Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Putting a global price on carbon: Carbon Tax

WHAT’S A CARBON TAX, AND HOW DOES IT REDUCE EMISSIONS?

A carbon dioxide tax is a tax on businesses and industries that produce carbon dioxide through their operations. The tax is designed to reduce the output of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, a colorless and odorless incombustible gas, into the atmosphere. The tax is imposed with the goal of environmental protection.

Carbon is found in every kind of hydrocarbon fuel (including coal, petroleum and natural gas) and is released as the harmful toxin carbon dioxide (CO2) when this kind of fuel is burned. COis the compound primarily responsible for the “greenhouse” effect of trapping heat within the Earth’s atmosphere, and is therefore one of the primary causes of global warming.

Carbon taxes have been implemented in a number of countries around the world. They take several different forms, but most amount to a straightforward rate of taxation per ton of hydrocarbon fuel used. India has put Rs 200 per ton on coal as Carbon tax. 

A carbon tax aims to internalise the externality of climate change by setting a price on the carbon content of energy consumed or greenhouse gas emitted in the production or consumption of goods.

Carbon tax regimes will only be effective if harmonised internationally. Different country-wise policies could lead to ‘carbon leakages’ where energy-intensive businesses will most likely move to less strict national regimes.

Advantages of Carbon Tax over other regulation and control

First, a carbon tax regime avoids the problems related to choosing a baseline. In a price approach, the natural baseline is a zero carbon tax.

Second, a carbon tax policy will be better able to adapt to the element of uncertainty which pervades the science of climate change. Quantity limits on emissions are related to the stocks of greenhouse gas emissions, while the price limits are related to the flow of emissions.

From this uncertainty arises another complication of price volatility which is the third reason why a carbon tax policy is likely to cause less volatility in the prices of carbon emissions.

Fourth, quantity limiting policies are often accompanied by administrative arbitrariness and corruption through rent-seeking. This sends off negative signals to investors. In a price-based carbon tax, the investor has an assured long-term regulation to adapt to and can weigh in the costs involved.

Fifth, the most contentious issue in any international negotiation on climate change mitigation either at the level of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been the issue of equity between high-income and low-income countries. The price-based approach in the form of carbon taxes makes it easier to implement such equity-based international adjustments than the quantity-based approach.

 

Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

New conservation rules may soon apply to wetlands. What are they?

The Draft Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, which seek to replace the older Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, are open for public comments until today, May 31.

The new Rules have been proposed at a time when several petitions on the implementation of the 2010 Rules are pending at the National Green Tribunal (NGT). After it emerged that states were yet to notify wetlands under the 2010 Rules, the NGT directed them to do so in at least 5-10 districts in a time-bound fashion.

The draft 2016 Rules seek to decentralise wetlands management to states, with the Centre having a say only in “exceptional cases” — a provision that could potentially weaken conservation efforts in these eco-sensitive zones.

Organisations such as the Bombay Natural History Society, WWF India, Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment, International Rivers, INTACH, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan and South Asian Network on Dams Rivers and People have sent representations to the Environment Ministry.

Here is how the 2016 draft is different from the 2010 Rules.

Overseeing Body

2010 Rules: The Centre created the Central Wetland Regulatory Authority (CWRA), headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, and consisting of bureaucrats and experts.
Draft Rules: Propose the removal of this body entirely, and its replacement by a State Level Wetland Authority in each state. According to the draft Rules, the power to identify and notify wetlands would be vested in the Chief Minister, who as chief executive of the state government as well as of the state wetland authority, will propose and notify wetlands after accepting or rejecting recommendations.

Time-Bound Action

2010 Rules: Wetlands have to be notified within a year of the Rules coming into force, and there are deadlines for each process along the way:

Draft Rules: Do away with the time-bound process for notification.

Permitted Activities

2010 Rules: Activities prohibited in wetlands include reclamation, constructing permanent structures within 50 m, setting up or expanding industries, throwing waste, etc.

Draft Rules: The entire list, apart from reclamation, has been deleted. Activities that make “wise use” of wetlands have been permitted. The state authority is to decide what does, and doesn’t, amount to “wise use”.

