How climate change made its way to India’s election agenda

The 2019 Lok Sabha Elections in India may have created history for India politically with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) securing a thumping win. However, another history in the making that most of us missed this election season was the inclusion of climate change in India’s election agenda.

Perhaps, for the first time in the history of India, energy and environmental policies got considerable attention in election manifestos of political parties. This election was also about India’s political parties acknowledging the seriousness of climate change and making promises to combat climate change, reduce carbon footprint and safeguard India’s ecological resources. 
Surprisingly, both national parties, the Congress and the BJP’s election manifestos included climate change as a crucial subject. The Congress’ manifesto stated that “climate change has now emerged as a serious challenge for the world community” while the grand old party had committed to implementing its National Action Plan on Climate Change, released in June 2018, "in letter and spirit.” 
Meanwhile, the BJP had outlined a robust set of measures, elaborating it will “pursue national growth objectives through an ecologically sustainable pathway that leads to mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, recognising that containing global warming is essential to protecting the life and security of people and the environment.” Both the parties have also mentioned about their focus on decreasing fossil fuel dependence, increase clean energy resources, energy efficiency, afforestation, saving India’s water bodies, etc. 
On the other hand, state governments pan India have been playing a key role in pushing green energy sources. With Indian government aiming for 40% Electric Vehicles sales by 2040, nine states have been at the forefront of this transition by introducing draft policies for Electric Vehicles. They are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Commenting on Andhra Pradesh’s view on Electric Vehicles, an IAS officer, said: “The EV Policy is a move towards a sustainable transport system involving electric vehicles for minimum environmental impact. The move has been proposed by Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation in order to reduce the GHG emissions. The state government has set a target investment of Rs. 30,000 crore (when it was introduced) in June 2018 to bring 10 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2023.” 
Leena Srivastava, Executive Director of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), writes in Financial Times that “the value of the sustainability commitments in the election manifestos put forward by various parties is very low. The energy and environmental challenges facing the country are so critical that merely playing around with words is unlikely to win elections-the Indian electorate is smart. A radically different non-partisan commitment to these issues is required, and irrespective of the government in power.” 
However, some climate activists say that politicians acknowledging India’s climate crisis is also a huge thing for India. But, it remains to be seen whether this fresh and exciting election rhetoric will be translated into real change, regardless of who leads the next government. Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi pay heed to global teen icon (for climate change) Greta Thunberg’s message on taking the climate crisis message seriously and allow school kids and the people of India to fight for their sustainable future? We will have to wait and watch for it in the coming years!

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