[22 May 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: Climate Change: A Passing Cloud in Indian Politics

PYQ Relevance:


Q) ‘Clean energy is the order of the day.’ Describe briefly India’s changing policy towards climate change in various international fora in the context of geopolitics. (UPSC CSE 2022)

Q) Describe the major outcomes of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What are the commitments made by India in this conference? (UPSC CSE 2021)

Consider the following statements: (UPSC CSE 2016)
1. The International Solar Alliance was launched at the United National Climate Change Conference in 2015.
2. The Alliance includes all the member countries of the United Nations.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Prelims:  Climate change; Policies and Programs in India

Mains: Climate change policies in India;

Mentor comment: India, as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, faces significant challenges due to rising temperatures, changing weather patterns, and environmental degradation. The impact of climate change is evident in the reduction of monsoon duration and rainfall levels, melting Himalayan glaciers, and rising sea levels threatening coastal regions. These changes pose risks to agriculture, food security, water availability, and overall environmental sustainability in the country. This article presents the reasons behind the relative lack of political focus on climate change in India and the potential implications for the country’s future.

Let’s learn.

Why in the News?

Our Indian politics is overshadowed by merely immediate concerns and political agendas while leaving behind the major challenges like Climate Change and addressing its impacts.

  • This absence stands out even more when we consider the urgent need for sustainable development amidst worldwide environmental challenges.
Current State of Climate Change in India

According to India’s first-ever Climate Change Assessment Report carried out in 2020, the country’s average temperature is expected to rise by 4.4°C by the end of 2100.
A decline in monsoon rainfall since the 1950s has already been observed. A 2°C rise in global average temperatures will make India’s summer monsoon highly unpredictable.
At 2.5°C warming, melting glaciers, and loss of snow cover are expected to threaten the stability and reliability of northern India’s glacier-fed rivers.
Global sea level has risen about 8 inches in the last century, which is expected to nearly double in this century.

The Present Dilemma: Prioritization of Economic Growth

  • As a developing nation, India prioritizes economic growth and development as a means to alleviate poverty and improve the standard of living for its citizens. 
  • This focus often leads to a trade-off between environmental protection and industrial expansion, with climate change considerations taking a lower priority in the political discourse.

Challenges associated with generating political will and public support for climate action:

  • Lack of Immediate Visibility: The effects of climate change are often gradually visible to the general public. This lack of immediate consequences makes it challenging for politicians to garner public support for climate action, as voters tend to prioritize issues that directly impact their daily lives.
  • Competing Priorities and Short-term Thinking: Indian politics is often characterized by a focus on short-term goals and immediate concerns, such as job creation, infrastructure development, and social welfare schemes. Climate change, with its long-term implications, struggles to gain traction in a political landscape dominated by these pressing issues.
  • Perceived Conflict with Development Agenda: Some politicians and policymakers view climate action as a hindrance to economic development, fearing that it may limit industrial growth and restrict access to energy resources. This perception creates a barrier to implementing comprehensive climate policies.
  • Lack of Awareness and Education: Despite growing global awareness of climate change, there is still a need for greater education and understanding of the issue among the general public and political leaders in India.
Government Policies to Address Climate ChangeInternational Solar Alliance (ISA):

India collaborates with solar energy-rich countries to promote solar energy utilization and reduce reliance on non-renewable energy sources. 
One Sun, One World, One Grid Project: This project seeks to provide energy (SDG 7 – affordable and clean energy) to around 140 countries through a common grid that transfers solar power. By promoting solar energy on a global scale, this initiative addresses energy challenges and supports sustainable development.
Swachh Bharat Mission: It focuses on cleanliness and sanitation (SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation) across urban and rural areas in India. By ensuring access to sanitation facilities and promoting cleanliness, this initiative contributes to environmental health and sustainability.
COP26 Glasgow Summit Commitments: During the COP26 summit, India made significant commitments to combat climate change, including achieving net zero emissions by 2070, meeting 50% of energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030, reducing carbon emissions, increasing non-fossil energy capacity, and decreasing carbon intensity by 2030. (SDG 13 – mitigating climate change).The Climate Action Tracker gives India an overall rating of “Highly Insufficient” in its policies and actions tracking, based on 2030 projections.
Recent Judicial Stance: M.K. Ranjitsinh and Others vs Union of India (March 2024): The Supreme Court of India ruled that the people of India have the right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change by drawing upon Article 21 and Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. 
Recent Legislations: Some important policies and laws covering the energy sector emerged, which included the National Electricity Plan 2023, the National Green Hydrogen Mission and the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2022.

The Way Forward: To elevate climate change as a priority in Indian politics, a multi-pronged approach is necessary:

  • Emphasizing the economic benefits of climate action: Highlighting the potential for green jobs, sustainable development, and long-term cost savings can help align climate action with economic interests.
  • Promoting public awareness and engagement: Investing in education campaigns and fostering grassroots movements can help raise awareness and generate public pressure for climate action.
  • Incorporating climate change into political manifestos: Encouraging political parties to include climate change as a key issue in their election manifestos can help mainstream the topic and ensure its prominence in the political discourse.
  • Fostering cross-party collaboration: Building consensus and cooperation across political parties on climate change can help ensure continuity and long-term commitment to climate action, regardless of which party is in power.


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