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1st & 2nd January 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Content

  1. Acclimatising to climate risks
  2. An ill-conceived, overbroad and vague ordinance

Editorial: Acclimatising to climate risks

Context:

  • Several parts of north India are in the grip of a severe cold wave. While winter may be longer and harsher in some regions due to La Niña, forecasters suggest that 2021 would still be among the Earth’s hottest years recorded.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 3: Environmental conservation; Environmental pollution and degradation; Environmental Impact Assessment.

Mains Questions:

  1. ‘Climate Change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? 15 Marks
  2. Ignoring low probability risks could be catastrophic for the economy as well as society. This year, policymakers, industry captains and common citizens must make climate proof choices. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Status of climate change in India:

Status of climate change in India:

A recent report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water found that:

  • 75% of districts in India, home to over half the population, were vulnerable to extreme climate risks.
  • While India witnessed 250 extreme climate events between 1970 and 2005, the country recorded 310 extreme climate events after 2005 alone.
  • Further, between 1990 and 2019, India incurred losses exceeding $100 billion. Also, the intensity of floods increased eightfold and that of associated events such as landslides and heavy rainfall increased by over 20 times since 1970.
  • Drought-affected districts have increased by an yearly average of 13 times over the last two decades.
  • The frequency of cyclones has also doubled. Over 40% of Indian districts now show a swapping trend: flood-prone areas are becoming drought-prone, and vice-versa.

Causes of Climate Change:

Natural Causes:

  • Continental drift: The continents, what we are seeing today, were not alike before 200 million years. It is formed when the landmass began gradually drifting apart millions of years back, due to Plate displacement. This drift also had an impact on the climate because it changed the physical features of the landmass, their position and the position of water bodies like changed the flow of ocean currents and winds, which affected the climate.
  • Variation in the earth’s orbit: The seasonal distribution of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface is directly related to Earth’s Orbit and a slight variation in Earth’s orbit leads to variation in distribution across the globe.
  • Plate tectonics: Due to temperature variation in the core of the Earth, the mantle plumes and convection currents force the Plates of the Earth to adjust which causes the reconfiguration of the earth Plate. This can affect both global and local patterns of climate and atmosphere.
  • Volcanic activity: When the Volcano erupts, the outburst of gases and dust particles partially block the incoming rays of the Sun which lead to the cooling of the weather. Sulphur dioxide combines with the water to form tiny droplets of Sulphuric acid and these droplets are so small that many of them can stay aloft for several years.
  • Ocean currents: Ocean currents are the major component of the climatic system which is driven by the horizontal wind forces causing the displacement of the water against the sea surface. Due to temperature variation of the water, the climate of the region is largely influenced.

Anthropogenic Causes:

  • Increasing the greenhouses gases in atmosphere:
  • Burning fossil fuels – Fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal contain carbon dioxide that has been ‘locked away’ in the ground for thousands of years. When we take these out of the land and burn them, we release the stored carbon dioxide into the air.
  • Deforestation – Forests remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Cutting them down means that carbon dioxide builds up quicker since there are no trees to absorb it. Not only that, trees release the carbon they stored when we burn them.
  • Agriculture – Planting crops and rearing animals releases many different types of greenhouse gases into the air. For example, animals produce methane, which is 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The nitrous oxide used for fertilisers is ten times worse and is nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide!
  • Cement – Producing cement is another contributor to climate change, causing 2% of our entire carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Atmospheric Aerosols: Atmospheric aerosols affect climate in two important ways:
    • They cause scattering and absorbing the solar and infrared radiation
    • They change the microphysical and chemical properties of clouds and possibly their lifetime and extent
    • The concentrations of aerosols are about three times higher in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere.
    • This higher concentration is estimated to result in radiation forcing that is about 50 per cent higher for the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Land use change:
    • Cutting down forests to create farmland led to changes in the amount of sunlight reflected from the ground back into space (the surface albedo).
    • About half of the land use changes are estimated to have occurred during the industrial era, much of it due to replacement of forests by agricultural cropping and grazing lands over Eurasia and North America.

Measures to build climate resilience India:

  • First, India should create an Environment and Health De-risking Mission to increase emergency preparedness, secure critical resources and build resilient infrastructure and governance systems to counter the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme climate events.
    • The Mission should also focus on democratising local climate-related and weather-related data along with integrating risk projections in national, sub-national and district disaster and climate plans.
    • Another priority would be restoration, revival, and recreation of traditional climate-resilient practices, with a special focus on indigenous communities, often on the front lines of ecosystem conservation.
  • Second, India needs a comprehensive Climate Risk Atlas to present a risk-informed decision-making toolkit for policymakers at the national, State, and district level.
    • Such an Atlas should identify, assess and project chronic and acute risks at a granular level to better prepare against extreme climate events, urban heat stress, water stress, crop loss, vector-borne diseases, and biodiversity collapse.
    • The Atlas would also help in assessing the resilience and adaptation capabilities of communities and business. Further, it would help in climate-proofing critical infrastructure.
  • Third, to finance climate action at scale, risk financing instruments and risk retention and identification tools should be supplemented by contingency and adaptation funds such as the Green Climate Fund.
    • This will enhance the public finance pool and gear up efficient allocation across sectors at risk by mobilising investments on critical infrastructures and resilient community actions.
    • The Climate Ambition Summit also called for enhancing adaptation financing by 50% versus its current share of 20% of the total pool of climate financing.
  • Finally, as the permanent chair of the recently formed Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, India should play a pivotal role in attracting private investments into climate-proofing of infrastructure. It should also promote adaptation-based infrastructure investment decision making in these countries.
    • Further, an equal focus should be on championing a culture of localised risk assessments among members from the Global South.

