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Here Is Everything You Want To Know About World Environment Day

India has taken significant steps on addressing the commitments made during the Paris agreement through the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and on the SDG indicators.

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The World Environment Day is celebrated on the anniversary of the first UN Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm on June 5th every year since 1973. The theme this year (2017) is ‘Connecting People to Nature’.

Now more than ever the issue of environment and sustainable development has to leave the scientific domain and enter into public policy and social discourses.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has clearly indicated that over the next decades, billions of people, particularly those in developing countries, will face shortages of water and food and greater risks to health and life as a result of climate change.

Already the predictions show that Global temperatures could break through the 1.5-degree Celsius barrier negotiated at the Paris conference as early as 2026, and pledges by nations to cut carbon emissions may not be enough.

This will lead to rising industrial pollution, degradation of forests, depletion of ozone layer, resulting greenhouse gases, and adverse impact on environment and human health among others.

It is also a well-established fact that the poor and marginalized communities are most vulnerable to this kind of change which will further perpetuate poverty. Extreme inequality in patterns of consumption of precious natural resources such as water, energy and minerals also exacerbate hardships.

India too has taken significant steps on addressing the commitments made during the Paris agreement through the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and on the SDG indicators. We also have robust legislations and policies that safeguard the different ecosystems.

Some of the significant commitments we have made are to reduce the emissions intensity of our GDP by 33 to 35 Per Cent by 2030 from 2005 Level and also to create additional Carbon Sink through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

The other most significant development is the focus of the Government on clean renewable energy and weaning off from thermal power generation. This will have a direct impact on a cleaner environment and increased access to energy for poor households.

Despite these progressive commitments and legislations, slow implementation and lack of political will has meant that we have not been able to address the environmental concerns adequately and our growth choices have further marginalised the most vulnerable communities such as the tribal population and Dalits.

For example, the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has the potential to recognize rights of over 200 million forest dwellers in over 170,000 villages and 85.6 million acres mostly through its community forest rights (CFR) provisions thus making it possible for large scale conservation and management of forest resources.

Yet after 10 years of its implementation, only 3 percent of the potential CFR claims have been realized. In addition, over 900,000 ha of forest have been diverted for Mining, irrigation and hydel projects in India since 1980 as per the Environment ministry’s own data.

Prior to 2015, the world believed that it was possible to grow first and take care of the environment later. Accordingly, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2000-2015 only dealt with “development” without dealing with environmental sustainability.

One of the huge achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2015-2030 was that the sustainability agenda was merged with the development agenda and it was recognized that growth and sustainability and inclusion needed to go hand in hand.

One needed to re-define development and to look for options that were both inclusive and sustainable at the same time so that a new paradigm could be developed that was beneficial for the most marginalized people as well as the planet as whole. In India, for example, a rapid implementation of the Forest Rights Act would give us both.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Nisha Agrawal

Nisha Agrawal has been working on poverty, inequality and social development issues for almost 30 years. Since March 2008, she has been the CEO of Oxfam India. Prior to joining Oxfam India, Nisha worked with the World Bank for almost 20 years from 1989 till 2008. She has extensive experience working in countries in East Asia and East Africa. Before that, she worked as a Research Associate at the Impact Research Center at Melbourne University, from 1985 to 1989. Nisha is an economist by training and has a Ph.D in Economics from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, US

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