The Climate Action in the Indian state of Uttarakhand



  • Suresh Nautiyal

Member, International Coordination Committee, Global Greens.

Convener, National & International Affairs, UKPP – Uttarakhand Parivartan Party, india.

Earth is passing through the crisis of climate change due to the global warming conditions. The never-ending emission of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) by several indifferent, inattentive, unconcerned and unmindful countries triggered 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 long and has happened lately 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 greed for 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 of these Parties retracted from their commitment of meeting their targets primarily through national measures; despite the fact that the Kyoto Protocol was designed to assist countries in adapting to the adverse effects of climate change by facilitating the development and deployment of technologies that would help increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Today, the crisis seems unresolvable also 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 also to ‘discipline’ the fast emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and South Africa on this issue.

Now, many of these developed countries are talking about the green technology, carbon trading, green bonus, conservation of the forests, etc., with the purpose to save their own skin. Without digging too deep in this, we have to agree that we definitely need some tools to resist the dangers of the climate change that look invincible right now. But, is it not duty of the developed world to realise what damages they have already caused and what they still have to do? Don’t they know who are consuming most of the manufactured products no matter where they are made? Don’t they know that they themselves have brought the Earth to this pathetic stage?

There is no doubt that the increase in temperature is due to the irresponsible human activities. The GHGs had reached at a dangerous record level in 2013 itself. 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 result in irreversible degradation of the moisture regime consequently leading to extinction of vegetation, trees and forests, agriculture, horticulture, and quality of oxygen in the absence of trees. This increase of glacial melt will affect 8-thousand long Indian coastal areas which 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 ADB 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 go up to 8.8 percent by 2100. Of course, urgent effective measures are needed to keep the increase in the global temperature below 2-Degree Centigrade in order to keep the decrease in the collective GDP limited to less than two percent by the year 2100.

Whatever the reasons, the fact is that not only India, not only Asia; but whole of the world is threatened by the dangers of the climate change and urgent effective measures are required from local to the global level.

The above-mentioned were some of the thoughts that emerged in two climate change related workshops 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 knew pretty well that tackling with the issue of climate change was among the most vital issues of our generation and time and that 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 Greens supported Global Day of Action on September 21, 2014 wherein a historic “Climate March” was organised in New York on that day. 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 the living beings including humans and that too without compromising with the ecology/ environment.

The workshops cautioned the central and state governments on the ecological threats due to climate change and came out with the “Dehradun Resolution on Climate Change.”  The Resolution envisions that all life forms including humans being integral parts of the symbiosis and ecology have to be at the centre of the ecological policies essentially and that a judiciously logical balance between the ecology and the basic needs of all life forms has to be maintained. In brief, the living beings’ welfare has to be strengthened as part and parcel of the ecological system.

And also, there has to be a balance between the production and consumption. A harmonious relationship between sustainability of the ecological systems and use of the natural resources is vital. The societies living in the domain of luxuries need some thinking on this issue to redefine and reduce their consumption habits. Not only this, robust measures are necessary for bringing reduction in the consumption patterns so that emission of GHGs are  reduced and decrease in the global warming ensured.

The Resolution said that it was very important not to haphazardly withdraw 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 for those who have the paying capacity. Such people cannot get away driving their SUVs with subsidised diesel or run their air-conditioners with subsidised electricity!

As regards the Himalayan Region, the Resolution pointed out that the Central Himalayan Region or Uttarakhand state was badly affected by the 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 happening 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 of them in the region.

The Resolution said that the overall ecological picture in whole of the Himalayan Region remained inexplicable! On the one hand, the local people were deprived of their traditional rights over their ecological systems in the name of ‘preserving’ these sensitive ecological zones, national parks, biosphere regions, sanctuaries, etc.; but on the other hand the government was allowing uninhibited and unrestricted access to the hydro power companies and road construction agencies without informing the local people.

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

The Resolution has demanded review of all laws pertaining to the various aspects of ecology and environment in the Himalayan Region and in place of the outdated and obsolete laws, enactment of a comprehensive ecological conservation law that allows humans and non-humans to be parts of the whole ecological system. It has been suggested that the mitigation programmes were made and implemented locally with local participation by making these programmes as revenue generators. Deforestation programmes in the Himalayan Region be made sustainable. New forests must come up before identifying aged forest trees for felling. Felling of the pine trees, in a phased manner, was essential for such a programme and plantation of the mixed forests in place of the pine forests/trees was need of the hour. At the same time, special efforts and programmes were required for the conservation of the ecological systems and natural forest systems. Only those hydro-electric projects to be allowed which follow the standards set by the World Dams Commission and termed as small dams as per the WDC norms.

The UKPP Resolution also favoured the government plan for the rejuvenation of the Ganga River but asked 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 effective conservation mechanism was evolved for the conservation and sustenance of the Himalayan ecology and environment. The Resolution said that only those developmental activities needed 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 the mitigation efforts, but stressed that only the political efforts at all levels would take the world out of the crisis. A change in the ecological perspectives of the world governments, especially the rich nations, was urgently called for undoing of 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 was restricted 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.

And now the moot question is: what exactly has to be done in order to stop the climate change? It is evident that the cycle of the climate change will be irreversible if accumulation of the GHGs crossed the 450 PPM (parts per million) mark. Therefore, it is very important to reduce the consumption of everything. It is because only this will allow the natural resources to last longer. And at the same time, reduce emission of the GHGs.

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 not survive the effects of the climate change. Those countries, which liberalised their economies and subsequently resorted to the consumerism and marketisation have even greater responsibility. It would be better if the rich countries took measures to restrict and control their consumption first and then expect other countries to follow the suit.

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