balance needed to sustain all life forms of our ecology. The welfare of living beings has to be strengthened as part of our ecological system.

Policies must also facilitate a balance between production and consumption. A harmonious relationship between the sustainability of ecological systems and use of natural resources is vital.  A redefinition and reduction in our societies' consumption patterns are needed as part of the process in reducing GHG emissions and the associated dangers produced by climate change.

The Resolution emphasizes caution when withdrawing subsidies on energy i.e. electricity and petroleum products -- petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG/LNG -- in the developing countries as doing this will rob the poor of their food security and right of living. The Dakar Resolution of the Global Greens in this context needs to have a more humanistic and poor-oriented approach. Of course, the energy subsidy cannot be only for those who have the paying capacity. 

As regards the Himalayan Region, the Resolution pointed out that the Central Himalayan Region or Uttarakhand state was badly affected by global warming and that the effects of the climate change were hugely apparent, the evidence of which was the occurrence of several ecological tragedies in the region. The 2013 tragedy in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and the 2014 tragedy in the state of Jammu & Kashmir were cited as just two examples of human-triggered ecological tragedies. It was concluded that such tragedies were occurring due to the turbulence in the ecology of the Himalayan Region because of unscientific and impracticable policies of the governments and irresponsible and non-eco-friendly implementation in the region.

The Resolution highlights the dilemma faced by locals in the Himalayan Region; whereas local people are deprived of their traditional rights over their ecological systems due to government efforts to preserve these sensitive ecological zones, national parks, biosphere regions, sanctuaries, however the government allows uninhibited and unrestricted access to hydro-power companies and road construction agencies without informing the local people.

The Resolution expects that the Government of India and the Uttarakhand Government to take effective steps to meaningfully mitigate the climate change. Urgent steps were needed for promotion of alternative energy sources.

The Resolution demands a review of laws pertaining to the social, economic and environmental ecology of the Himalayan Region and to enact a comprehensive ecological conservation law allowing humans and non-humans to be recognised stakeholders of the whole ecological system. It suggests that the mitigation programmes should be made and implemented locally with local participation by making these programmes as revenue generators. Deforestation programmes in the Himalayan Region should be sustainable. New forests must come up before identifying aged forest trees for felling. Felling of the pine trees, in a phased manner, is essential for such a programme and the planting of mixed forests in place of the pine forests/trees is needed. At the same time, special efforts and programmes are required for the conservation of the ecological systems and natural forest systems. Only those hydro-electric projects should be allowed which follow the standards set by the World Dams Commission and are termed as small dams as per the WDC norms.

The UKPP Resolution expresses support for the government plan to rejuvinate the Ganga River but calls on the government to ensure uninterrupted flow of water in the Ganga River and all rivers originating from the Himalaya or anywhere. An end to the illegal mining in the riverbeds has been demanded by implementing Article-5 of the Environment Conservation Act and restoration of the traditional rights over water, forests and land by implementing the Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit.

The UKPP in its Resolution demanded formation of the Himalaya Conservation Ministry at the central level in India so that an effective conservation mechanism was evolved for the conservation and sustenance of the Himalayan ecology and environment. The Resolution emphasises that only those developmental activities need to be cleared in the Himalayan Region which were good and clean from the viewpoint of science and technology and did not harm the ecology and environment. It said that the developmental targets be framed in a way that they over the years do not lead to increase in the global temperature beyond 1.5-Degree Celsius.

As regards the overall picture of the climate change, UKPP has committed itself to mitigation efforts, yet stressed that political efforts at all levels is necessary to manage the crisis that the world faces. A change in the ecological perspectives of world governments, especially among wealthy nations, is urgently needed for resolving the biased perspective on the issues related to the green bonus, carbon sink and green technology theories. All efforts were needed for the solution of the climate change crisis so that the increase in the global warming be restricted to below 2-Degree Celsius.  “Therefore, it is the duty of each and every political entity throughout the world to come out with a clear-cut policy on the climate change issue and pursue implementation of that policy. At the same time, an atmosphere of consensus has to be built on the common crises,” the Dehradun Resolution said.

The party, through this Resolution, has appealed to the world leadership to commit itself to working in the direction of climate change mitigation and do not get busy in buying time and tell the whole world what plans they have for climate change mitigation.

What exactly has to be done in order to stop the climate change? The cycle of the climate change will be irreversible if accumulation of the GHGs crosses the 450 PPM (parts per million) mark. Therefore, it is very important to change our consumption habits to allow natural resources to last longer and reducing GHG emissions.

The western societies must take a lead in this as they have been consuming the most. If this does not happen, even strong economies like the USA and China will be destabilised by the effects of the climate change. Those countries, which liberalised their economies and subsequently resorted to consumerism and marketisation have even greater responsibility. It would be better if wealthy countries took measures to restrict and control their consumption first before expecting other countries to follow suit.

No matter what has been done, the whole world needs a solution to the challenges of climate change.

By Suresh Nautiyal, Member, Global Greens Coordination; Convener, National & International Affairs, UKPP – Uttarakhand Parivartan Party, India


Suresh Nautiyal