Restricted Activities

2010 Rules: 12 activities including fishing, boating, dredging, etc. are restricted without prior permission from the state government.
Draft Rules: Do not address the issue of prior permission for any activity.

Terminology

2010 Rules: State that the Rules apply also to “areas rich in genetic diversity” and “areas of outstanding natural beauty”, besides protected areas.

Draft Rules: Have removed those words.

Wetland complexes

2010 Rules: Include “wetland complexes”, which are a set of wetlands dependent on each other.

Draft Rules: Have removed the provision for wetland complexes.

Environmental Impact

2010 Rules: An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is compulsory before undertaking any activity in a wetland area.

Draft Rules: Make no mention of the need to conduct an EIA.

Size Specifications

2010 Rules: Cover all wetlands and wetland complexes larger than a specified area — 5 hectares for high-altitude regions, 500 hectares elsewhere.

Draft Rules: Only those wetlands notified by the state government; no size specified.


Meaning: Wetlands

Wetland encompass a broad range of ecosystems characterised by bodies of water like lakes, ponds, rivers or marshes, and their surrounding bio-networks. They are breeding grounds for fish and fowl, they store and recharge groundwater, and act as buffers against storms and floods. Wetlands are nature’s measures against both droughts and floods, of which India has repeatedly been a victim.

Despite their vital importance to humans, across India, wetlands are seriously threatened by reclamation and degradation through processes of drainage, landfilling, discharge of domestic and industrial effluents, disposal of solid waste, and overexploitation of the natural resources that they offer. In its effort to save and protect wetlands, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has invoked Article 51A of the Constitution, which makes it a Fundamental Duty of every citizen “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife”.

India is one of the 169 signatories to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. There are 2,241 Ramsar sites across the world, including 26 spread across India from Wular Lake in Jammu and Kashmir to Ashtamudi Wetland in Kerala, and from Deepor Beel in Assam to Nal Sarovar in Gujarat.

 

Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Eco-sensitive Zone

The concept of Eco-sensitive Zone is to conserve biodiversity and endangered wildlife and protect environment around the protected areas such as National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, as a ‘safety zone’ without impeding legitimate socio-economic development of the area and also providing adequate opportunities for livelihood security of the local people. An ‘Eco-sensitive Zone’ is notified under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, wherein the following factors are, inter alia, considered – biological diversity of the area and their conservation, proximity to Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park and wildlife corridors. Restriction of certain identified projects/activities which could have adverse impact on the wildlife is imposed and activities which are eco-friendly are promoted in eco-sensitive areas. The issues of livelihood of local people are taken into consideration while determining the extent of eco-sensitive area.

Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

6 Animal Welfare Organisations of Importance in India

#1. Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)

  • Founded on 15 September 1883, is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research
  • Headquarters: Hornbill House, Mumbai
  • The BNHS logo is the great hornbill, inspired by a great hornbill named William, who lived on the premises of the Society from 1894 until 1920

Trivia:

#2. Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary

A golden-capped Langur
A golden-capped Langur. Photo: WikimediaCommons
  • An isolated protected area of evergreen forest located in Assam, India. The sanctuary was officially constituted and renamed in 1997
  • The Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary contains India’s only gibbons – the hoolock gibbons, and Northeastern India’s only nocturnal primate – the Bengal slow loris

Trivia:

While the western hoolock gibbon is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the establishment of the Gibbon Conservation Centre in 2004 has made a difference, leading to a considerable increase in its numbers.

#3. Madras Crocodile Bank Trust

  • A reptile zoo and herpetology research station
  • What’s herpetology? The branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians(including frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians (gymnophiona) and reptiles
  • The bank is the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia and comes under the purview of the Central Zoo Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forests

The core purpose of MCBT was saving 3 Indian endangered species of crocodile—the marsh or mugger crocodile, the saltwater crocodile, and the gharial.