Way Forward:

Tackling climate change is a balancing act between the present and the future. One way to do this would be to frame more holistic goalposts. Current policies seek to maximize GDP, which does not capture the potential for future prosperity entirely. An alternative could be something like the UN’s Inclusive Wealth Index, which measures three different types of capital: Produced (infrastructure, etc.), human (education, etc.) and natural (land, forests, etc.), all of which are important for prosperity to sustain. The UN measure is not perfect but is useful to track multiple indicators that feed into a society’s progress.


Editorial: An ill-conceived, overbroad and vague ordinance

Context:

  • The U.P. religious conversion ordinance is unconstitutional, vilifies inter-faith marriages and violates key rights.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Executive (structure, organization, functioning); Ministries and Departments (of Union and State govts.)

Mains Questions:

  1. Article 123 of the Constitution grants the President certain law-making powers to promulgate ordinances during the recess of Parliament. Explain 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Ordinance making power of the President.
  • Limitations with regard to ordinance making power.
  • Issues related to Ordinance making power.
  • Way Forward

Ordinance making power of the President:

Article 123 of the Constitution grants the President certain law making powers to promulgate Ordinances when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session and hence it is not possible to enact laws in the Parliament.

An Ordinance may relate to any subject that the Parliament has the power to legislate on. Conversely, it has the same limitations as the Parliament to legislate, given the distribution of powers between the Union, State and Concurrent Lists. Thus, the following limitations exist with regard to the Ordinance making power of the executive:

  • Legislature is not in session: The President can only promulgate an Ordinance when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session.
  • Immediate action is required: The President cannot promulgate an Ordinance unless he is satisfied that there are circumstances that require taking ‘immediate action’[ii].
  • Parliamentary approval during session: Ordinances must be approved by Parliament within six weeks of reassembling or they shall cease to operate.  They will also cease to operate in case resolutions disapproving the Ordinance are passed by both the Houses.  

Issues related to Ordinance making power:

  • Ordinance is a kind of a Colorable Legislation- It is said that ordinance is kind of a temporary colorable legislation. This refers to a situation where an authority which is not competent to do something does that act through some other authority or tool. Ordinance is that one tool through which the Executive is said work as the legislature for a temporary period of time when the original legislature is not available.
  • Increased Frequency of Promulgating Ordinance– another issue with ordinance is that in the recent years it has been a trend of increase in the number of ordinances issued by the President and even more at the state level by the Governor. This is connected one more severe problem in the parliamentary procedures disruptions in the parliament which affects the proper functioning of the legislature.
  • Misuse and Repromulgation– As we saw in the above mentioned cases that the ordinances once promulgated for six months stays for that given period of time. But as in Bihar there are instances when the ordinances are re-promulgated for many times to come. For example there was an ordinance related to land reforms executed by the Bihar Govt. which continued to be an ordinance for the next 7 years and never converted into an ordinance. This practice is surely against the constitutional provisions and legislative mandate.
  • Disturbance of the Federal Structure- The provision as we can see is one which is violating the federal structure of the branches of governance and the division of powers among them. There has always been a controversy regarding what are to the powers and functions of the branches. The conflict here is between the legislative and executive functions.

Judgements related to Ordinance making power:

  • D.C. Wadhwa V. SoB. The State of Bihar adopted a practice of re-promulgating the ordinances on a massive scale from time to time without their provisions being enacted into acts of the legislature.
    • The practice was that, after the session of the State Legislature was prorogued, the same ordinances which had ceased to operate were re-promulgated containing substantially the same provisions almost in a routine manner.
    • This practice was challenged by D.C. Wadhwa as against the constitutional provisions and against the condition of approval of Legislature after the fixed period of six months.
    • It was held that large-scale Repromulgation of same ordinance repeatedly in a routine manner amounts to usurpation of legislative function by the executive, colorable exercise of power and a fraud on constitutional provisions.
    • This practice was therefore held unconstitutional along with the specific ordinances in dispute. A constitutional authority cannot indirectly do what it is not allowed to do directly.
  • Krishna Kumar Singh V .SoB. The honourable in its majority opinion stated that re-promulgation of ordinance is constitutionally impermissible as it represents an effort to overreach the legislative body which is the primary source of law-making in a parliamentary democracy.
    • Repromulgation defeats the constitutional scheme under which a limited power to issue ordinances is conferred to the President and the governors.
    • So, we can clearly see that this emergency provision is very much abused by way of re-promulgating or extending the tenure of ordinances again and again.
    • In this conflict between the two branches of the Govt.- Legislature and Executive the third branch, Judiciary comes as a resolver by way of interpreting the constitutional provisions.

Way Forward:

When ordinances are frequently issued and re-issued, it violates the spirit of the Constitution and result in an ‘ordinance raj’, which is not desirable. In D.C. Wadhwa and others vs State of Bihar and others, 1987, the Supreme Court strongly condemned this practice and called it as a constitutional fraud. In 1970, in its judgment in Rustom Cavasses Cooper vs Union of India, the apex court has established that judicial intervention is absolutely necessary. So, when the executive abuses its power to issue ordinances, the judiciary could intervene.

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