1. Climate change – due to the large-scale emissions of greenhouse gases through burning of fossil fuels – has been an established fact for some decades now. We are currently witnessing patently recognisable signs of climate change in our immediate surroundings.
  2. Floods and hurricanes, for instance, have been linked to climate change. Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding, which will directly impact the year-long flow of snow-fed rivers in India. These rivers, as we know are the lifeline of agriculture – and any disruption to this crucial resource will have catastrophic impacts on the already stressed agrarian economy.
  3. Snow-fed rivers apart, climate change is beginning to have far-reaching adverse impacts on various natural resources and natural ecological patterns. Rainfall patterns are getting more and more skewed; forests and water bodies are dwindling, and what we used to call ‘atypical’ climate events are increasing becoming the norm.
  4. These shifts and changes are the result of several factors, including the nature of ‘development’ models adopted, the lack of proper governance and regulation, and misplaced policy priorities. The environmental crisis has been exacerbated by rising demands put on the environment, driven by monopoly finance capital. Further, a neoliberal policy framework has undermined all regulations.
  5. Since the causes of this crisis are systemic, rooted in economic and political structures, the solution too has to be systemic. Climate change cannot be addressed by appealing to the ‘moral’, ‘ethical’ conscience of the individual, and in exhortations to change individual consumption and lifestyle patterns.
  6. It is large global corporations that bear a disproportionate role in causing climate change. A Carbon Majors Database report of 2017 found that just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988; and more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities.
  7. It is the poor and the marginalised – fisherpeople, landless agrarian labour, adivasis dependent on land, rural women, slum dwellers in increasingly congested cities – who bear a disproportionate share of the burden caused by these shifts in ecological balance.
  8. According to all available credible studies, climate change is going to pose a severe threat to food security and livelihoods, with the agriculture and fisheries sectors slated to bear the maximum brunt. The 2014 data of ILO shows that nearly 19.3 million people were forced to flee to new places due to natural hazards, most of them being from developing countries such as India. We, in India, therefore cannot escape from addressing this issue.
  9. Social, political and economic justice is intrinsically and organically connected to environmental justice. It would indeed be a grave mistake to try and extricate one aspect of the larger issue from the other, given the deep interrelations that weave them together. In India, we have historically viewed the climate change problem almost exclusively in terms of positions taken (or not) during international negotiations on climate change. We believe that at this juncture in history, we need to simultaneously concentrate on addressing climate change domestically.
  10. Apart from resisting US bullying and pushing for democratic negotiations internationally, we also need to launch multi-pronged campaigns domestically. These campaigns need to be targeted at the Indian government, and even more locally, at district administrations, industrial managements and state governments. In particular, we need to push for cheap public mass transport systems and for energy sufficiency in rural areas to ensure access to food and fuel.
  11. As far as international negotiations on climate change are concerned, we need to reiterate that these negotiations have to be based on the twin foundations of equality and historical accountability. They need to recognise that each and every citizen of the world has an equal right over the atmosphere. Dubious claims based on the Malthusian framework which demonises so-called ‘exploding populations’ in the poorest countries of the world and places sole responsibility of pollution on the ‘overpopulated’ ‘Third World, have to be countered and resisted. Climate change negotiations have been marked by blatant bullying by the US, and vilification of the poor in India and China – the most bizarre episode being the equation of greenhouse gas emissions from paddy farming and cow rearing with luxury emissions from industries and cars in the heavily industrialised nations of the world. This has to be robustly resisted, and negotiations should be based on per capita greenhouse gas emissions.
  12. Moreover, the historic responsibility of the heavily industrialised economies, such as those in the US, UK and Australia, towards contributing to the climate change phenomena, has to be actively factored in during the negotiations. It is most unfortunate that the Indian government has now all but discarded this principled position of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (distributing the burden of emission reductions based on historical emissions) at the international negotiations. Instead of forging a unity of the poor and the marginalised across the world, it has chosen to succumb to US pressure. The Kyoto protocol of 1997 had fixed per capita emission reduction targets for the advanced countries to reduce their per capita emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But, in the climate change conference at Durban in 2011, India succumbed to pressure from US and other advanced countries and agreed to getting rid of the parameter of per capita emission – as a result, shifting a disproportionately heavy burden on to countries like China and India.