#4. PETA India

  • PETA India, based in Mumbai, was launched in January 2000
  • PETA India operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on or use for entertainment
  • The group has launched investigations of jallikattu events, circuses that use animals in performances, and filthy horse stables in Mumbai, among others

Trivia:

Aside from the recent news, PETA India has in past also uncovered gruesome abuse, including the live scalding, starvation and mutilation of birds, and conditions that could lead to potential health hazards, including E. coli, salmonella and bird flu.

#5. Wildlife Protection Society of India

  • WPSI is one of the most respected and effective wildlife conservation organisations in India
  • Has no direct links to the government
  • Primary focus has been curbing the illegal poaching of tigers and helping GoI with investigation and crime data regarding that

WPSI is different from theWildlife Institute of India (WII), which is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change, Government of India.

#6. [Bonus] WWF-India

  • Parent organisation: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which is an international non-governmental organization founded on April 29, 1961
  • The group’s mission is “to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.”
  • WWF’s giant panda logo originated from a panda named Chi Chi that had been transferred from Beijing Zoo to London Zoo in 1958!
  • Publications: WWF publishes the Living Planet Index in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London.
Environment, Geography, GS-1, GS-3, Uncategorized

Aerosols, land-use changes may greatly weaken monsoon

The South Asian Monsoon has been weakening since the 1950s with an increased incidence of extreme rainfall events.

The monsoon is mainly driven by thermal contrast between the Indian subcontinent and the adjoining ocean. As the land warms up the air above the land surface is heated and rises up and is less dense than the cool air over the ocean. This contrast in temperatures and densities causes the cool moisture bearing winds from the western Indian Ocean to move into the land mass and bring monsoon rains to the subcontinent.

This scenario, however is changed due to the presence of greenhouse gases, aerosols in the atmosphere or if the land has been subjected to increased deforestation. Greenhouse gases trap the heat over land and sea and result in both the land and sea being warm, that is the thermal contrast is greatly reduced. This leads to a weakening of the monsoon circulation and the result is a weakened monsoon.

However, a warmed up atmosphere can hold more moisture and this situation can result in heavy rainfall over some regions.

Anthropogenic atmospheric aerosols, including sulphates, black carbon, nitrates and dust accumulate over the Indo-gangetic plains. These reduce incoming solar radiation over northern India and the northern Indian Ocean and lead to cooling on both land and sea resulting in a lowered thermal contrast.

Hence, monsoon winds and circulation are weakened as both land and sea are cooled. Evaporation is also suppressed. Over South Asia, over 50 per cent of aerosol emissions are caused by biomass and agricultural burning. There is mounting evidence of the emissions from South Asia and China in changing the timing, spatial distribution and strength of the monsoon.

However, negative impacts of these aerosols can be reduced quickly as they have a short lifetime of few weeks compared to GHGs which can stay in the atmosphere for up to 80 years.

Reduced land cover (deforestation by humans) increases the reflectivity (albedo effect) which leads to cooling of land in contrast to the ocean and results in a weakened monsoon circulation.

Article Link!

Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Differences in definition in Environment section

Difference between a Reserved area and a Protected area?

Rights to all activities like hunting, grazing, etc. in reserved forests are banned unless specific orders are issued otherwise. In protected areas, rights to activities like hunting and grazing are sometimes given to communities living on the fringes of the forest, who sustain their livelihood partially or wholly from forest resources or products

Thus, typically reserved forests enjoy a higher degree of protection with respect to protected forests. However, it is possible that certain protected forests may enjoy more protection with respect to certain reserved forests

*Difference between Sanctuary and National Park?

The difference between a Sanctuary and a National Park mainly lies in the vesting of rights of people living inside. Unlike a Sanctuary, where certain rights can be allowed, in a National Park, no rights are allowed. No grazing of any livestock shall also be permitted inside a National Park while in a Sanctuary, the Chief Wildlife Warden may regulate, control or prohibit it.

*Difference between a Conservation Reserve and Community Reserve?

Conservation Reserves: can be declared by the State Governments in any area owned by the government, particularly the areasadjacent to National Parks and Sanctuaries and those areas which link one Protected Area with another. Such declaration should be made after having consultations with the local communities.

Community Reserves : can be declared by the State Government in any private or community land, not comprised within a National Park, Sanctuary or a Conservation Reserve, where an individual or acommunity has volunteered to conserve wildlife and its habitat.



