The essay 'Stopping the Inevitable: Government's Role in Saving Environment' delves into the multifaceted approach adopted by the Indian government which encompasses both mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The essay 'Stopping the Inevitable: Government's Role in Saving Environment' delves into the multifaceted approach adopted by the Indian government to address the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and simultaneously address the preparation for and management of climate change's consequences (adaptation). This multifaceted approach reflects India's commitment to combatting climate change from various angles to protect both its environment and its people.

Imagine you are in an elevator in a building with each floor representing increasing temperatures. You have already left the second last floor of Global Warming and now you have just entered the last floor of "Global Boiling". According to the current Secretary General of the UN, the world has entered into the days of “Global Boiling”. Realizing this upcoming emergency, many governments have started taking it seriously with the Indian government leading from the front. The actions of the Indian government focus on both mitigation and adaptation.

Although the government's primary focus is to avoid the inevitable climate crisis, it also needs to prepare and adjust for future crises.

In this essay, the author covers both of the above aspects. Moreover, there is a critical evaluation of the government measures taken in those sectors of the economy which are at the forefront of degrading the environment.

Stopping the Inevitable: Government Role in Saving Environment

“I am inevitable,” says Thanos while snapping his fingers. Yes, I am talking about the endgame. As an environment student, I sometimes imagine that in our real life, the actual Thanos is climate change, and in this case, you have to believe that this Thanos is surely inevitable. However, with every crisis, there comes hope, and it is that hope which has forced the G20 leaders to agree to treble their renewable energy capacities. In this quest to address the ongoing crisis, the response of the Indian government deserves acknowledgement. It has to be observed that although there is no significant public pressure on the government for its climate commitments, unlike in various other European counterparts, the Indian government has been leading the fight. This shows that the government is serious about playing its role in environmental conservation rather than indulging in whatabouteries.

Every country aspires to enter the club of global powers, with high GDP figures, providing a quality living to its citizens, and becoming a self-sustainable developed country. However, reaching such a stage is not as easy as it sounds. This journey is no less than a double-edged sword. Although it improves the quality of life, it comes at the cost of the environment. In this 21st century, this journey has become more challenging, as now the nation-states have to focus on low-carbon growth, unlike the presently developed countries, which developed at the cost of the environment. India, too, aspires to be one, but, as mentioned above, its journey is more challenging than it was for others. It has to consider the environment while aspiring to become a developed country. The biggest barrier to its clean growth is energy.

The development of every country is deeply rooted in its energy consumption. It is natural that any developing country will need low-cost energy to follow its development goals. Against this backdrop, India started its journey towards development. Facing the dual challenge of securing the supply chains for its energy needs and making sure that the energy so secured is green, the Indian government took a balanced approach. On one hand, following the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), it has always favoured the “phasing down” of coal instead of completely phasing it out so as to protect to national interest.

On the other hand, acting as a responsible nation, it has voluntarily taken various steps to ensure that it gradually transitions itself to green growth. The on-time completion of its targets and voluntarily updating them to secure new targets testifies to the fact that the government is keen to play its due role. The updated targets include reducing the emission intensity of its GDP by 45% and achieving 50% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy sources, both by 2030. But the question arises: how is such a transition taking place?

The government's strategy is based on three pillars: supply-side measures, demand-side measures, and, most importantly, encouragement of innovation. The initiative of the International Solar Alliance and the recently formed Biofuel Alliance under the leadership of India ensures the availability of different clean sources. Harnessing the advantage of being partly located within the tropical area, the government has strongly advocated for solar energy. This is the reason that more than half of its renewable-based energy capacity derives its source from the sun.

Concepts such as "One World One Grid" are in pursuit of the above efforts made by the government. In recent years, the government has also made efforts to develop and promote other sources of energy. It has actively started the National Green Hydrogen Mission to tap the opportunity not only to fulfil its domestic energy demands but also to export the same, thus becoming a global hub. Moreover, the recently announced International Biofuel Alliance during India's presidency of G20 ensures that energy supplies are diversified and remain sustainable and green.

Recognizing the importance of demand-side measures, the Indian government has heavily invested in them. However, it is crucial to understand the logic behind such investment. One needs to acknowledge the fact that it is futile to continue the supply unsustainably until there is efficient utilization of such energy. Take a simple example of the high-voltage yellow bulbs that were very common until the era of LED lights came into being. These high-energy-consuming bulbs were also cost-ineffective. Thus, it was imperative for the government to ensure a mass transition to highly effective LEDs. Therefore, it came up with the UJALA scheme through which people readily accepted LEDs due to their availability at subsidized prices backed by mass awareness campaigns. However, the biggest hurdle for the government lies in the farming sector.

The farming sector in India is the backbone of the Indian economy. The presence of a large workforce in this sector makes it one of the most important areas for policymakers. Like other sectors, the farming sector also has a huge share in environmental degradation. From stubble burning to the use of excess fertilizers, the sector has slowly degraded the overall environment. The uncontrolled groundwater extraction post the Green Revolution has lowered the water table significantly. Moreover, it is also one of the major sources of methane, a greenhouse gas with a short life but a higher potency level than carbon dioxide.

