The debate on climate change in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday got heated when Congress MP Jairam Ramesh hit out at Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, saying that an Environment Minister’s “job is not to clear projects, it is to protect environment”.
“My basic question [is] — how can you be serious on climate change if you are going to [be] liberalising all your environmental policies, you are weakening Forest Conservation Act, neglecting the Forest Rights Act, you are liberalising [the] Coastal Regulation Zone…” Mr. Ramesh, who was Environment Minister in the United Progressive Alliance regime between 2009 and 2011, said during the debate.
He accused Mr. Javadekar of looking at the environmental laws from the perspective of ease of doing business. Mr. Javadekar, addressing a Confederation of Indian Industry meet recently, said the Environment Ministry used to be called the “roadblock or tax ministry”, but his government had shown that environment protection and growth could go together.
“Job of Environment Minister is not to clear projects. Job of an Environment Minister is to protect the environment,” Mr. Ramesh said, adding that to deal with climate change, some hard decisions would need to be taken that could clash with the ease of doing business.
“The Environment Minister should stand up and say climate change is more important and than ease of doing business. That is the courage we expect the Honourable Minister to demonstrate,” Mr. Ramesh added.
Mr. Javadekar enumerated the steps taken on climate change. He said 33 States and Union Territories had prepared their climate action plan. “India will also work towards creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030,” he added.
The Minister said the “emission intensity of GDP” had decreased by 21% in 2014, when compared with 2005 levels, thereby “already achieving our voluntary pre-2020 goal of reducing emission intensity by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020”.
The Communist Party of India’s D. Raja said that India should not succumb to pressure from the developed world. “Developed nations try to pass the burden of climate change on to developing nations like India and China, blaming our greater contribution to carbon emissions on our burgeoning population. This argument should be rebuffed and refuted,” he said. He also raised the issue of the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi, saying no project should be imposed on local residents without their consent.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Vijila Sathyananth called for strictly enforcing a ban on single-use plastic.