Some basic information.

1. National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves are covered under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 These protected areas focus on conservation on flora/fauna (ie.not for animals only).

2.All of the above are notified by state governments(even National Parks except that of Union Territories.)
The central government is involved in the notification only if the protected area includes territorial waters or when the land belongs to the Central government.

3.boundaries of National Parks and Conservation Reserves cannot be altered except by a law passed by the State Legislature

4. Biosphere Reserves are not specifically defined by any Parliamentary law, but derived from UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Program (1972)

5.Tiger Reserves are also legally protected areas, covered under theWildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006. These are also notified by state governments, but on the recommendation of a Central Authority- the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Big Picture, Environment, Uncategorized

End of the Oil Age?

Article Link

With a convergence of action and sentiment against oil products and oil companies, 2015 proved to be the year during which oil era entered the phase of terminal decline.

  • The recently concluded Paris summit on climate change heralded a multinational effort to shift the global energy system away from fossil fuels including oil.
  • Clean energy products and technology have made their way to the forefront of the policy agenda. And public sentiment has also called for a weakening of the nexus between economic development and carbon-intensive energy demand.

Background:

Oil has been in use for over 150 years but the decisive turn towards the “oil age” happened just over a hundred years back.

  • In 1911, Winston Churchill as minister of the navy decided to convert the British naval fleet from coal to oil. This was mainly because-oil enabled an acceleration of speed; it was cleaner; it required less storage space; and it allowed for mid-ocean refuelling.
  • With this, the British navy outgunned and out-sped the German navy and the now manifest superiority of the internal combustion engine pushed the world into the oil age.

A hundred years on, this age may be coming to an end. The following forces are pushing this along:

  1. Climate change:

Globally, oil is considered to be a key factor responsible for climate change. All countries reiterated this fact in the recently concluded Paris Climate Summit. The disguised cost of oil is the damage it does to the environment and human health. Unlike power plants, which are few in number and little easier to regulate, cars are ubiquitous and much more difficult to control. The transport sector is a principal source of global emissions of greenhouse gases.

  1. State of the petroleum industry business model:

The state of the petroleum industry business model is unstable now. On the supply side, there is now no “easy oil” left to discover. On the other side, the demand is ever growing. Oil companies are finding it difficult to fulfill these demands.

  • Further, oil prices look as if they are on a secular downward curve. Most experts expect prices to rise from current levels but they believe this rise will be modest. This is because the market is flush and demand is structurally depressed. The companies are now confronting uncertain economics and the increasing probability of stranded assets.
  1. Clean energy technology:

Countries across the world are scaling up solar and wind energy and are also looking for alternatives to diesel and gasoline as transportation fuels. Clean energy discussion is now on the agenda at every international meet. Renewable generation is now breaking records, and reaching price parity with fossil fuels in many parts of the world.

  1. Public sentiment:

The anti-fossil fuel lobby is no longer limited to environmental activists. As people choke on the smog of air pollution, public opinion is looking to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for environmental damage. A number of lawsuits have been filed against oil and coal companies. None have been upheld so far but the signals are clear. It is but a matter of time before these companies face the legal and reputational pressures that the tobacco companies had to deal with years back.

  1. Risks in new projects:

The technical risks of new oil projects have risen to never before seen levels. So capital expenditure – the amount companies have to invest to get new sources of oil flowing – has gone through the roof. In a nutshell, oil is becoming less profitable.

  1. Alternatives:

With breakthroughs in battery technology, the dream of wholly electrified transport systems is now within reach. China has committed to five million electric cars on the road by 2020 and Norway has undergone such an e-car boom that they are now clogging its bus lanes. These developments would allow us to constrain our oil use to a much more sensible level.

Conclusion:

However, the confluence of the above mentioned forces will not mean the end of oil. It will continue to flow within the interstices of the 21st-century economy. But it will diminish in significance and give rise to a new reconfigured energy system.

Editorials, Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Making Paris Agreement work

The recently concluded 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) and its outcome agreement have evoked mixed responses across the world.

