Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Anthropocene
Mains level : How anthropocene is different from other epochs.
On May 21, the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) overwhelmingly voted to recognise Anthropocene as an epoch. The vote gives form to the efforts of scientists, notably the Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer, who coined the term in 2000 to highlight how human activity had changed many facets of the earth. So overwhelming is the concept of the Anthropocene that it got mainstreamed in scientific and general literature years ago.
Relevance of this naming
- The AWG vote is a sobering reminder to humanity that failure to end destructive activities will irrevocably change the face of the earth and make it uninhabitable.
- Officially, humans will continue to live in the Holocene epoch for a couple of years more before the Anthropocene epoch is finally ratified by the International Union of Geological Sciences.
- The vote by the working group will contribute to the formalisation of the Anthropocene as a stratigraphic entity on a par with other geologic epochs.
- But unlike the others, it will be the first time that the beginning of an epoch would be based on human activity and not the consequences of changes brought about by nature.
Difference from other epochs
- For instance, the start of the Holocene epoch 11,700 years ago marks the end of the transition from the last glacial phase to a period of warming and a rise in sea level.
- Human activity has been drastically changing the earth, with the greatest impacts coming from agriculture, large-scale deforestation, the industrial revolution and increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, besides the creation of materials such as concrete and plastic.
- However, the working group voted to look for unique signatures around the 1950s to define the start of the Anthropocene.
- A decrease in deuterium excess, a proxy for climate change, owing to the reorganisation of North Atlantic Ocean-atmosphere circulation was a definitive geologic marker, or golden spike, to signify the base of Holocene.
Basis of change –
Now, radionuclides from atomic bomb tests from the early 1950s are emerging as a favourite golden spike candidate to define the base of the Anthropocene.
Presence of geological marker across the globe
- To be chosen as a geologic marker, the golden spike must be present globally across most environments and must be a part of deposits for a geologically significant length of time.
- Thus, plutonium isotope Pu-239 with a half-life of 24,110 years will remain detectable for more than 1,00,000 years and continue to exist as uranium 235 when Pu-239 decays.
- The next task is to find a single site from among the 10 sites chosen across the world for inclusion in the formal proposal.
- Here, coral reefs and Antarctic glacial ice located far from nuclear detonation test sites might be more suitable as they would not reflect any local spike but a global distribution pattern.
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.
Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing Much
Mains level : Bills Concerning marginalised sections shpuld be inclusive and comprehensive.
Important Social Bills
- In the social sphere, the government introduced the Transgender Bill, the Surrogacy Bill, and the Trafficking Bill.
- In each of the cases, the draft legislation was — correctly — introduced with the aim of addressing an existing lacuna in the legal landscape.
- The recognition of transgender rights by enshrining them in law had long been a demand of the community; the legal regulation of surrogacy and the tackling of trafficking as well arose out of the articulated claims of grassroots social movements, debated and framed over many years of engagement and activism.
Issues with these bills
- For example, the Transgender Bill did away with the fundamental and non-negotiable principle — and one recognised by the Supreme Court in its NALSA judgment — of the right to self-determination of gender identity.
- Instead, it placed such decisions in the hands of government-appointed committees, extending state control over gender identities rather than liberating or emancipating them. It also contained deeply suspect provisions on gender reassignment surgery.
Similarly, the Surrogacy Bill excluded LGBT individuals from its ambit (despite their recognition as equal citizens under the Constitution by the Supreme Court), imposed discriminatory age restrictions upon men and women, and by entirely outlawing “commercial” surrogacy (instead of regulating it with appropriate safeguards) opened up space for underground and unreported exploitation of women, effectively creating a black market.
- Lastly, the Trafficking Bill criminalised begging without providing any manner of effective alternatives and failed to distinguish between non-consensual trafficking and consensual sex work.
- It thus opened the door to criminalising livelihoods on the basis of what was effectively a set of narrow, moral objections.
Common Aspects among the bills
Individuality – First, each of them dealt with intimate subjects such as individuals’ decisions of what to do with their body, personal dignity and autonomy, and gender identity.
Rights of vulnerable Section – Second, they concerned the rights of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society.
Ignoring the stakeholders – Third, they were drafted without adequately consulting with, or listening to, the members of the communities who were impacted.
Enhanced State’s Control – Fourth, instead of guaranteeing and securing the rights of these communities to be free from state interference, they extended the state’s control and domination. And last, they were met by extensive and widespread protests from the communities themselves.
- While the government is, of course, entitled to frame its own policies, and draft and implement legislation to enact those policies, there are certain constraints upon how it should go about that task.
- At the minimum, the voices of those who will be directly impacted by the policy should be listened to and engaged with in good faith, and basic constitutional principles and values ought to be respected.
- The last phase of the previous government’s tenure presented a number of examples where these constraints were insufficiently complied with, and the resulting bills would therefore have ended up harming those whose rights they were meant to protect, apart from falling foul of crucial constitutional rights.
- It is to be hoped that these lacunae and shortcomings are remedied by the continuing government in power.
- Apart from the courts, however, this would need a sustained public movement around these issues, which can make its voice heard in the halls of power.