  13. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump both have a history of ridiculing and denying climate change. In 2014, Modi notoriously declared that it was not the climate but people’s ability to bear the cold that has changed. Since then, Modi has made a shift from such blatantly unscientific denial of climate change – paying some lip service to the issue. Trump, of course, has consistently denied climate change, claiming it is a “con job”, a “myth,” that was “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” The US under Trump has now walked out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  14. The environmental discourse has tended to polarize discussions around climate change by pitting the ‘global North’ against the ‘global South’. While there is surely the need to highlight the role of industrialized countries in the ‘North’ in creating and acerbating the climate crisis, we also need to recognize social and economic disparities that exist within countries in the global ‘North’. Just as the economic elite in India contribute far more per capita to the climate crisis through their consumption patterns, the contribution of the elite in the global North is also hardly comparable to that of the working class poor and the indigenous people living on the margins of so-called ‘developed’, industrialized economies. The need of the hour is to build environmental solidarities across borders with the real victims of climate change – with the poor, people of colour, and indigenous people who bear a vastly disproportionate brunt of the climate crisis.
  15. International deliberations on climate change apart we need to formulate a clear position domestically. Along with pressurising the Indian government to take a principled position at the international level, we need to ensure that the Indian government does not use international negotiations to relieve itself of its responsibilities to address climate change here. At a time when the US under Trump is literally ‘adding gasoline’ to the climate change fire, we cannot afford to solely depend on international negotiations.
  16. Our mass organisations, in particular our trade unions, have to gear themselves up to incorporating the climate change agenda into their thinking and into their specific demands. Our agricultural mass fronts and mass organisations working in the hills, coastal areas and other ecologically sensitive areas, need to keep a watch on the forest-based policies. This is particularly essential, because international corporations and think tanks are actively pushing policies which will shift the focus of climate change onto the ‘developing’ nations, aided and abetted by the World Bank, the IMF as well as pliant domestic governments. Thus local forests and resources could be brought under the control of transnational corporations and governments, in the name of creating a market for carbon sinks and ‘countering’ climate change. This has to be actively resisted, and the process of resistance could involve campaigns against central and state governments, as well as local administrations. Poor countries in Asia and Africa cannot be allowed to become either dumping grounds for the rich, neither can their precious natural resources be used to alleviate climate change impacts generated in the industrialised nations.
  17. There are indications that interlinking of rivers, a proposal first mooted by the colonial British Raj, and revived during the BJP regime under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000, will once again be pushed by the current government. This gargantuan project has been severely criticized for the disastrous ecological damage it will wreck across the country through massive displacement and loss of livelihoods as well as through loss of forest space and biodiversity. This expensive project will also exacerbate the climate crisis if implemented. Destruction of forests is essentially a destruction of precious carbon sinks. In addition, it is an established scientific fact that water reservoirs are sources of methane and carbon dioxide in tropical climates. Any attempt to push this project will thus have to be robustly resisted.
  18. Our mass organizations working with the poor and the marginalised both in urban and rural areas will need to build campaigns to ensure that issues related to climate change alleviation enter the political agenda in the country. Ensuring the availability of mass public transport, clean vehicular fuel, clean cooking fuel and clean electricity should be our priority. Rather than highlighting the growing use of petroleum products in vehicles and generators, the government of India and other governments too blame farmers for causing the air pollution crisis in Delhi. We should take the initiative to demand for a shift to ethanol-based fuel and technology. Sugar cane in India can be used to produce ethanol, which can also help boost the agricultural economy.
