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Consultation with Policymakers on climate change and the SDGs

A Consultation organized with Members of Parliament, civil society urged them to have strong and principled positions in the climate change and SDGs negations, two critical global treaties that will be negotiated this year. The meeting was organized by Beyond Copenhagen Collective at Constitution Club in Delhi on 11th March 2015. Six Members of Parliament including Anil Madhav Dave, Abhishek Singh, Chandulal Sahu, Ravindra Kumar Pandey, Anupam Hazra, and Lakhan Lal Sahu participated in the Consultation.

Mr. Chandrshekhar Sahu, former Minister, Govt of Chhattisgarh opening the discussion said that the need for this dialogue arises out of lack of parliamentary oversight on the issues, and the effort is to create a regular channel of dialogue with the Parliamentarians. He highlighted the importance of shared understanding and partnership among the stakeholders in facing impacts of climate change and moving towards a low carbon development pathway.
Ajay Jha from Beyond Copenhagen said that while India has provided leadership to developing countries in these discussions, there is a lot of preparation that needs to be done to represent the interests of poor in the climate and SDGs negotiation. He referred to the lack of equity and justice in the international negotiations on climate change and SDGs, and explained that the irony is that even entire atmospheric space is given to the developing countries, they would not be able to take the development at par with the developed countries. In the formulation of the SDGs, he added that in view of lack of means of implementation and global cooperation SDGs will witness the same fate as the MDGs. He lamented on the lack of ambition of developed countries in both the processes. However, he emphasized that people are more concerned on lack of progress and debate on these issues nationally. While he referred to lack of progress in the NAPCC and SAPCCs, he said there is no discussion at all on the SDGs. He suggested that high importance and long lasting impacts of these policies in all countries of the world merits national and parliamentary debates. He underlined that while there is a need to have strong position in the SDGs negotiation, there is also a need to adapt these goals nationally and ensure time bound, meaningful and effective progress on these nationalized goals on sustainable development. He also invited people to bring related issues of local concerns that might have significant bearing on these omnibus issues.

Mr. Om Thanvi, editor, Jansatta said that two communities of the society who can make difference Parliamentarians and media persons are neither aware nor interested in the nuances therefore, there is these issues lack visibility in the public space. He suggested that there should be a continuous dialogue on these new and evolving disciplines with the policymakers and the public.

Mr. Soumya Dutta, from BJVJ said that while in the national policy space there is need for recognition of climate change and proactive actions, in the international negotiation, India needs to increase its physical and intellectual engagement. He also added that in recent negotiations, India has been isolated and seen as a dialogue breaker, while the reality is that country’s per capita emission is still very low compared to other countries and blame should have fallen more on the developed countries. He added that non recognition of adverse impacts of climate change and related disasters in national policy space leads to poor preparation and poorer results both at home as well as in international foras.

Ms. Ranja Sengupta from TWN, said that while India has pitched strongly in favour of poverty and hunger eradication, sustainable consumption and production patterns, enhanced means of implementation in the SDGs negotiations, it need to be careful that goals and targets are not reduced, which will have disastrous effect in view of the enormity of the challenges that we are facing today. She also added that India has expressed reservation on sexual and reproductive rights, on which we expect more progress nationally.

Mr. Pradeep Sharma from Krishak Biradari, shared how the state action plans are made without stakeholders consultation, and have minimal impact on sectoral policies. He said that people in states are questioning the purpose of the Plans. He also shared a citizen led initiative to do climate resilient planning in 100 villages of Chhattisgarh.
Ajita Tiwary from INECC, referred to power and sponge iron projects in Chhattisgarh and their impact on environmental degradation. She added that India needs more preparation for the INDCs that India has to be submit by July this year and the need for a national consensus on INDCs.

Ms. Sandhya Jain, senior columnist, attracted attention towards the plight of forest dwellers and the forests and the urgency to ensure these communities voices in the policymaking.

Mr. Anil Madhav Dave, said that the discussion around these issues have largely focused on the the impacts and probable impacts rather than solutions. He added that since Copenhagen it is clear that a global equitable solution on climate change is not politically feasible. Therefore, we should have more emphasis on national action. He explained that India has a culture and a social spiritual motivation towards environment, which gives an advantage to India as compared to other countries, and therefore, its all the more important that India should provide leadership on these issues. He assured all possible help in expanding this dialogue.

