December 10, 2021
Saugata Roy speaks during Discussion on Climate Change under Rule 193
Sir, I thank the Speaker for having this discussion on climate change. I thank the Minister, who was the leader of the Indian delegation at COP26 in Glasgow for sitting throughout the debate.
Before I get enmeshed in other technical details, I want to put certain questions to the Minister. Even a week before COP26 in Glasgow, the Indian government did not show any inclination to announce a net zero target. The environment secretary even ruled it out in the media. What prompted, and under what pressure, did the Prime Minister do a volte-face in Glasgow and announce a net zero target for 2070? Is there any credible research available to vindicate the target of 2070? Has any discussion been carried out with the States about the target? See, India agreed to phase down on coal in Glasgow but why did it not push the developed countries on phasing out other fossil fuels like oil and gas, which are being used by them mostly?
If India has to implement the phasing down of coal, several coal-prosperous States, including West Bengal will be more affected than others. What is the Government’s thought on this? We are just starting a coal project in Deocha Pachami. How has the Government sought to make good the potential loss to be incurred by States like West Bengal and ensure that intra-country climate equity and just transition to environment-friendly energy?
Lastly, I would like to bring to the Minister’s attention the problems in the Sundarbans. It is the biggest mangrove forest in the world, and I would request the Minister, if he is interested, to read two books by Amitav Ghosh the celebrated author: The Hungry Tide and The Great Derangement, where he has spoken about how human beings are destroying the world.
The Sundarbans is one of the well-known climate hotspots, which has been affected in an unprecedented way by four major cyclones in the last two years. Starting with Bulbul, then Amphan, Yaas and now Jawad, There have been a few other cyclonic impacts on a smaller scale as well. This, despite people in the Sundarbans hardly contributing to climate change. When the UNFCCC has agreed to start a dialogue formally on loss and damage due to climate change as part of the Glasgow decision, we should demand an immediate initiation of such a dialogue on the Sundarbans and calculate the loss and damage that have already occurred in the Sundarbans ecosystem, including the same incurred by the five million people living in the area.
Sir, I want to ask another question to the Honourable Minister. In the article ‘Why Glasgow Disappoints’, Shyam Sharan, who was our principal climate negotiator for 15 years, wrote that there is “more ambition in the intent to tackle climate change but little to show in terms of concrete actions”. Shyam Saran also wrote: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken centre stage at Glasgow during its early high-level segment thanks to the absence of Xi Jinping. His commitment to achieving net-zero carbon by 2070 compared favourably with China’s target date of 2060. His announcements of enhanced targets for renewable energy were also welcomed. However, the favourable image wore thin by the end of the conference with India declining to join the initiatives on methane and deforestation. India’s ill-considered amendment on the phasing out of coal pushed the positives of its position off the radar.” Why did you put the amendment on coal, that is the question?
What was ultimately announced by India at (the) Glasgow (summit) was that we had five goals: zero emissions by 2070; non-fossil energy capacity to reach 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030; 50 per cent of renewable energy by 2030; projected carbon emission reduction by 1 million tonnes by 2030 and reducing the carbon intensity of the economy by 45 per cent by 2030 over the 2005 level; and net zero emissions.
Now, where is the money? It is estimated that it would cost Rs 7 lakh crore to achieve the 2030 targets. So far, the Government of India has only got a fund of Rs 29 lakh crore. Out of it, Rs 9 lakh crore is from international sources and Rs 20 lakh crores from its own resources. Now, where would the rest of the money come from? The developed countries promised US$100 billion for the developing countries, but they have not kept their promise. In Glasgow, it was noted that the developed countries have not contributed. I would like the Minister to state from where would he get this money.
Now, Sir, we all know what global warming is. It is caused due to the emission of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are emitted due to air-conditioners and refrigerators working overtime. Over a period of a certain number of years, they (CFCs) create a shield around the Earth’s atmosphere. At night, heat is radiated out, which does not need any medium, but this shield does not allow the heat to escape for years and thus, global warming starts. Heat gets trapped. So, over a period of years, global warming starts, and global warming leads to climate change. Our aim was to limit this to 1.5-degree centigrade, but it seems that this 1.5-degree centigrade rise will happen before 2030.
All over the world, urgent action is needed, because what is happening, Sir, what is happening is very serious. I will just briefly state that this is. Climate change is causing extreme-weather phenomena, rise in sea levels, fall in agricultural production and impact on human health. We are holding very glamorous international conferences. The Environment Minister has always been a representative at those conferences—1992 Rio Summit, 1997 Kyoto Protocol, 2009 Copenhagen Summit, 2015 Paris Agreement, where 196 countries contributed to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and now, in 2021, the COP26. The main problem is, a road map has to be announced.
I will end by saying that time is running out. Tagore had written, “Dao phire se aranya, lao he nagor”’, which is translated as “Give us back our forests, take away our cities”. Sir, you are from Kerala. You know that there are small island nations that will be submerged. The Maldives had a cabinet meeting underwater to emphasise how climate change is affecting island nations. We also have Lakshadweep, close to your place. We have the Andamans. We will all be affected. What is the Government’s road map for shifting to renewable energy? What will happen to the coal-fired thermal plants? The problem we have with renewable energy is that it is intermittent. It is not continuous because sunlight varies, water level varies, wind varies. So how to have a continuous flow of energy through our power grid? The main thing is to create environment-consciousness among the industries, which in our country are the biggest polluters. You (referring to another Member) mentioned how Dachigam Reserve Forest is being destroyed by cement plants. We have to look towards ourselves.
It’s true that we have to raise the standard of living of our poor people. But it is also true that we cannot do it at the cost of the environment. We must preserve the environment, and that’s why we promise all our support if the Government takes cogent steps, well-planned, well-thought-out steps to mitigate climate change and ensure a better future for us.
Thank you, Sir.