At the G20 Summit, Indian officials will be discussing with various global leaders about the most pressing problems of in the past few months: the economy, terrorism, and climate change. However, as has been highlighted in previous Climatico blogs, while there is definite discussion on India’s climate change goals and plans- particularly given international events- the upcoming elections has left this current period on India’s domestic front somewhat dull in pushing forward climate change plans. It is unfortunate (but reality!) that the election transition comes at a time when Indian officials are beginning to negotiate, articulate, and create international climate change agreements. Especially, since India’s national action plan on climate change relies heavily on international partnerships for technology transfer, adaptation funding, and building ‘green’ economy capacity. It would be unfair to say that some of the actions taken by Indian officials at upcoming international summits will be moot, as climate change discussions within India are prevalent and span across so many sectors that it will definitely be an issue for the new government. However, there is level of disconnect whether these international agendas are reflective and responsive of India’s populous now and come two to three months from now.

Disconnect between national and international contexts?

On a recent U.S. tour, to increased partnership on renewable energy, including controversial civil nuclear powerdeal, Shyam Saran, India’s Special Envoy on Climate Change was in Washington, D.C. last week to articulate its views and aims in upcoming international climate change talks where much of the world is awaiting to hear the United States role and actions.

The U.S. Government has made clear its desire to include and engage with India on climate change goals with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating that India and the US have numerous areas where their partnership can be strengthened. Meeting with various US political figures and organizations, Mr. Saran highlighted that US-India cooperation on climate change will continue to aim at finance and technology initiatives. Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy on climate change, was “immensely impressed” with the Government of India’s national-level actions towards climate change.

However on the domestic front, are these international agendas reflective of India’s populous? Deepa Gupta’s blog , highlighting the India’s Climate Youth Movement, noted that India’s “informal sector is one of the greener sectors in India and the world” given its level of reusing and recycling in day to day activities. However, sheer volume in Indian cities can make this point irrelevant. For example, sewage waste and water pollution continue to be major problems in urban areas. Yet, in Mumbai, India’s largest slum, Dharavi, is home to approximately 100 recycling plants that produce plastic goods- from roadways to handbags.


Photo credit: Flickr/gruntzooki

On a promising note, Mr. Saran noted that India is looking into this, stating: “Recycling, zero-discharge chemical plants, water-positive processes and waste-to-power technologies are all going to play important roles in the future.” Furthermore, in India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, power generated waste technology research and development is noted as a key initiative under the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat.

At this current juncture, there seems to be a lot of proposals and mission statements being presented by Indian officials who must communicate India’s efforts to address climate change issues to a diverse international audience yet there is a different level of communication between political parties and Indian citizens on the domestic front as campaign agendas take over. Arguably, climate change isn’t the only issue being discussed on the international arena nor is it the core issue in political elections but it has become an important issue in many ways. Already, in Karnataka, city government officials have been revisiting their climate change strategies to be responsive of changing factors including rise in car ownership and solar power development. It will be important to evaluate whether these two arenas converge following the elections and that international agreements are responsive of domestic opinions and perspectives.

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