  • India is happy about the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words such as ‘equity’, ‘climate justice’, ‘sustainable lifestyle’ and ‘reducing consumption’ have been kept intact in the agreement. However, it must be noted that these are not in the operational part of the agreement and are included in the text as good concepts to combat climate change. What matters is how much they are adopted by developed countries.
  • Few people, who are not happy with the outcome, say there is nothing exciting or useful from many poor nations’ point of view in the Paris deal and think it is greatly tilted in favour of rich nations.

What were the main issues before COP21?

  • Providing $100 billion yearly from 2020 onwards to poor nations by the rich.
  • Providing clean technology at low cost to poor nations by the rich.
  • Differentiating between poor countries and rich countries for reduction in emissions after taking into account the latter’s historical emissions.
  • Compensating small island nations and Africa for the loss and damage they suffered due to climate change.
  • Devising a transparent monitoring mechanism for climate pledges submitted by nations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Has the COP21 addressed these issues?

  • Funding and transfer of tech:

With regard to $100 billion funding and providing clean technology, there is no clarity in the agreement and these issues have been left to future negotiations during the next five years. Many developing and poor nations are upset with this fact. This would, in turn, hamper the entire process of adaptation and mitigation effort.

  • Historical emissions of rich countries:

With the omission of the words ‘historical agreements’ of rich nations in the agreement it appears that the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibility of rich and poor nations has been diluted.

  • This absolves rich countries of their responsibility for reducing their emissions drastically, which is required to save the planet from disastrous consequences of climate change.
  • This, in turn, puts greater pressure on developing countries, in particular India and China, to reduce their emissions much more than they have pledged.
  • Monitoring mechanism:

The methodology of monitoring of implementation of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) remains unresolved in Paris and is still to be negotiated in the coming years.

  • India and China have maintained that developed and developing countries should have different systems of monitoring and reporting, which were devised at Cancun in 2010. These are called as International Assessment and Review (IAR) for the developed and International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) for developing countries.
  • Why different systems? This difference is due to the fact that developing countries do not have the necessary capability to undertake stringent reporting and thus they wanted the Paris Agreement must operationalise and implement differential obligations of developed and developing countries.

Other outcomes of the conference:

  • The Paris Agreement has incorporated a new threshold limit of average global temperature rise of 1.5-degree Celsius by 2100 instead of the current limit of 2-degree Celsius. This requires all countries (rich nations in particular) to embark upon huge enhancement of emission cuts urgently.
  • Economies in tech-innovative places such as the US and Japan are likely to do well, as renewable energy work takes off in poor countries having abundant ‘sunshine’ and ‘wind’. This will expand market share for companies involved in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Also, innovators and venture capitalists are likely to make a beeline for energy industry.

Conclusion:

According to a study, by 2100, the global temperature may rise even by 7.9-degree Celsius if the current trends are continued. Added to this is the fact that only meagre emission cuts have been announced by rich nations and the situation appears to be out of control. Thus, it is time for rich nations to take suo motu action to enhance their emission cuts to the extent it is required for keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5-degree Celsius. This need be done right now without waiting for a review after five years.

Editorials, GS-3, Uncategorized

Paris Triumph – Climate Deal

The Paris Agreement on climate change marks a milestone in preserving the earth’s environment and provides a floor on which to build ambition and action. It is the outcome of a long struggle by millions of citizens around the world, aided by the weight of scientific evidence linking severe, more frequent weather events such as cyclones and droughts to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The 195 country-parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have acknowledged that global climate action can no longer be postponed.
  • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon characterised the Paris Agreement as a “monumental triumph”.
  • This agreement strikes a remarkably delicate balance between the collective ambition of global efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions, differentiation between developed and developing countries, and mobilisation of the financial resources needed for support.

