Time to be “Significant”
Rawson Gonsalves- Student, Kautilya
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”– Dr. Jane Goodall, Scientist & Activist
Christened the “World Environment Day,” June 5th, this year marks half a century since the inception and foundation of the moral principles to encourage and direct countries and people to preserve and enhance the human environment in Stockholm, also known as the 1972 Stockholm Conference. This indeed was the cornerstone for it heralded the admission of “Environment” as a sprouting and salient issue of global importance. It led to the marriage of science and society that gave birth to environmental laws and established institutions bearing environmental impacts. It set the ball rolling for international environmental diplomacy and, through these years, also prophecised the goliath we are now confronted with – climate change. We have come a long way since then, where stakeholders now convene to tackle the Earth’s triple planetary crisis – climate, nature, and pollution and facilitate the fulfilment of SDGs, the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and support the adoption of green post-COVID-19 recovery plans at Stockholm+50. What will be interesting to witness is the outcome of the Stockholm+50 meeting for which my fingers are crossed.
At this juncture, it is too bold of me to comment on what other counties are doing or have committed to tackling the planetary crisis and hence will restrict myself to India. The honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi advanced India’s formula of ‘Panchamrits‘ at the COP 26, where India will,
increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030
meet 50% of its energy requirements through renewable energy by 2030
reduce its forecasted carbon emission by one billion tonnes by 2030
reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45% by 2030
achieve net-zero by 2070
This is a testament to India’s bold vision and dedication to the collective global battle against the aforementioned crisis. It is, in fact, one of the very few nations on course to meet its Paris Agreement targets , and hence, it is fair to state that it is on its path to being successful.
Nevertheless, having said that, I believe it is important for India not to focus on being successful. Yes, you read that correct; I do not want India to be focused on being successful. Don’t get me wrong; every country ought to be successful, and I hope India does too. There is no harm or nothing wrong with being successful. But, success is just about oneself. I instead want India to be “Significant.” because significance is about others. And I want India to be significant both domestically and Internationally.
Domestically, it is paramount that India does not abandon the development needs of the most vulnerable communities. And hence, this planetary crisis must prioritize equity, exchange, and access; and have a human rights-based approach where development, along with mitigation and adaptation measures, fortifies the resilience of such vulnerable constituents.
Internationally, it is paramount that India puts its best foot forward, contributes to the international stage, and extends a helping hand to the most vulnerable nations and communities. To quote Dr. Shashi Tharoor, when countries, especially the developing ones, “Look at India, they say, there is a mess just like us. They have the same sort of problems; they have poverty, they have the divisions. We may have clans; they may have castes. If they can triumph over these problems, we can learn from them.” This is an opportune time for India to strike while the iron is hot, make an impact in the global arena, and also concurrently further its foreign policy through its environmental and climate change diplomacy.
In conclusion, even as we mark one more “World Environment Day,” I hope we all are reminded as individuals and as a nation – “महत्वपूर्ण भारत “( Significant India) that it’s about ‘progression’ and ‘not perfection.’ It is about getting into an ‘active relationship’ with this planetary crisis of climate, nature, and pollution, facing it head-on, one pebble at a time.
Credit Suisse Global Megatrends Conference. “Martin Jacques and Shashi Tharoor discuss China and India.” YouTube. 2016.
MEA. “National Statement by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at COP26 Summit in Glasgow.” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. Last modified November 2021.
NRDC. “The Road From Paris: India’s Progress Towards Its Climate Pledge.” Natural Resources Defense Council. Last modified October 2021.
Sohn, L. B. “The Stockholm Declaration on the human environment.” UN Environment Document Repository Home. Last modified 1973.
UNEP. “About.” Stockholm+50. Last modified June 2022.