Most people may not consider Mahatma Gandhi’s economic ideas as practical. Some may even say that they were outdated and that he was an 18th century person who was born in the latter half of the 19th century and was assassinated in the first half of the 20th century.
The cornerstone of all his policies was minimum use of resources. In Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi which won several Oscars, there is a scene where he finds a poor woman unable to cover her chest because she does not have a piece of cloth. Gandhi gives her his own shawl.
The scene, though brief, marked a turning point in his life as he stopped using upper garments thereafter. Gandhi was the quintessential conservationist. India could not have chosen a better day than his birthday, which falls on October 2, to implement the Paris climate accord.
After all, he had spent his life teaching people self-reliance which meant making thread for one’s own clothes and avoiding industrial goods as much as possible. He preferred to walk, rather than use a car. Once he was asked why he travelled in second class, he readily replied, “because there was no third class”.
Be that as it may, the agreement prepared under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Paris in December 2015 was signed by 191 member countries. India was one of the first to sign it. Every country has to ratify, accept, approve or accede to the agreement. India has chosen Gandhi Jayanti for this purpose. So far 61 countries have ratified it.
India’s ratification will be watched with great interest by the world. This is because the agreement comes into force only when at least 55 countries producing at least 55 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions ratify it. October 2 could even be the day the agreement comes into force.
India produces 4.10 per cent of the emissions compared to China (20.09), the United States (17.89), Japan (3.79) and Oman (0.06). That is what makes the ratification by India quite significant. Also, India played a major role in the decades-long tortuous process that led to the agreement.
It seeks to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels”.
If the agreement does not have a system of enforcement, it is because India argued strongly against it for it has a long way to go before it can reach the stage of development the United States and other developed countries have reached. It also argued for allowing every country to fix its own goals of limiting the emissions.
It is one thing to ratify the agreement and quite another to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Targets have to be set and steps taken to achieve them. The first stocktaking will happen in 2023 when all the achievements of the member countries will be assessed and the global progress measured.
The days from this October 2 will be significant for India. It has to use technologies already developed to reduce the emissions. The excessive dependence on air-conditioning and refrigeration needs to be controlled. Power generation is one major source of atmospheric pollution.
India is richly endowed with solar and wind energy which can be tapped to meet the needs of power to a large extent. True, the technology to tap the same is expensive but through innovation and experimentation it can be reduced.
States can be encouraged to compete with one another in promoting reduction in emissions. Apart from promoting industries to use new technologies that do not pollute, there can also be new industrial houses that can manufacture products or technologies that will take the world closer to the objective of reducing global warming to the pre-industrial era level.
In other words, October 2 marks not just the 147th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation but also another instance of “India’s tryst with destiny.” Gandhi wanted Swaraj (self-rule) for the country. His birth anniversaries will hereafter be an occasion for assessing the valiant bid to keep Nature as pristine as possible.