Mr. Abhishek Singh agreed that there is a need for more understanding among policymakers on these issues, and said that government is willing to listen to good suggestions in the spirit of cooperation. He welcomed the initiative and offered all possible help in ensuring that constructive suggestions reach the right audience.

Mr. Chandu Lal Sahu, emphasized the need for more direct engagement with grassroots communities on issues of poverty, and development including environmental conservation and engagement of youth on these issues.

Mr. Ravindra Kumar Pandey, (BJP, MP from Jharkhand) said the country needs energy to take development to all villages, and this might have some environmental costs. However, he also emphasized that in the changed circumstances, sustainability is a bigger concern than it was earlier, therefore we need to strike a balance between developmental needs and environmental conservation.

Mr. Lakhan Lal welcomed the initiative and assured all help in strengthening the dialogue.

Mr. Anupam Hazra (TMC) said that we need to strengthen direct democracy and decentralized planning, which will make policies and programmes more oriented to local needs and responses and enhance climate resilience of the communities. However, he added that India must play a more proactive and engaged role in the international forums, as expectations from India in global cooperation has increased significantly in recent years.

Mr. Vijay Pratap, (SADED) underlined the need for an institutional arrangement for sustained dialogue with all stakeholders including the communities who have almost no climate footprint, and urged the parliamentarians to work towards creating such a forum.

Mr. Sharad Joshi (CECOEDECON) said that we need to engage with the policymakers across political spectrum on critical issues without any preconceived notions and we must make sure that we present a collective position in coordinated manner rather than working in isolated spaces.

Justice (Retd.) P C Jain delivered the vote of thanks. He underlined that India must enhance engagement on climate change and sustainable development, as these are global issues and require global solutions. However, he added that at the same time we should not lose sight of the fact that there is a greater need for progress in national policy space as India is highly vulnerable and poor people and women are facing disproportionately adverse impacts.

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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: NATIONAL AND GLOBAL PRIORITIES FOR RIO+20

28th April, 2012,

Conference Room No.2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi

Organizers

Beyond Copenhagen, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jathha, CECOEDECON, IDS, Jaipur, PAIRVI, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, SADED, SANSAD

Brief Report

The National Consultation was organized with a view to bring in multiple stakeholders, persons and institutions to build an understanding on the sustainable development agenda and chart out a distinct road map to Rio+20 :

  • o What does the state intend to do?
  • o What do Civil Society Organisations want?
  • o Are all CSOs on the same page?
  • o What is the role of the media in this process?
  • o What are INGOs doing? What is their stake?
  • o How sensitized are policy makers and the media?
  • o What outcomes can be expected at Rio+20 and what are their ramifications for the developing world?

Mr Ajay Jha, Secretary, PAIRVI, opened the session with the basic premise for organizing the consultation that sought to look at the priorities for multiple stakeholders at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. Highlighting the significance of this landmark conference, also known as Rio+20, Mr Jha spoke of how there is little or no dialogue, debate and discussion at the national level even as the time for the conference draws near. He stated how this was an opportune moment, the appropriate time to relook at policies within the sustainable development paradigm. The process at Rio+20 seems leveraged in favour of the global North and it is imperative that concerns and priorities of the developing world do not get diluted in these larger hegemonic interests. It was in 1992 that the Earth Summit took place, now, 20 years on it is necessary that we revisit global strategies for ensuring sustainable development.

The key note speech was delivered by Dr Jyoti Parikh, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, President, IRADe & highly respected authority on issues relating to energy and environment to present the key note address. Dr Parikh gave a brief overview of how the paradigm of sustainable development took shape ranging from Stockholm 1975 to the Earth Summit in 1992 to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg right up to the upcoming Rio+20. Speaking of Millennium Development Goals and how they brought about a quantitative perspective on poverty alleviation goals, the multiple dimensions associated were brought to light. Two streams of thought are associated with the Sustainable Development agenda – Green (environment related) thought and Equity (poverty related) thought. Critical questions on how MDG aspects still aren’t priorities in our policies and the disparities in linking green initiatives and equity were highlighted. The need to have a larger engagement between the G77 and developing nations, small island countries & the need for a collaborative civil society voice was emphasized. Key words like Inclusive growth need to be understood in the light of assimilating both green concerns as well as address poverty. The debate is now more complex and nuanced.  We need to look for alternatives, solutions and more exercises in understanding concept such as green economy need to be taken up, interpreted and questioned.