  19. Our trade unions need to frame demands regarding climate change – forcing reluctant industrial managements to incorporate far-reaching technological and factory level changes to address climate change. This could include demands for installing better pollution control equipment, demands for setting up infrastructure to conserve energy and water and so on. In order to do this effectively, our trade unions will have to build up minimum expertise in analysing possibilities, evaluating technological choices and their ecological repercussions. This needs to be done on an urgent basis. Industry-specific studies can be conducted to identify and address these technological dimensions. These industry-specific demands can be added to trade union demands. Moreover, demands related to climate change from various industries can be collated and used to prepare a comprehensive charter on climate change to be submitted to the central government. This charter will be a collection of specific policies and technological changes required to be followed by individual factories, and the government will be urged to push policy to enable the same.
  20. Our approach to climate change has to address the overall energy production scenario in the country. We have to actively promote the production of solar and wind energy, for instance. However, we need to keep in mind that one cannot allow promotion of nuclear energy in the name of combating climate change. The facts and figures speak for themselves, and we cannot allow a massive push for nuclear energy by convincing ourselves that nuclear energy is more ecologically sustainable than coal-based thermal energy. The fact is that nuclear power will make a substantial contribution to climate change risk mitigation only if construction of nuclear power plants takes places at an unprecedented rate. According to a reliable estimate, just to maintain the current proportional contribution of nuclear energy the world over, a new nuclear power plant will have to be commissioned once in every 6 weeks, which is virtually impossible. Such a huge push for nuclear energy is not just technologically dubious, it will inevitably have disastrous consequences caused by disposal of nuclear wastes along with horrific health impacts to industrial and mineworkers due to prolonged exposure to radioactivity. In fact, even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is mandated with the task of increasing nuclear energy production in the world, admits, “Nuclear power is not a near-term solution to the challenge of climate change…The need to immediately and dramatically reduce carbon emissions calls for approaches that can be implemented more quickly than building nuclear reactors”. In addition, nuclear power plants essentially privatize profits and socialize the horrific human costs and risks. Therefore, we have to continue opposing the push for nuclear power in Koodankulam, Jaitapur and elsewhere where new plants are being promoted.
  21. Even as we argue for factory and industry-level technological changes, we recognise the inherent limitations of any technology-based ‘solution’ offered to alleviate the climate crisis. Within a capitalist mode of production, with its necessary and unavoidable penchant for ever-increasing production and consumption, all technological ‘solutions’ will surely have serious limitations. Technological solutions will only go so far in an inherently unsustainable, GDP-obsessed, ‘economic growth’ based economy. Simultaneously, we need to be vary of various forms of ‘green-washing’, wherein polluting industries engage in either off-loading their pollution and polluting technologies to poorer countries under the garb of ‘technology transfer’, or else use technology as a smokescreen to hide their anti-poor, anti-adivasi, anti-environment practices. In other words, the question of environment or technology cannot be divorced from larger, systemic questions of economic and ‘development’ models.
  22. The current economic model, in fact, is spawning serious ecological contradictions in multiple ways. Rapid change in land-use patterns, manifested in decrease of forest cover and land under agriculture for instance, combined with rapid urbanisation, has to be taken note of. These rapid changes in land use will seriously impact any strategy to combat the adverse impacts of climate change. Crucial forest cover, which can act as carbon sinks, is being destroyed; existing safeguards (in the form of mangrove plantations near coastal areas, or river beds) to ecological disasters are being slowly weakened by various “development” projects. We will have to address these concerns with the seriousness they deserve.
  23. We need to reiterate the importance of public control over natural resources. At a time when various governments in the country – both state governments and the Central government – seem hell-bent on privatising natural resources, we need to resist all such moves. Addressing climate change cannot be divorced from the larger question of democratic control over resources and democratic decision-making. The climate crisis cannot be mitigated under a regime of profiteering and corporate plunder of resources.
  24. The climate crisis needs to be addressed on multiple fronts. At the international level, we need to push for more democratic negotiations and more sustained solidarities with the working poor and indigenous people across the globe. At the national level, we need to strengthen campaigns to protect local control over natural resources and to encourage energy management and efficient technology. Above all, the struggle against climate change is a systemic struggle, a part and parcel of the struggle against capitalism.