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India Emerged as Key Player in 2016 on Climate Issues

New Delhi: India positioned itself as a major player in 2016 in the fight against global warming, ratifying the historic Paris agreement and also playing a “constructive” role in the Marrakesh climate summit to ensure actions are based on principles of “equity and climate justice”.

Anil Madhav Dave, who took charge of the Environment Ministry in July, led the Indian delegation at the Marrakesh summit and also oversaw the signing ceremony of Framework Agreement on International Solar Alliance, to which over 20 countries are signatories.

The ISA was jointly launched in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande at the CoP21 in Paris. It is an alliance of 121 solar resource-rich countries lying fully or partially between the tropic of Cancer and tropic of Capricorn. Countries including India at the Marrakesh climate change summit agreed to conclude the framing of rules for the implementation of Paris agreement by 2018.

India along with more than 170 countries signed the Paris Agreement at the UN General Assembly on April 22, 2016.

Apart from this, India also played a very crucial role in another climate summit held in October after it ordered incineration or elimination of HFC-23, a potent greenhouse gas with high global warming potential, after it steered the negotiations on amendment in Montreal Protocol for amendment for phase down of HFCs at Kigali, Rwanda.

India also took the lead on other climate issues with Dave emphasising the relevance of Indian lifestyle and its low carbon footprint at negotiations for phasing down of HFCs in Kigali.

One hundred and ninety seven nations, including India, struck a legally-binding deal after intense negotiations in Kigali to phase down hydrofluorocarbons. India welcomed the pact saying it is a reaffirmation of the global intent to mitigate climate change and exemplifies international cooperation in this regard.

On the home front, poor air quality continued to be a concern for the government in the national capital as well as the Centre, as stubble burning in neighbouring states and burning of fire crackers during Diwali night and the week following it, led to quality of air deteriorating to “severe”.

Springing into action, the Environment Ministry reviewed the ambient air quality status of Delhi and also directed neighbouring states to effectively enforce ban on stubble burning on October 31, 2016.

On November 4, the Ministry held a meeting with NCR states on measures to control air pollution and also directed the chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to review the progress of action taken on measures to control pollution with the states concerned on a monthly basis.

Given the poor quality of air, the ministry also decided to undertake such a review on a quarterly basis.

The national capital had resembled a “gas chamber” as it had come under a thick cover of pollutant-laden smog of scary proportions, forcing the residents to inhale ‘severe’ quality air, days after Diwali.

On the contentious issue of genetically-modified crops, the Environment Ministry continued to assert it had not taken any final decision on allowing it to be grown commercially.

Biotech regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the ministry, invited comments for the proposal on authorisation of Environmental release of Genetically Engineered Mustard on September 6.

The regulator had constituted a sub-committee of scientific experts to examine the biosafety data on GM mustard. The report was placed on the Environment Ministry’s website, inviting comments from stakeholders within a period of 30 days before the biotech regulator took a decision. The comments which were received were again sent to the committee for assessment.

Upping the ante against such crops, anti-GM group had alleged that subcommittee constituted by GEAC to examine the biosafety data on GM mustard, did not have any health expert and three of its members have conflict of interest.

Representatives of over 120 organisations from 20 states also gathered at Jantar Mantar to demand a ban on commercial release of GM mustard. Meanwhile the Centre had in October told the Supreme Court that it would not commercially release GM Mustard crop seeds without its permission.

The ministry meanwhile notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 which extended right to the village level to ensure proper plastic waste management right at the grass-roots level where plastic is now much in use.

In as early as March, the ministry also notified the new environment standards for gensets running on (LPG), Natural Gas (NG), diesel with LPG, NG and petrol with LPG, NG operated in various cities and towns with an aim to to control air and noise pollution.

In March itself, the Ministry also notified the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 which for the first time, brought the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility, along with targets.

It also notified the new Bio-medical Waste Management Rules in the same month which among others mandated bar code system for proper control.

At the same time in April, the ministry notified the revised Hazardous Waste Management Rules to ensure resource recovery and disposal of hazardous waste in an environment- friendly way and also for the first time made a distinction between hazardous waste and other wastes. The government also notified the Solid Waste Management Rules on April 5.

The government also finalised the re-categorisation of industries as – Red, Orange, Green and White – based on the level of pollution they were emitting, while deciding on continuously monitoring disposal of pollutants from industries through 24×7 real-time monitoring system.