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Environment And Natural Resources | Class 12 Political Science

The Chapter Introduces Student Environmental Concerns In Global Politics. It also highlights the common Property resources and the rights of the indigenous people. The chapter also mentions the global commons and their relevance in contemporary world politics.


Environmental Concerns In Global Politics

What are the current environmental concerns?

Until recently, 'global politics' was only considered in a limited sense: wars and treaties, the rise and fall of state authority, the connection between governments that represent their countries in the international arena, and the role of intergovernmental organisations.

We already broadened the definition of world politics to include topics such as poverty and diseases.

That may not have been a tough step to take, because we all believe governments are in charge of these things.

In that sense, they are part of international politics.

How do you think these concerns fall within the scope of contemporary world politics?

Cultivable land is scarcely expanding globally, while a significant amount of existing agricultural land is losing fertility. Grasslands and fisheries have been overgrazed. Water bodies have been drastically depleted and polluted, putting a serious constraint on food production.

According to the United Nations Development Programme's 2006 Human Development Report, 1.2 billion people in poor countries lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to sanitation, resulting in the death of almost three million children each year.

Natural forests — which help to stabilise the climate, regulate water supplies, and house the majority of the world's species on land — are being degraded and people displaced. The loss of biodiversity continues as a result of habitat destruction in species-rich places.

Consistent declines in the overall amount of ozone in the Earth's stratosphere (often referred to as the ozone hole) pose a serious threat to ecosystems and human health.

Globally, coastal pollution is also increasing. While the open sea remains relatively clean, coastal waterways are becoming progressively contaminated, primarily as a result of land-based activities. If left unchecked, the intensive human settlement of coastal zones worldwide will result in continued deterioration of the marine environment's quality.

If various governments take action to halt the aforementioned environmental damage, these issues will have political ramifications. The majority of them are so complex that no single government can adequately solve them.

As a result, they must integrate themselves into 'global politics.' Environmental and natural resource issues are, in a broader sense, political.

  • Who is responsible for environmental degradation?

  • Who bears the cost? And who is ultimately accountable for corrective action?

  • Who gets to use how much of the Earth's natural resources?

All of these issues raise the question of who possesses the most power. As such, they are profoundly political issues.

Although environmental issues have a long history, from the 1960s onward, knowledge of the environmental repercussions of economic growth took on an increasingly political dimension.

Earth Summit

In 1972, the Club of Rome, a global think tank, produced a book titled Limits to Growth, which highlighted the probable depletion of Earth's resources in the face of a fast-rising global population.

Worldwide organisations, such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), began convening international conferences and sponsoring in-depth studies in order to achieve a more coordinated and effective response to environmental concerns.

Since then, the environment has risen to prominence as a major issue in world politics.

The growing importance of environmental issues in global politics was firmly established at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which is also known as the Earth Summit.

The conference drew 170 states, thousands of non-governmental organisations, and numerous international enterprises.

Five years earlier, the 1987 Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, warned that old economic growth patterns were unsustainable in the long run, particularly in light of the South's desires for additional industrial development.

At the Rio Summit, it was clear that the established and wealthy countries of the First World, collectively referred to as the 'global North,' had a different environmental agenda than the impoverished and developing countries of the Third World, collectively referred to as the 'global South.'

Unlike the Northern states, which were concerned about ozone depletion and global warming, the Southern states were concerned about the relationship between economic development and environmental management.

The Rio Summit resulted in the adoption of treaties on climate change, biodiversity, and forestry, as well as the recommendation of a list of development principles dubbed 'Agenda 21'.

However, it left significant disagreements and challenges unaddressed. There was agreement on the importance of balancing economic expansion with environmental stewardship.

This method of growth is frequently referred to as sustainable development.'

However, the issue was how this was to be accomplished. Certain critics have argued that Agenda 21 was skewed toward economic growth rather than ecological preservation.

Protection of the Global Commons

What are 'Global Commons'?

The term 'commons' refers to community-owned resources rather than privately held ones. Similarly, some parts of the world are not under the sovereign jurisdiction of any single country and hence require international community control.