Although unwillingly, the government finds itself creating policies that result in environmental degradation. Policies such as the supply of electricity at heavily subsidized rates, assured procurement at MSP and FRP (for sugarcane), etc., have resulted in farmers indulging in a single cropping system. In the pursuit of maximum profits, farmers use excessive fertilizers, which are made available to them at subsidized rates, thus drastically changing the pH levels of the soil. Thus, it is evident that the agricultural sector has become the most challenging sector for the government, as seen in the recent backlash by farmer unions, which forced the government to take back those three controversial farm bills. Moreover, the government refrains from taking any coercive actions due to political considerations.

However, it cannot be ignored that the government has slowly tried to bring about some changes. Its consistent promotion of millets is a major pushback to replace more water-intensive crops with these water-efficient "Shree Anna". This would also ensure that food security is maintained as climate change impacts become visible in the farming sector. The government has also encouraged cultivators to become independent by switching to solar panels under its KUSUM scheme, thereby fulfilling their energy needs and transmitting extra unused energy to the electricity department, resulting in earning some extra income with the overall objective of de-dieselization of the farming sector.

Due to good investment in R&D by the government, its agencies have successfully brought some promising solutions to tackle the problem of stubble burning with recent innovation being the Decomposer liquid of PUSA. With better governance and the use of technology, such problems must be solved without delay. The government, however, is still left with a major problem of excessive usage of chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, etc., by farmers. Although it has formulated certain schemes such as the Soil Health Card and Nutrient-Based Subsidy Scheme to regulate excessive usage, such schemes have remained far from being successful.

The transport sector is also one of the most heavily polluting sectors in India. However, here the government has been more successful in getting things right. Government policies are both present and future-centric. Under its present-centric approach, more emphasis is given to ethanol blending so that emissions can be reduced in currently used vehicles. Moreover, the government has also come up with a Scrap policy to discourage the usage of old vehicles by imposing extraordinary taxes and incentivizing the purchase of new vehicles with updated Bharat Stage (BS) engines. Under its future-centric approach, it has been promoting innovations. The recent unveiling of electrified flex-fuel vehicles by Toyota Motors in India is one such example. The announcement by the railways to become net zero by 2030 shows its commitment that India is on its way to attaining Net Zero by 2070 as promised.

Adaptation is the Key

However, the debate on government action will remain incomplete until its adaptative efforts are mentioned. With each passing day, an opportunity is lost to recover the environmental losses, so it becomes necessary for the government to prepare for any extremity caused by climate change. The biggest impact, obviously, is on human lives due to changes in climate patterns, as recently seen in the case of Libya, where severe floods claimed thousands of lives and livelihoods. The Indian subcontinent is also not immune from changing climate patterns.

The rising temperature of the Arabian Sea in recent years has increased vulnerability on the western coast, which has seen some very strong cyclones. This has also increased the challenge for the IMD in predicting the intensity and direction of such cyclones. Thus, it is high time for the government to invest in research and development to enhance the forecasting capability of the agency, ensuring that timely and accurate forecasts are made to save lives and property.

Moreover, the changing patterns of the climate have also increased the risk of short-term, high-intensity rainfall. The changing behaviour of the monsoon winds has caused major disruptions in the lives of Indian farmers, the majority of whom are still dependent on monsoon rainfall. Due to this, the farmers are in continuous distress and at risk from changing patterns. In order to mitigate these risks, the government has tried its best to cover the crops of the farmers under its flagship scheme of Pradhan Mantra Fasil Bema Yojana, which has mostly covered the risks of crop damage caused by these unforeseeable changes.

Other Environmental Issues

Since the enactment of the first-of-its-kind "The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972", the government has ensured that biodiversity is taken care of. The continuous importance given to biodiversity has not only helped conserve it but has also successfully increased the population of some major keystone species of the Indian subcontinent, such as Tigers, Lions, Elephants, etc., through targeted individual projects for each. This has ensured that imbalances in protected areas are avoided. However, the government has faced criticism when it has prioritized development over conservation.

The changes in Coastal regulation zones in 2019 and very recent changes in the Forest Conservation Act have been referred to by experts as weakening the environmental laws to pave the way for developmental activities. They have pointed out the government's attempt to redefine the definition of forests, thus removing major tracts of land from the classification of "forest" and turning them vulnerable to developmental activities. Moreover, the recent changes have also given the green signal to the government to build infrastructure in any area within a 100 Km radius of the international border by exempting such projects from requiring environmental clearances. Although dressed as a move to strengthen national security, such a move has made the entire Himalayan ecology vulnerable.


Thus, in the above discussion, it can be seen that the progress report of the Indian government is better than that of many developed countries. The Indian government has been seriously working to achieve the commitments it made regarding the environment as a whole. However, one has to acknowledge the fact that in order to stop this inevitability, governments alone cannot be enough; the whole world needs to contribute. Against this backdrop, India came up with its golden scheme for the world, i.e., Mission "LiFE" or Lifestyle for the Environment. The mission aims to bring every human on Earth together for a single objective: saving the Earth by changing our lifestyle because the current problem requires everyone to act like Iron Man.

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Kushagra Mishra

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