The talk by Dr. Parikh was followed by animated discussion and questions relating to the scenario post 2008 economic meltdown, the rationale for green economy (whose agenda is it, anyway?), change in landscape since 1992, India’s intended stand at Rio+20, Indian state’s initiatives in the run-up to Rio, policy framework among other issues and concerns.

Mr Ali Anwar, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, also highlighted the necessity to prioritize environmental and sustainable development issues and assured to provide all possible help to discuss the issues within his party and the Parliament.

Session 2 saw specific presentations on key thematic areas. Ajay Jha took everyone through the basics of the proposed outcome document – The Zero Draft and how the negotiations were going ahead. He emphasized that the negotiations were completely bottlenecked on the North South lines, and where developing countries wanted centrality on green jobs and fundamental issues of restricting economic architecture, aid and trade rules, and increased representation of interests from South in global institutions and systems, developed countries are more in favour of focus on green economy, increased role of business and SDGs. He added that expectations from the Rio +20 was coming down world over and unless there is enough pressure from all quarters, we might have to be satisfied with frivolous and dangerous outcomes like Road Map on Green Economy and SDGs.

Soumya Datta, BJVJ spoke on the key topic of energy, particularly highlighting the UN Secretary General’s Initiative on Sustainable Energy for all. He spoke strongly about focus on “modern energy” undermines the issue of “equity” and unless equity is addressed at local, national and global level, sustainable energy for all will remain only a cherished ideal. He emphasized that modern energy debates largely hinge on energy efficiency, while the macroeconomic data shows that increase in efficiency has resulted in more consumption. At the same time, efficiency by itself does not address the equity issue. He put forth a highly nuanced understanding of how globally the issue is diluted by speaking only in terms of modern energy services and energy efficiency and problematical the role of the private sector in the energy market.

Himashu Thakar, SANDRP spoke extensively on Water. He said that while water remains a major global concern having wide ramifications, from the point of view of access, and management, it is more of a local issue and needs decentralized, democratic and local solutions. He emphasized that the crisis of energy, food and water cannot be addressed until we add environment, as the fourth critical pillar in order to move towards sustainable development. Skeptical on account of Green Economy not being a solution he spoke of how institutional frameworks need to move beyond the existing status quo.

Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre put forth a logically appealing presentation on cities and sustainable development. He emphasized that solutions are before us but we fail to see and adopt it. Citing the example of Delhi, he added that more land, energy, and water is available than required, however, lack of equitable distribution and democratic management deprive poor people of these critical rights.

Anita Paul, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Initiatives illustrated through an example of a village based in the Gugas basin, Uttarakhand as regards the issues in mountainous regions. Through the use of appropriate technologies, a way forward can be sought.

Discussions with regard to focusing on target groups within – Women, Youth, Marginalised groups were taken up and how the commons are placed and should be placed was also debated.

Prof. Surjit Singh, IDS Jaipur emphasized in the Chair’s remarks that last two decades have seen reduced multilateralism and increased influence and control of business over natural resources, means and processes of production at national and global levels. Until and unless there is a huge overhaul of world institutions and systems including the BWIs, UN, the WTO, the power structures will not change and same development paradigm which benefits big business and developed countries at the cost of nature and environment, and rights of people in poor countries will be pursued, he added.

