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Climate crisis: Modi-led BJP 'refraining from phasing out coal production, emissions'

By Our Representative 

Civil society groups have released a charter of demands for securing climate justice and moving towards a just transition, demanding review and reframing of India’s Climate Action Policy Framework. The charter says that while the daily summer temperature in the country has already begin to roar sky high, millions of people in India are heading to the booths to cast their vote in this scorching heat. The everyday impacts of extreme weather events, a result of the climate crisis, has become alarmingly threatening.
The signatories include 60 forest rights groups, organizations working with workers adivasi groups and farmers, environmental campaigns and youth groups and individuals. The charter demands securing climate justice and moving towards a just transition future, criticising “inefficient, unjust and undemocratic manner in which the Indian government has responded to the climate crisis so far.”
It stresses, the impact of climate crisis is worst “for the communities who are dependent on the ecology and other climate sensitive sectors for sustenance and livelihoods.”
The charter says, communities in India are facing multiple risks of marginalization: one is due to the adverse impacts of the climate crisis; other due to the socio-economic structural forces of historical injustice and oppression; third is the increased risk of dispossession and marginalization due to the policies and actions taken by Indian government to respond to the climate crisis so far.
Recently, it adds, while listening to a case, the Supreme Court of India also took cognizance of “the importance of the human rights and rights of socially marginalized communities in the context of climate change.”
Stating that in the past decade, the Indian government self-promoted and emerged as the champion of climate justice, and gained popularity with its commitment on reaching ‘net zero’ by 2070 and tripling world’s renewable or clean energy capacity by 2030, the charter says, in reality “PM Modi led Bharatiya Janta Party has refrained from phasing down coal production and emissions -- the key cause behind climate crisis.”
It says, climate crisis has emerged as an issue in these elections, a step up from 2019. Manifesto of BJP even promises the country to gain “energy independence” by 2047, but a decade has passed but government has not been able to articulate how the country will achieve “net zero”. In all the governmental gaga over just transition in India- the transition is evidently being used to limit and close down the public sector enterprises and facilitate the private sector control of coal.
The charter demands that the government establish “an independent process of consultation with public sector undertakings in coal and fossil economy, trade unions, worker groups, civil society groups, independent experts, government representatives” and work on a “participatory and democratic framework of just transition that ensures workers rights and voices.”
The charter notes, the country is facing catastrophic socio-environmental destruction due to government-led renewable energy projects and extractive development in fragile geographies such as Himalayas. It insists on the need of bringing large renewable projects under the purview of Environment Impact Assessment and also to establish democratic mechanisms of checks and monitoring of such big development projects.
Using climate crisis as excuse, the ruling government has introduced many controversial and concerning interventions
The charter demands “review and reframing of India’s Climate Action Framework at both International and national level” in order to keep the communities and their rights and concerns at the core of formulating climate actions and demands the adoption of the principles of justice, equity, democratic governance, and Constitutional rights in climate action.
It states, India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), domestic climate policies, and actions have been framed ignoring and undermining the structures of democratic governance of natural resources that the constitutional provisions of 5th and 6th Schedule, governance legislations like the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and Forest Rights Act provide, it adds.
The charter regrets, using climate crisis as an excuse, the ruling government has introduced many controversial and concerning interventions and amendments in many environmental and forest laws and introduced many market based schemes and programs as climate solutions.
Many environmentalists, forest officials and civil society organizations have expressed that these changes in the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and associated rules will lead to the opening up forests for large scale extraction and deforestation in the name of compliance with climate commitments, it points out, adding, the BJP government has also been abstaining from the implementing laws that safeguard the tenure rights of forest dependent communities and establish democratic governance of resources.
Stating that forest rights are already a major electoral issue in 153 out of the 543 Lok sabha constituencies, with a recent report stating that it could be the deciding factor in some of these, the charter demands reforming laws and policies to ensure mandatory adherence to both FRA and PESA and constitutional democratic framework.
It also demands a multi-stakeholder review of all such policy interventions such as Carbon Credit Trading Scheme, Green Credit Rules, Forest Conservation Amendment Act 2023.
Environmental issues gained some focus this election season and even made to different election manifestos this time, the charter says, insisting, the depth of climate crisis demands not statistical fixes and hoaxed promises by government but need a prioritized, decentralized and democratic institutional framework for climate action and energy transition.
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Click here for full charter, here for signatories

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