“I want you to act as if the house was on fire – because it is”
Greta Thunberg, Davos, January, 2019
Global warming, the gradual heating of Earth's surface, oceans and atmosphere, is caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels that pump carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Warmer temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and disrupting the usual balance of nature. This poses many risks to human beings and all other forms of life on Earth. Nearly all land areas are seeing more hot days and heat waves; 2020 was one of the hottest years on record. Higher temperatures increase heat-related illnesses and can make it more difficult to work and move around. Wildfires start more easily and spread more rapidly when conditions are hotter. The effects of global warming are expected to be far-reaching and, in many cases, devastating which are already visible on the planet.
Due to global warming, Greenland's ice sheet, the biggest ice sheet in the world behind Antarctica, has melted so much in the past decade that global sea levels rose by one centimeter, and trends predict sea levels can rise nearly a foot higher by the end of the century. In July, 2022, the temperatures rose enough to cause 18 billion tons of the Country's ice sheet to melt over three days.1 A 2019 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report2 warns that unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity to get on track towards the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.
On 23rd May, 2022, at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos, the India chapter of the Alliance of CEO Climate Action Leaders was launched to supercharge India's climate action and decarbonization efforts.3 Part of the World Economic Forum's Climate Action Platform, the Alliance will continue efforts to achieve the vision outlined in the white paper released last year, Mission 2070: A Green New Deal for a Net Zero India, on India's low-carbon transition by 2070.
Currently, humans are consuming 1.7 times the resources the Earth can replace in one year. By 2030, humans will require the resources produced on two Earths. The Living Planet Report 2020, released September 10, 2020, shows that the over-exploitation of ecological resources by humanity has contributed to a 68 percent plunge in wild vertebrate populations from 1970 to 2016.4 In the Indian context, the country will require 2.5 times more natural resources to meet its demand by 2030. India has lower per-capita consumption of natural resources than many countries, but overshoot occurs due to its high population and limited resources. India has about 18 per cent of the world's population, while its land, forest and clean water make up a meagre 2.4, 2 and 4 per cent of the world's respective totals. It is true that 'Throw away' culture and consumerism have made the climate challenge more serious. It is very important to rapidly shift today's 'take-make-use-dispose', economy towards circular economy.5 India, after China and the United States is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat "dangerous human interference with the climate system", in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The treaty called for ongoing scientific research and regular meetings, negotiations, and future policy agreements designed to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner. The Paris Agreement6 is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016. The Paris Agreement works on a 5- year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate action carried out by countries. However, there are many drawbacks to the accord which include no legally binding emission targets, lack of financial support and voluntary setting up of targets.7
Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. The Kyoto Protocol8 was an international treaty which extended the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and that human-made CO2 emissions are driving it.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), established in 1972, is the voice for environment within the United Nations system. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) monitors the impacts of climate change on nature, and guides the conservation and restoration of ecosystems to help mitigate and adapt to it. Created in 1948, IUCN is now the world's largest and most diverse environmental network, harnessing the knowledge, resources and reach of our more than 1,400 Member organisations and 15,000 experts. This diversity and expertise makes IUCN the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an internationally accepted authority on climate change, and its work is widely agreed upon by leading climate scientists as well as governments. The IPCC as an institution shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that going beyond 1.5°C will increase the frequency and intensity of climate impacts, such as the heatwaves and storms witnessed across the globe in the last few years. To limit temperatures, annual emissions in 2030 need to be 15 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent lower than current unconditional NDCs imply for the 2°C goal; they need to be 32 gigatonnes lower for the 1.5°C goal. On an annual basis, this means cuts in emissions of 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 to meet the 1.5°C goal and 2.7 per cent per year for the 2°C goal.9 To deliver on these cuts, the levels of ambition in the NDCs must increase at least fivefold for the 1.5°C goal and threefold for the 2°C.
India's updated Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, as commitments by countries under the Paris Agreement are referred to, could include a commitment to reduce the emissions intensity of the economy by at least 46 to 48 per cent from its 2005 levels.10 Building on its enhanced renewable energy target of 450GW, India could pledge to increase the share of non-fossil fuel sources in its energy generation capacity to at least 60 per cent, with the possibility of raising it to 65 per cent, by 2030.