Significance of the Paris agreement:

  • The Paris Agreement is ambitious in several respects. It resolves to hold global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts towards a 1.5 degrees C temperature limit. This was a crucial demand of the small island states and least developed countries — for them, a higher temperature increase poses an existential threat.
  • The world is not currently on a pathway to 1.5 degrees C and such a pathway would dramatically shrink the remaining carbon space with troubling implications for countries like India. Nevertheless, the aspirational 1.5 degrees C sets an ambitious direction for the climate regime.
  • This ambitious goal is complemented by a binding obligation to submit mitigation contributions every five years and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them. For every five-year cycle, states must put forward contributions more ambitious than their last.
  • To ensure delivery, the agreement puts in place a robust transparency framework. States will provide information on the implementation of their contributions, which is then subject to a technical expert review process. In addition, the agreement envisages a “global stocktake” every five years to assess collective progress towards long-term goals.
  • Significantly, the global stocktake will also take into account “equity” — thus paving the way for conversation on burden-sharing between nations.
  • The agreement puts in place strong top-down elements that are expected to discipline self-determination and enhance ambition. The agreement also recognises the fact that the global temperature goal must be achieved in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Differentiated responsibilities:

Targets set under the agreement emphasize the greater the need for differentiation in efforts between developed and developing countries as well as for financial resources to support ambitious efforts.

  • But, developed countries, scarred by the Kyoto Protocol that obliged only them to take on absolute emissions reduction targets, have always been fiercely resistant to another differentiated climate agreement. Even, developed countries, with faltering economies, are reluctant to pay for global efforts to combat climate change.
  • Developing countries are fundamentally opposed both to giving up the differential treatment that had benefited them thus far and to assuming a share of the financial burden for lowering emissions.
  • However, the Paris agreement presses countries as far as they could on differentiation and finance. The agreement includes a provision requiring developed countries to send $100 billion annually to their developing counterparts beginning in 2020. This figure is expected to increase with time.

India and the Paris agreement:

India had much to lose and gain from this negotiation, as did the world. Like all other countries, India is now required to periodically report on its targets and performance under the Agreement, and update its Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020.

  • This will need the active involvement of all States and wide consultations — more so for the 175 gigawatt renewables revolution, including 100 GW from solar, to meet the 2022 target.
  • The Centre should now consider enacting a strong climate change law that harmonises policies nationally, beginning with energy, buildings, transport, water, agriculture and urban development.
  • The question of adaptation to climate change and addressing loss and damage looms large for India, given the regular cycles of crippling droughts, devastating flooding and lost livelihoods.

Conclusion:

More than a milestone, Paris represents a landmark in the UN climate negotiations. In striking a fine balance between ambition, differentiation and finance, it sets us on track to secure our climatic future, the best way we know how — based on our common but differentiated responsibilities, respective capabilities and different national circumstances. The Agreement ensures that the road to climate ambition will be paved with equity. Agreement is not a done deal, but countries responsible for 75% of the world’s carbon emissions have now set targets for cuts in carbon emissions. Paris Agreement is not THE solution to climate change. But it might lead to one. It is a framework for progress, the first step in what has been a long and torturous road. In that sense, the Paris agreement is a bet on the willingness of nations to act in the future — and on the world’s citizens to keep the heat on them.


The Kyoto Protocol was adopted inKyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. There are currently 192 Parties (Canada withdrew effective December 2012)[4] to the Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol implemented the objective of the UNFCCC to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to “a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (Art. 2). The Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities: it puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. A second commitment period was agreed on in 2012, known as the Doha Amendment to the protocol, in which 37 countries have binding targets.

Japan, New Zealand and Russia have participated in Kyoto’s first-round but have not taken on new targets in the second commitment period. Other developed countries without second-round targets are Canada (which withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012) and the United States (which has not ratified the Protocol).

As of November 2015, 59 states have accepted the Doha Amendment, while entry into force requires the acceptances of 144 states.

Editorials, Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

The gap in Environmental Crime Statistics

Article Link

The recently concluded Paris Climate talks and New Delhi’s new Odd-Even formula indicate that environmental protection is receiving a greater attention from the whole world. While data is easily available on pollution levels and emissions, statistics on crimes against the environment are harder to come by.

