No takers for climate change politics in India
Climate politics is not much of a domestic issue in India even though it is perhaps more at risk from climate change than other nations.
In Australia, climate change and the politics around it even caused a political crisis recently.
Climate was mentioned in election manifestoes for the first time in India’s general elections this year.
No government or political party in the country has ever earned a mandate in the name of an environmental issue.
There are no equivalents of a ‘Green Party‘ here.
Probably the biggest environment related-movement in the country — the Narmada Bachao Andolan — chose to remain outside electoral politics.
Same may be said of the Chipko Movement.
The Maoist rebellion which affects 20 of the country’s 29 states claims to stand for tribal rights and relates it to depredation of forest wealth but the environment per se is not its focus.
All this seems to give the government of the day a remarkable free hand at negotiations. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be one of the 105 leaders at the Copenhagen summit.
The situation is similar to India’s decision to enter WTO or the decision to liberalize the economy. Most of the debate is confined to the government, politicians, bureaucrats and experts.
A Nielsen survey has indicated that the number of Indian consumers concerned about climate change has gone up by 1 percent over the last two years.
But the people are only vicariously involved and have little idea of the cause or the effects or the challenges.
They may become more involved once the burden-sharing over climate change under the new regime becomes clear.
Till then climate change for most is in the air but not yet on the ground.
It’s too soon to gauge what impact the ‘Danish draft‘ would have or how any eventual deal would benefit the people.
In India with its 1000-plus registered political parties, every politician is remarkably on the same side on this issue. There are no climate change sceptics or critical political opinions.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led walkout from the Rajya Sabha seems to be more of an exception although it created some consternation for the negotiating team at Copenhagen.
Is this remarkable consensus a sign of maturity of our political discourse or mere apathy since there are no votes here?