Environmental degradation can have humanitarian impact or effect just as many other aspects of human activity have humanitarian dimensions, India said in a statement to the UN Security Council’s high-level open debate on maintenance of international peace and security: Humanitarian Effects of Environmental Degradation and Peace and Security.
“However, merely to link up everything related to environmental issues with peace and security does nothing to enhance our understanding of the problem; nothing to help us address these issues in a meaningful way and does nothing to call out the real perpetrators and make them adhere to their commitments on environmental issues or help change behaviour of people at subsistence level,” it said.
India said that in many cases, perpetrators of environmental degradation may well be “outside national boundaries” while the people suffering are inside.
“Is peace and security then the right paradigm to address this issue or is strengthening implementation of agreements, an appropriate and probably a more effective way to do it?” it said.
India said there has been an increasing tendency both in the Security Council and outside to start discussing environmental issues with a certain “disregard” for the various important principles which govern environmental discussions, including climate change and biological diversity.
Principles such as common but differentiated responsibilities are sacrosanct in this matter, it said.
India cautioned that “steering away from these principles and other commitments and attempting to discuss such issues by obfuscating those responsible for addressing them will only do a disservice to the real issue rather than making it more meaningful to address them.
“Consequently, linking up environmental degradation to humanitarian effect and then to peace and security does not enhance our collective effort to address environmental degradation in any meaningful way,” India said.
It also said that there is need for a collective will to address such important issues multi-dimensionally without shirking commitments under important conventions such as the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement.
“What we need therefore is greater resolve to implement the commitments and contributions undertaken under environmental agreements instead of ‘securitisation’ of environmental issues,” India said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has consistently said that big emitters such as the US, China, the European Union, Japan, Russia and India must commit to carbon neutrality in 2050.
He had also called on India and other G20 countries to invest in a clean, sustainable transition, particularly as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June launched the auction process for 41 coal blocks for commercial mining, a move that opened India’s coal sector for private players, and had termed it a major step in the direction of India achieving self-reliance.
Guterres has voiced concern over countries doubling down on domestic coal and opening up coal auctions, saying this strategy will only lead to further economic contraction and damaging health consequences.
At the UNSC debate, India noted that there is need for a greater sensitivity in connection with the energy mix of various countries many of which are not of their choosing.
“One should resist the temptation of painting all countries with varied energy mix with the same brush. The touchstone should be whether respective commitments are being adhered to and not demonising one particular energy source and calling for action without allowing for organic energy transitions which require huge financial commitments,” India said.
India stressed that environmental degradation is a multi-dimensional issue and it affects not just the ecosystem but also the people who depend and live on it.
New Delhi noted that environmental degradation can be caused by those who live on it due to a range of inter-related factors, which may be poverty and not necessarily greed.
“In many developing countries, such problems arise from issues related to people living at subsistence levels. The question then is: Do we want to treat poverty and subsistence agriculture as peace and security issues?” India asked.
India asserted that even the best science available does not indicate that environmental degradation is a threat to peace and security.
Highlighting its role as the leading contributor to ‘climate action’, India said over the past few years, the country has reduced 38 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
In the course of the last decade, around three million hectares of forest and tree cover has been added, which has enhanced the combined forest and tree cover to 24.56 per cent of the total geographical area of the country, it said.
Going forward, India aims to restore 26 million hectares of degraded and deforested land and achieve land-degradation neutrality by 2030.
The country has also set additional targets of eliminating single-use plastic by 2022 and installing 450GW of renewable energy by 2030.