Enacting Climate Justice in India

climate justice

New Delhi. 04 Nov 2022.   Leading up to the COP27 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Indian climate activists and academics associated with Climate Justice Network urge the Government of India to develop socially-just approaches to climate action and climate adaptation. This is crucial to protect the lives and livelihoods of the communities that are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

India’s preparations for COP27 are focused on demanding that the industrially advanced countries pay a fair share of the investments needed for effective and speedy climate mitigation, and adaptation, and compensate for loss & damage that is already happening. India and other countries of the Global South are entitled to an equitable atmospheric space and to resources needed to cope with the climate crisis already underway. After all, the industrially advanced countries have contributed a vast majority to the accumulated stock of GHG responsible for the climate crisis. Despite minimal contribution to the root causes of the climate crisis, south Asian countries including India are on the frontlines of these extreme weather events. This begs the question of how we respond to the ongoing impacts of the climate crisis at home.

The first national report on the state of the climate crisis called ‘Assessment of Climate Change Over The Indian Region’ revealed that India’s average temperature increased by 0.7 degrees Celsius between 1901-2018. India is already also paying massive economic costs of climate breakdown. According to the Global climate risk index 2020, India suffered an absolute loss of $37 billion due to climate change in 2018.  A recent RBI study predicts that “a persistent increase in temperature in India in the absence of risk-mitigating policies can cause the per capita GDP to reduce by 6.4 percent by 2100”. India has witnessed some of the worst extreme weather events; cyclones, floods, heatwaves, heavy rainfall, and drought. Moreover, in many parts of India, we have already crossed the ‘safe limits’ of air, water, and soil pollution. All of this suggests that in addition to demanding international reparations, we will also need to act at home.

Investments in renewable energy and technology transfer should be geared toward facilitating a society-wide transition to renewable energy and the development of climate-resilient social and economic infrastructure. At the same time, any compensation for loss & damage should be used to address the vulnerability experienced by the most marginalized people within India. Dr. Prakash Kashwan, an Environmental Studies professor at Brandeis University and co-founder of Climate Justice Network, says that addressing climate vulnerabilities requires that in addition to strengthening the physical infrastructure, India will need to develop affordable and convenient public transport for all, strengthen public provision of potable water, significantly increase state support for agroecological farming, address the precarious living conditions for migrant workers who contribute to running our cities, and institutionalize social safeguards to protect the poor, especially Dalits, Muslims, and other marginalized groups. All of this work needs to be sensitive to deeply entrenched gender inequalities, Kashwan said.

As India fights for the rights of the poor countries to reparational justice and for adequate compensation for loss and damage, it is appropriate to ask the following questions:

1: How do the govt. of India and state governments plan to prepare for climate-related disasters, such as heat waves and floods that have become increasingly more frequent.

2: How does the government seek to protect the most marginalized, who are also most vulnerable to climate impacts and climate disasters?

3: Do government agencies maintain data on internally displaced environmental and climate refugees that the media has reported on repeatedly?

4: What do governments plan to do about the longstanding crisis in agriculture, specifically, dryland agriculture, which the climate crisis is making worse?

5: What plans do government leaders have for a large number of people working in coal mining and other related formal and informal sector activities? Is the recent entry of the private sector in the mining sector conducive to ensuring a just transition away from coal?

6: What are the plans for addressing energy poverty among India’s poorest people, which makes them more vulnerable to shocks of heat waves?

7: How do we plan to enhance urban resilience, especially considering that India is home to one of the fastest rates of urbanization?

8: How do we protect India’s sanitation workforce, almost all of who are Dalits, against the hazardous working conditions they experience everyday, but especially in the aftermath of floods and other climate disasters?

9: Has the govt. of India studied the impact of rapidly increasing economic inequality on climate vulnerability among India’s poor and marginalized?

10: What policy framework do governments propose to engage India’s vibrant civil society for socially-just approaches to climate mitigation and climate adaptation?

For more information, please contact

Mr. Avinash Chanchal, 8882153664 (WhatsApp)
Dr. Prakash Kashwan, Co-Founder, Climate Justice Network and Editor, Climate Justice in India [email protected]

Climate Justice Network brings together academics, policymakers, practitioners, and civil society activists engaged in climate justice issues. We seek to catalyze emerging cross-regional, multidisciplinary, and inclusive collaborations between academics, policymakers, municipal officials, and climate activists. For more information, see: https://www.climatejusticenetwork.org/

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