Session 3 had INGOs, institutions and large funding agencies share their views on the process.. Raman Mehta of DFID spoke of new principles of engagement not being apparent and how larger developing countries need to take responsibility. Sunita Sharma & Alisa Zomer from AJWS spoke of strengthening of P10 as key principle in the sustainable development Summit outcome. Vanita Suneja, Oxfam India put forth a clear presentation on Oxfam’s engagement with Rio+20 particularly in relation to Sustainable food and farming, furthering of debates on climate change as well as look at a new global framework. Christian Aid’s Subrata De mentioned the importance of needing to raise issues of equity in a constrained world. He also spoke of the nature of green economy and allied issues, need for pro-poor policies and importance of disaster risk reduction to be taken up. Malancha, TERI spoke of issues with the concept of green economy and extensively highlighted issues within the energy sector. She added that civil society though have limited avenues of influencing the outcomes, however, whatever little opportunity available should be employed to the best possible result. Manish Jain, ACF highlighted in his chair’s remarks that food and nutrition are the biggest emergencies that world faces today, which will worsen in the coming decades. The multilateral and global processes have an opportunity and also a duty to address this crisis, the sustainable development summit also must respond to this call.

The fourth session had strong media and political voices advocating the need of collaborated efforts on part of civil society, media and legislature in being more issue-focused and sensitized to the pressing concerns and needs as was being discussed in the Consultation. Both media and policy makers emphasized that civil society has a distinct role in education of media as well as policy makers on these issues. Om Thanvi from Jansatta, highlighted the limitation of media to take up these debates prominently. Sunny Sebastian, from the Hindu, while acknowledging that it is becoming increasingly challenging to bring issues of social relevance in the media, said there is yet sufficient scope attract media on these issues. Atul Anjaan, National President of AIKS and Secretary of CPI said that despite all its limitations, parliamentary democracy is the best for of governance. There is huge pressure on the time of Parliament and also on individual members, but there are ways to generate debate among policymakers on issues of national and global relevance, and assured all help in reaching out to political parties and Parliament on Rio+20 issues.

The concluding session chalked out a broad strategy framework to enhance discussion, and engage with relevant stakeholders on the issues discussed. Suggestions from Sharad Joshi, Secretary CECOEDECON, highlighted that while the world is witnessing series of crises, the civil society needs to intensify its efforts at local, national, regional and global levels in it engagement with the processes as well as providing viable solutions. He added that the discussion must reach out to people who are victims of the so called development and its paradigm. He suggested that a document highlighting the important issues will be helpful in broadening the debate, as state consultations, and enhancing regional collaboration. He underlines that CSO coordination is poor and work has to take place among multiple stakeholders with media and the Parliamentarians. Soumya Dutta suggested coming out with Rio+20 vision document for India, along with an analysis document. He added that charting out common areas between UNFCCC processes (as many CSO groups are engaged with UNFCCC) and other processes like Rio+20 needs to be looked into. Participants also suggested meaningful intervention at CBD Cop, which is taking place in India in October 2012. Many agreed that the agenda for engagement has to come from wider consultations, which can be initiated on the basis of the draft to be circulated by the organizers.

Co Chairs for session IV and session V, Anil Singh, SANSAD and Prof. Sanjai Bhatt, DSSW highlighted the need for generating a pressure from the below on the choices that the states make. They said that the govt works in silos, there is complete lack of coordination among the ministries/departments, which result in policies being developed in isolation and without being located in the larger development context. Harmonization between policies on environment, trade, financial and industrial policies, agriculture, climate change etc. needs complete reorganization of how we approach these issues. They also underlined that global processes also suffer from these shortcomings, which makes integration of three pillars of economic, social and environmental, impossible. Based on the discussions, the co-chairs also suggested the avenues and ways for engagement with the process suggested as below:

  1. Consultations in states to broaden the debate and deepen the understanding of sustainable development, as well as to bring out the agenda/charter from the people.
  2. An analysis document on major issues in Rio+20, viz. energy, water, food, cities, livelihoods etc. to be compiled from contributions from participants.
  3. Few organizations to take responsibility for coordination at South Asia level.
  4. Few organizations to look into fund raising possibility.
  5. Engagement with political parties, and the MPs to be looked into, Parliamentary Committee headed by Rajiv Pratap Rudy to be accessed.
  6. Organizations going to Rio can help spread the message and concerns.
  7. Need to organize activities at Delhi, simultaneously with HLF at Rio+20.

The vote of thanks was delivered by Dr. Alok Vyas from CECOEDECON.

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