In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) began compiling data on environment-related offences. The data revealed the following details:

  • Total all-India environment related offences registered in 2014: 5,835.
  • Rajasthan recorded the most environmental crimes. Rajasthan, with 2927 cases, accounts for half of allenvironmental crimes committed in India in 2014 (Rajasthan has less than 5% of the country’s forest cover).
  • It is closely followed by Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand.
  • 8,765 people were arrested across India during 2014 on account of environmental crimes. Of those 8,765 people, nearly 75% (6,601) were from Rajasthan (3,320) and Uttar Pradesh (3,281) alone. The next highest number of people arrested were from Karnataka at 393 cases.
  • Most cases and arrests were regarding violation of the Forest Act 1927. A total of 4,901 offences were registered and 7,038 people were arrested for violation of the Forest Act in 2014. Offences under this law are often illegal felling of trees or illegally moving forest produce.
  • In six states and four Union territories, no environmental crimes were recorded.

How does the NCRB define an environment-related offence?

According to NCRB, an offence is considered to an environment-related offence, if it includes violations under five laws:

  1. The Forest Act, 1927.
  2. Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  3. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  4. Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  5. Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (as amended in 1988).

Problems with the NCRB data:

  • The NCRB data suffers from both under-reporting and inadequate coverage of laws whose violation would constitute a crime against the environment.
  • The Water Act has seen the least number of violations, with only 15 crimes recorded under this law across India. Delhi, where the Yamuna is choking under the weight of industrial and household waste, records no crimes under the last two laws.
  • Most of the offences relate to just two Acts, the Forest Act and the Wildlife Protection Act, with the bulk recorded under the former.
  • Wildlife crime broadly falls into five categories: poaching; illegal trade in body parts of wildlife; illegal possession of wildlife goods; entering a protected wildlife territory to hunt without permission; and taking wildlife goods outside the country without permission.
  • Of these, illegal trade in body parts was the most common offence. While earlier, the offences mostly involved animal parts like leopard skins, deer antlers or ivory, nowadays they have expanded to include sea horses, pangolin skins, star tortoises, spotted black terrapins and sea cucumbers, with much of this new demand coming from China and South-east Asian countries. NCRB has failed to recognize this fact.

Why are most crimes recorded under the Forest Act of 1927?

  • This may be simply because violations under this Act, such as cutting trees, are easier to record.
  • Another reason: Forest Act is a well-established colonial-era law, with a well-trained cadre of forest service officers who are tasked with policing responsibilities. They are granted a lot of judicial power, and their promotions and incentives depend on their policing performance. And hence, they are actively involved.

Why a very less number of cases are registered under other laws?

  • The pollution control boards (PCBs) which deal with air and water pollution were created only in the 1970s. They do not have enforcement officers, no mechanism to address complaints and have no policing functions. They just issue permits.
  • Similarly, violations of coastal regulation zones, illegal filling of wetlands, dumping of hazardous waste, violation of electronic waste rules and environmental impact assessment rules are all included under the Environmental (Protection) Act of 1986, but police authorities are often not aware of this fact and hence do not record these as crimes under the Act.
  • In most cases, the PCBs just issue a show-cause notice to the entities concerned, and do not register cases with the magistrate. This is why the data does not represent the real extent of such crimes. The total number of crimes recorded under the Environment (Protection) Act last year was 101 across India.
  • Violations of other laws such as the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and the Mines and Minerals Act are often not recorded as crimes.

Why does Rajasthan account for half of the total environmental crimes reported in the country?

  • It is due to greater vigilance, especially after tigers disappeared completely from Sariska in 2004.
  • Rajasthan’s high crime rate is also related to a variety of other factors: illicit mining for sandstone, logging, overgrazing and demand for raw material for building houses.
  • In Rajasthan often cases are registered against the local population, and the high rate shows their dependence on the forest.
  • It should also be noted here that Rajasthan has a 1:5 human-to-cattle ratio, and overgrazing is rampant.

Conclusion:

NCRB’s new move to compile data on environment-related offences can be hailed as a fantastic step and a good starting point. It is very good that environmental crime data is being put out in public domain. It is really very important for such data to come out in public domain so that the public is sensitised about it. But, for environmental protection to be more effective, NCRB should consider expanding the definition of environment-related offence and classify violations under the above mentioned laws as crimes.