As the UN climate summit got underway in Copenhagen for two weeks of gruelling and acrimonious talks between the developed and the developing countries to arrive at an international treaty to address the climate crisis some 200 groups from India have shot off a clear message to the Prime Minister of India.

The five page memorandum urges the Government of India (GOI) to bring justice and equity to the centre-stage of both the international climate talks and, more importantly, domestic policy making. National networks representing thousands affected by the climate crisis such as the National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM), the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers (NFFPFW) and the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) have joined with trade unions such as the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) which represents both organised and unorganised workers. Environmental groups including Kalpavrish and the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) have also endorsed the statement.

Medha Patkar representing the Narmada Bachao Andolan and NAPM stated that it is a sad irony that the Government is now on a renewed push for big hydropower dams as a possible solution to mitigating climate change.

Patkar said that: ‘The hundreds of hydropower dams being planned and constructed across the Himalayan and other ecosystems, the Northeast region and elsewhere are ecologically disastrous, undermines the will of the local communities, and denies decentralized micro energy projects that would be more appropriate’. The statement slams other non-solutions being promoted by the Government such as nuclear power, agrofuels and genetically modified ‘climate ready’ seeds.

Patkar highlighted that one of the most important aspects is the need for a conscious move towards democractic, decentralized development planning by vesting real rights of planning in the Gram and Ward Sabhas (village and urban committes) which will bring in the possibility of actualising localized energy options for the people’s needs.

The groups urge the GOI to push for sharp and immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, as India is already in the frontlines of climate vulnerability and climate change is adversely affecting the urban poor, fishing communities and small and marginal farmers. For instance, the spread and intensification of drought in areas such as Bundelkhand has led to massive forced migration, agrarian distress and abandoning of livestock.

‘Unfortunately this urgency is not reflected in India’s current policy on climate change’, said Pushpa Toppo, Convenor of the NFFPFW. Topo argues that instead of ensuring the rights of forest communities and protecting forests by implementing the Forest Rights Act, the GOI is pushing for false solutions such as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or REDD at the climate talks in Copenhagen.  The proposal on  REDD envisages bringing forests into the carbon trading mechanism, implying that developing countries such as India will derive carbon credits as compensation for conserving and preventing degradation of forests.

‘We reject REDD as it will aggressively push for a forced takeover of forest lands from communities who are already facing massive forced displacement,’ asserted Toppo. She will be joined by several indigenous peoples groups from across the global south in Copenhagen who will voice their rejection of the REDD mechanism.

The statement also rejects India’s support of carbon offsetting through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – of which India has about 1200 projects- arguing that ‘it prevents the physical and verifiable cuts in emissions by the developed countries that are so urgently needed’. The groups believe that the Corrupt Dirty Mechanism should be dropped altogether as Corporations with bad environmental track records earn huge money through flimsy, non-verifiable and mostly false claims of emissions reductions.

On the question of historical and ecological debt the groups endorse the Bolivian government’s proposal that industrialized countries should pay for their enormous historical emission and adaptation debts to the developing world, including India. The statement comes with a caveat that ‘Any financial transfer mechanism and its ultimate use needs to be transparent, decentralized, democratic and decided by the people at all levels – through participation in consultation with national, state and local self-governments’.

In a significant departure from the current rhetoric on Climate Change, the statement urges India to take the lead in building a consensus among key developing economies such as Brazil, China and South Africa to commit to mitigation targets that should be binding through national legislation.

Copies of the statement have been submitted to Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who will head to Copenhagen next week. Minister Ramesh is expected to defend India’s right to development and carbon space at the talks, but whether he will squarely take on issues of equity and justice for the millions of affected communities in India remains to be seen.

For more information contacts in New Delhi Souparna Lahiri:  [email protected]. Tel:
+91-9818147740 and Vijayan MJ: [email protected]. Tel: +91-9868165471
In Copenhagen: Benny Kuruvilla:  [email protected] Tel: +45 5269 7959