India, with 18 percent of the world's population contributes roughly about 5 percent in Global Carbon Emission, however, with initiatives like International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure for Climate Adaptation, the country is committed towards tackling the Climate Challenge on a global scale11. About 40% of the country's energy mix is sourced from non-fossil fuel sources. India has already achieved its commitments towards the Paris Agreement, 9 years ahead of its target. India's policy by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) for setting the default temperature of all new Air Conditioners to 24°C is likely to result in about 24 percent in energy savings – the primary source of which is burning of coal in thermal power plants.
The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is an action-oriented, member-driven, collaborative platform for increased deployment of solar energy technologies as a means for bringing energy access, ensuring energy security, and driving energy transition in its member countries. The ISA was conceived as a joint effort by India and France to mobilize efforts against climate change through deployment of solar energy solutions. It was conceptualized on the sidelines of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Paris in 2015. With the amendment of its Framework Agreement in 2020, all member states of the United Nations are now eligible to join the ISA. At present, 101 countries are signatories to the ISA Framework Agreement, of which 80 countries have submitted the necessary instruments of ratification to become full members of the ISA.
The ISA strives to develop and deploy cost-effective and transformational energy solutions powered by the sun to help member countries develop low-carbon growth trajectories, with particular focus on delivering impact in countries categorized as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Being a global platform, ISA's partnerships with multilateral development banks (MDBs), development financial institutions (DFIs), private and public sector organisations, civil society and other international institutions is key to delivering the change its seeks to see in the world going ahead.
The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), led by India, is a partnership of national governments, UN agencies and programmes, multilateral development banks and financing mechanisms, the private sector, and knowledge institutions that aims to promote the resilience of new and existing infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risks in support of sustainable development. Launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019, CDRI allows its members to share knowledge and resources and help countries to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs) and expand universal access to basic services, enabling prosperity and creating decent working conditions.
Standing up for India's commitment towards its fight against Climate Change is the Judiciary; the Supreme Court and more specifically, the National Green Tribunals. While the government proactively jumped from Euro IV to Euro VI, in M. C. Mehta v. Union of India11, the Supreme Court held that no motor vehicle conforming to Euro IV or BS-IV shall be sold or registered w.e.f. 01.04.2022 while boosting the move to BS-VI, the Indian equivalent of Euro VI. The National Green Tribunal13 observed that climate on earth is changing very fast due to increase in human activities. Due to heavy and unregulated tourist rush, devastating impacts on environment of Rohtang pass are visible on the melting glaciers. Studies suggest that 40% of the glacier ice has melted due to black carbon emissions. The Tribunal has tried to mitigate the impact by inter alia issuing guidelines for tourism and curbing vehicular pollution.
Global warming is also likely to have an impact on the tourism industry. Multiple treaties, pacts and summits take place every year in a bid to combat the climate crisis amidst other worldly affairs but the damage is huge to cover. The world might lose some of the most prime travel destinations owing to human factors. The ecotourism sector has a longstanding reputation for having a positive impact on sustainable development. In the meantime, ecotourism can be a good option for both the adaptation to and the mitigation of climate change by using less energy while operating ecotourism compared with operating mass tourism. Therefore, the government should design climate and sustainable tourism policies and plans that are consistent with the imperatives of sustainable development, poverty reduction, adaptation and mitigation of climate change, and financial resource management.
It can be said that Principles of international environmental law enshrined in the multilateral environmental treaties are now at different stages of their formation14. A few of them have already become rules of customary international law, while the others are only emerging as such. It is also evident that the scholars maintain contradictory views about their legal status. However, their increasing use by the international community in recent international legal instruments reflects its political commitment to give effect to these principles. States are also using these principles at various forums of their decision making process. In a number of recent conventions and protocols, these principles have been used as a basis of framing out detailed obligations for the parties. Only then will the world be able combat Global Warming and Climate Change as there is no Planet B!15
7 2021 SCC OnLine Blog OpEd 57
10 Patodia Rastogi, India's Evolving Climate Change Strategy, in Climate Change and the Law 605 (Erkki J. Hollo et al. eds., 2013)
12 Order dated 24.10.2018, WP (C) 13029/1985
13 Court on its own motion v. State of HP, Application No. 237 (THC)/2013 (CWPIL No. 15 of 2010), order dated 6 February, 2014.
14 (1998) 9 DULJ 43
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