In a rare occurrence, India’s Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament) had a heated discussion over the climate crisis this past fortnight. Opposition leaders questioned the government’s recent announcements at COP26 committing to net zero by 2070. The Opposition also asked why states were not consulted before such a commitment was made. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi told Parliament that in order to transition to net zero, India needed 5,630 GW of total installed solar energy. She questioned how this could be achieved considering the country currently only has 46.25 GW of grid connected solar power. Other issues related to the vulnerability of coastal areas, air pollution in north India and India’s poor performance on the environmental performance index 2020.
Centre provides updates in Parliament on India’s environmental issues
In the Rajya Sabha, the Centre gave updates on the environmental issues in India. Ashwini Kumar Choubey, minister of state in the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) stated emissions from forest fires in India contribute only 1-1.5% to global warming as opposed to the huge emissions from forest fires across the world. The minister also highlighted measures the government had taken to address the issues of air pollution and the impact of climate change on human health.
Cabinet finally gives nod to Ken-Betwa river-linking project
India’s first river-linking project—connecting Ken river in Madhya Pradesh with Betwa in Uttar Pradesh— finally got the go-ahead 40 years after it was first mooted. While concerns have been raised over the years about the environmental damage that the Rs44,605 crore project is likely to cause, it will also resolve the water scarcity issue that plagues the two states. Congress MP and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had tweeted previously this year that the project will “destroy the Panna Tiger Reserve in MP”.
The Cabinet’s green signal for the project comes two months ahead of the UP Assembly elections. The project has been deemed a “national project”, therefore 90% of the cost will be borne by the Centre, while the remaining 10% will be paid by the two states. The project is expected to be completed in eight years.
Russia, backed by India, blocks UN resolution seeking to acknowledge climate change as a security threat
A UN resolution, which would have for the first time acknowledged that climate change is a threat to peace, was blocked by Russia and India this past fortnight. The resolution, which had been under negotiations for months, would have given the United Nations Security Council more scope to intervene in armed conflicts. It was introduced by Ireland and Niger, and received support from 12 of the 15 members of the UN body. Russia, which has veto powers, along with India were opposed to the proposal, while China abstained from voting.