India is rapidly emerging as a global leader on climate change and environment protection issues. After launching the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which has been joined by 101 members of the United Nations, it has now launched another global initiative called ‘LiFE’, short for ‘Lifestyle for the Environment Movement’.
Through this initiative, India has invited ideas and suggestions from scholars around the globe on ways to adapt an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
The initiative was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the World Environment Day, through video conferencing. In his keynote address, Modi said the initiative will promote the much-needed environment-conscious lifestyle that focuses on “mindful and deliberate utilisation” instead of “mindless and destructive consumption”.
Global icons such as Bill Gates, Cochairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, Nudge theory author Cass Sunstein, World Resources Institute CEO and President Aniruddha Dasgupta, UNEP global head Inger Andersen, UNDP global head Achim Steiner and World Bank President David Malpass, among others took part in the event.
The idea for the LiFE initiative was introduced by PM Modi during the 26th United Nations climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow last year, where he had also announced that India had set a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.
At the recently held World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Davos Agenda 2022, Modi introduced the ‘P3 (Pro-Planet People) Movement’ that underlines India’s climate change commitments. He pointed towards the challenges that our lifestyle causes for the climate.
The PM also attended a programme on ‘Save Soil Movement’ in New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, where he addressed a gathering related to global movement started by Jagadish ‘Jaggi’ Vasudev, popularly known as Sadhguru.
With the ‘Save Soil Movement’, which has already been scheduled in several key cities along the way, Sadhguru is aiming for a homecoming in New Delhi in 75 days in honour of India’s 75th year of Independence. The Prime Minister briefed a galaxy of global leaders that all the policies introduced by his Government over the last eight years have enabled environmental protection in some way,
“Be it the Swachh Bharat Mission or programmes related to wasteto-wealth, construction of modern sewage treatment plants in cities under AMRUT mission, campaign to get rid of single-use plastic or Ganga cleanliness campaign under Namami Gange, India’s efforts to protect the environment have been multifaceted,” he pointed out.
Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 every year to raise awareness about degrading environmental conditions and to encourage people globally to take positive environmental actions, to help create a better future. The theme for this year’s celebration was ‘Only One Earth.’ This was also the slogan for the 1972 conference in Stockholm, where the annual global event was first instituted on June 5.
Referring to his Government’s efforts on the green energy front, PM Modi pointed out that India has achieved the target of 10 per cent ethanol blending in petrol five months before the deadline. The rise in ethanol blending in petrol from 1.5 per cent in 2014 to 10 per cent now has reduced carbon emission by 27 lakh tonnes and saved Rs 41,000 crore of forex reserve. This has also brought Rs 40,000 crore of income to farmers.
He cited a number of measures taken by his Government to protect the environment, saying its efforts have been multi-dimensional despite the country having a negligible role in climate change.
India has also achieved the goal of having 40 per cent of its installed power generation from non-fossil fuelbased sources nine years before the deadline.
India’s forest cover had grown by over 20,000 sq km in the last eight years, with wildlife numbers also seeing a record growth. “The solar energy capacity has increased by 18 times and initiatives like Hydrogen Mission, circular economy and scrappage policy are examples of our commitment to environment protection,” he said.
Taking a jibe at the developed world, he said they not only exploited more and more resources of the earth but also contributed to maximum carbon emissions.
While the average carbon footprint of the world is about four tonne per person per annum, it is only 0.5 tonne per person per annum in India.
He said India is working on a longterm vision in collaboration with established organisations like Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and International Solar Alliance besides the international community on protecting the environment.
To save the soil, India has focused on five main things, he said, to make the soil chemical-free, to save organisms that live in the soil, to maintain soil moisture, to increase the availability of water, to remove the damage that is happening to the soil due to less groundwater, and to stop the continuous erosion of soil due to the reduction of forests.
Farmers earlier lacked information about the type of soil, deficiency in soil and how much water is there, he said, noting that his Government launched a huge campaign to give soil health cards to them to overcome the problem.
A campaign to conserve 13 big rivers has also started in the country, and along with reducing pollution in water, work is also being done to plant forests on the banks of rivers. This will add a forest cover of 7,400 sq km.
Praising natural farming, the Prime Minister said it offers solution to some of our biggest problems.
The Government has decided to encourage natural farming in villages situated on the banks of Ganga. This will make it a huge corridor of natural farming, he said.
“This will not only make our farms chemical-free but the Namami Gange campaign will also gain new strength. India is working on the goal of making 26 million hectares of barren land fertile by 2030,” he added.
Due the PM National GatiShakti Master plan, logistics system and transport system will be strengthened and that will lead to reduction of pollution.
Multi-modal connectivity work on more than 100 waterways will also help in reducing pollution. This will create lots of green jobs.
Climate change: India a victim, not culprit
India has contributed little to climate change: Home to 18 per cent of the world population, it has emitted just 3 per cent of planetwarming greenhouse gases. But India is suffering from climate change. Over the past three months, a heat wave has devastated North India.
Scientists say global warming almost certainly played a role in the heat wave. And rising temperatures stand to make unusually hotter weather more common not just in India and Pakistan but around the world, including in the US.
Indians have responded by staying indoors as much as possible, particularly during the afternoon hours. These measures have kept down deaths. But they have costs. School time is cut short, so students learn less. People do not travel to their jobs, so work is less productive. The heat kept some farmers inside and stunted harvests, so crop yields fell and global food prices increased. Social life is disrupted.
The geography of poor countries— many are close to the equator — is not the only reason climate change is such a burden for them. Poverty is another factor, leaving them with fewer resources to adapt.
There is a paradox to the climate crisis. Because India was never fully industrialised, it has not released as many greenhouse gases as the US, European nations and other rich countries. However, because it has not industrialised fully, it also has fewer resources to adapt than the richer, polluting nations.
Fewer than 10 per cent of Indians have air-conditioned homes. Many lack reliable electricity, limiting their ability to use fans. The problem has been especially bad lately, with a coal shortage causing power failures. There is a cycle here: To adapt, countries have to adopt modern technologies. But these technologies often require planet-warming oil and coal, thus their use aggravates climate change and, consequently, extreme weather.
The rush for clean energy technologies, such as solar and wind power, is an effort to break the cycle — to give countries a way to industrialise without the planetwarming pollution. With climate disasters already hitting much of the world, that effort is in a race against time to prevent more crises like India’s.