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Environmentalists must pressure the Indian government to take action on climate

A protestor holds a banner at the Fridays for Future march in New Delhi on Sept. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Environmentalists must pressure the Indian government to take action on climate

A protestor holds a banner at the Fridays for Future march in New Delhi on Sept. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Environmentalists must pressure the Indian government to take action on climate

A protestor holds a banner at the Fridays for Future march in New Delhi on Sept. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Environmentalists must pressure the Indian government to take action on climate

A protestor holds a banner at the Fridays for Future march in New Delhi on Sept. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Several metropolitan cities including Delhi are expected to become unlivable in the next 80 years.

Roomana Hukil, McMaster University

Scorching heat waves, torrential rains and other extreme weather events make India one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Many Indian cities recorded temperatures as high as 48 C, in 2020. And by 2100, an estimated 1.5 million additional people will die each year from climate change.

Several metropolitan cities including Delhi are expected to become unlivable in the next 80 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report stated that India is likely to experience more extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts and floods in the next few decades that will lead to irreversible climate impacts.

India pledged to reduce its emissions intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) by 33 to 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, yet the government fails to generate emissions data to monitor these targets and validate claims that it will meet the Paris objectives on time.

Non-governmental organizations play an important role in India because of their ability to provide feedback and act as harbingers of change for economic and social systems to thrive. But instead of pressuring the government, many NGOs are increasingly putting pressure on the public to mitigate climate change. For instance, NGOs promote lower meat consumption, cloth shopping bags, reusable straws, LED lightbulbs and so on.

Actions like these feed the “green me fallacy,” a term coined by American writer and filmmaker Eleanor Goldfield, which is the belief that an individual’s lifestyle choices will be enough to resolve climate problems and restore ecological health. But these solutions cannot work without institutional or policy-level support.

Instead of focusing on symbolic gestures or actions that raise one’s social capital, Indian activists need to pressure the government to establish effective environmental policies and programs. They should protest, picket corporate offices, petition the government and stage sit-ins, hunger strikes and vigils to strengthen climate action and spread awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis in India. As a climate scholar and activist I have participated in environmental campaigns in New Delhi and Bengaluru to understand the objectives of NGOs and how they operate.

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