The presented scenario highlights the absence of substantial political discourse around environmental concerns in India. Both political parties and voters have not embraced climate change and related matters as pivotal elements in electoral agendas.

Remarkably, this persists even as India stands as the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally, trailing behind China, the US, and the EU. Despite the emergence of ‘green parties’ worldwide, dedicated to advocating environmental causes for a sustainable future, such a phenomenon remains conspicuously absent within Indian political dynamics.

a) The dearth of a ‘Green Moment’ in Indian politics could stem from the following factors:

  • Developed vs. Developing country dichotomy: Developed nations possess the resources to invest in environmental initiatives, while developing countries grapple with fundamental challenges like poverty alleviation, infrastructure development, and agrarian issues.
  • Additionally, addressing climate problems necessitates a substantial transition to renewable energy sources, a step that developing nations have yet to fully undertake, given their reliance on more affordable energy sources
    like coal and shale gas. This discrepancy renders environmental preservation a lower priority in the electoral agendas of political parties.
  • Underrepresented voices: Populations directly affected by climate change consequences possess marginalized voices in comparison to issues like economic growth, job creation, and national security, which impact wider segments of the populace.
  • Limited awareness: Anecdotal evidence suggests that many individuals fail to consider aspects beyond their immediate material usage when contemplating environmental resources such as water and air. Instances of practices like burning agricultural residue, industrial pollution, and vehicular emissions continue unchecked across the nation. Various surveys have also highlighted the lack of awareness, especially among the youth, regarding the causes of climate change.
  • Civil society’s shortcomings: Civil society’s efforts to raise awareness and engage people in making climate change a political concern have, arguably, fallen short.
  • Electoral performance: The lack of awareness and preferences among voters has hindered political entities from establishing themselves or surviving politically while promoting environmental issues as significant electoral themes. Consequently, ‘approximate green parties’ like the Uttarakhand Parivartan Party (UKPP) and the Indian Peoples Green Party (IPGP) have struggled to attain satisfactory political performance.

(b) While environmentalism is deeply ingrained in Indian cultural traditions and ethos, the advent of industrialization and urbanization has substantially escalated energy consumption and environmental degradation. This shift has led to a diminishing connection with nature due to:

  • The prominence of conspicuous consumption, which has superseded traditional ties that once connected Indians to nature.
  • The flouting of environmental regulations in pursuit of industrial development, often met with passive observation by the State.
  • The shortcomings of civil society in advocating for environmental causes.
  • India’s distinction in having more environmental conflicts compared to other nations globally.
  • Despite these arguments highlighting apathy towards nature, there is consensus that safeguarding the environment and fostering harmonious coexistence with nature are crucial. However, it is acknowledged that a significant portion of the population must first be provided with essential amenities before addressing issues like water and air quality.

Addressing this challenge necessitates certain initiatives to shift people’s attitudes toward environmental concerns:

  • Raising awareness: Public awareness regarding the detrimental impacts of environmental degradation on current and future generations must be heightened. The deterioration of the environment—marked by poor air quality, polluted water sources, diminishing forests and rivers, recurring epidemics, and declining agricultural soil productivity—should not be normalized.
  • Cultivating behavioural change: Policy formulation should prioritize influencing mass behaviour through effective communication. For instance, the Swachh Bharat Mission successfully propagated awareness and behavioural transformation regarding sanitation practices and local capacity augmentation.
  • Emphasizing the environment-economy relationship: Highlighting that environmental harm also impedes national growth and development is crucial. Finite environmental resources mean that any damage or degradation sets back progress by decades. This connection needs to be conveyed to the public.
  • State’s role: The State should undertake the responsibility of sensitizing citizens toward environmental stewardship and recognizing it as a shared public good.

Climate change and environmental degradation are inherently ethical matters, with implications spanning both intra- and inter-generational contexts. Potentially, a greater portion of affluent and middle-class segments may prompt a shift in governments’ priorities based on environmental concerns when they directly experience the consequences of the climate emergency.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish April 2, 2024