Crafting a Climate Law for India

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Source-This post on Crafting a Climate Law for India has been created based on the article “A law around low-carbon climate resilient development” published in “The Hindu” on 8 July 2024.

UPSC Syllabus-GS Paper-3- Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Context– The Supreme Court’s decision in M.K. Ranjitsinh vs Union of India is a big step for legal and governance reforms in India’s approach to climate change. Sixty-seven countries use ‘framework climate laws’ to improve governance. Yet, in developing nations, focusing only on emissions targets may not fully address climate change’s complex challenges.

Thus, India requires a detailed climate law designed for its specific needs. This law should guide development towards a future that is low in carbon emissions and resilient to climate impacts, all while promoting fairness and social justice.

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What are the key features of climate legislation suited for India’s specific needs?

1) Balancing Development and Carbon Emissions -India has per capita emissions that are less than half the global average, but they are increasing. Therefore, the law should focus on maximizing development while minimizing carbon emissions to prevent high carbon futures.

2) Climate Resilience-India is highly vulnerable to climate impacts, making climate resilience essential in the new law.

3) Social Equity-Social equity must be a central consideration in achieving development in a low-carbon direction.

4) Sustainable Cities-The law should guide decision-making towards developing cities that are both low-carbon and resilient to climate change.

What should be the way forward?

1) Low-Carbon Development Commission: This is an independent body staffed with experts and technical staff, offering practical solutions for low-carbon growth and resilience. This can also serve as a platform for deliberative decision-making, including for vulnerable communities

2) Climate Cabinet: It is a high-level strategic body comprising Ministers and Chief Ministers. This should be tasked with driving strategy through government and addressing siloed decision-making.

3) Coordination Mechanisms: -There is a need to reinvigorate the Executive Committee on Climate Change so that it can complement the role of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change.

4) Addressing India’s Federal Structure-

A) Engaging subnational governments in crucial areas (electricity, agriculture, water, health, soil).

B) Providing access to national scientific capacity for subnational governments.

C) Aligning centrally sponsored schemes with climate goals and climate-tagging expenditure.

D) Requiring periodically updated medium-term climate plans from Centre and States.

E) States should be encouraged to establish supporting institutions and develop sector-specific laws and amendments aligned with the framework law.

5) Tailoring the law to India’s developmental context-

A) The law should focus on low-carbon development and climate resilience.

B) There is a need to incorporate social justice and equity concerns while also meeting the needs of vulnerable communities and individuals impacted by technological shifts.

C)There should be a focus on creating knowledge bodies capable of rigorously analyzing policy options.

  1. D) Platforms for deliberative decision-making should be established.

Question for practice

What are the essential characteristics of climate laws tailored to India’s particular requirements? What steps should be taken moving forward?

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