Humanitas res communis, or global commons, is the term used to describe these areas. Examples include the earth's atmosphere, Antarctica (see Box), the ocean floor, and outer space.

It is difficult to work together on global commons challenges. The 1959 Antarctic Treaty, the 1987 Montreal Protocol, and the 1991 Antarctic Environmental Protocol are just a few of the ground-breaking agreements that have been drafted.

The challenge of obtaining consensus on shared environmental agendas based on imprecise scientific facts and time frames is a key issue that underpins all ecological issues.

In this way, the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in the mid-1980s revealed both the benefits and risks of dealing with global environmental issues.

Similarly, the history of outer space as a global commons illustrates that disparities in the management of these domains have a significant impact.

The primary focus here, as with the earth's atmosphere and ocean floor, is technical advancement and industrial development. This is crucial since the benefits of exploitative space operations for current and future generations are far from equal.

Responsibilities are shared but differentiated.

There is a difference in how countries in the north and south tackle environmental issues.

The affluent countries of the North want to address the current situation of the environment and want everyone to share equally in the responsibility for ecological conservation.

The developing countries of the South feel that wealthier countries' industrial progress is to blame for a major percentage of the world's environmental degradation.

They must face a higher share of the burden of reversing the harm today if they have contributed to greater degradation.

Furthermore, developing countries are becoming more industrialised and should not be subjected to the same restrictions as developed countries.

As a result, in the creation, application, and interpretation of international environmental law laws, the special needs of developing nations must be taken into account.

The concept of shared but differentiated responsibilities was supported in the Rio Declaration at the 1992 Earth Summit.

"States shall engage in the spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect, and restore the Earth's ecosystem's health and integrity," according to the relevant portion of the Rio Declaration.

In light of the many contributors to global environmental deterioration, states have common but distinct responsibilities.

Given the stresses their societies exert on the global environment and the technological and financial resources at their disposal, the industrialised countries recognise their responsibility in the international pursuit of sustainable development."

Furthermore, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992 specifies that parties should act "on an equitable basis and in accordance with their shared but distinct responsibilities and various capabilities" to maintain the climate system.

Industrialised countries accounted for the lion's share of historical and current global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the parties to the Convention.

Furthermore, it was acknowledged that emerging countries' per capita emissions remain low. As a result, the Kyoto Protocol's stipulations were waived for China, India, and other emerging countries.

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement that sets greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for developed countries. Certain gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons, are thought to be at least largely responsible for global warming, a rise in global temperature that threatens life on Earth.

On the basis of the UNFCCC's principles, the protocol was adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan.

Common Property Resources

The common property of the group is represented by a common property. In terms of the nature, levels of use, and upkeep of a given resource, the underlying norm is that group members have both rights and obligations.

Many Indian village communities, for example, have defined their members' rights and responsibilities over centuries of practice and mutual understanding.

Due to a combination of factors such as privatisation, agricultural intensification, population growth, and ecosystem degradation, the common property has shrunk in size, quality, and availability in many parts of the world.

A common property regime is an apt description of the institutional arrangement for managing sacred groves on state-owned forest land.

Village communities along South India's forest belt have traditionally managed sacred groves.

India's Position on Environmental Issues

Kyoto Protocol and India

India signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 in August 2002. India, China, and other developing countries were exempt from the Kyoto Protocol's requirements because their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions during the industrialisation period (which is thought to be the cause of today's global warming and climate change) was minimal.

On the other hand, opponents of the Kyoto Protocol argue that India and China, as well as other developing countries, will eventually become major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

At the G-8 meeting in June 2005, India pointed out that developing countries' per capita emission rates are a fraction of those in developed countries. India believes that developed countries, which have accumulated emissions over a long period of time, bear primary responsibility for reducing emissions, based on the principle of shared but differentiated responsibility.

India's international negotiating stance is heavily based on the UNFCCC's historical responsibility principles.

This acknowledges that developed countries are responsible for the majority of historical and current greenhouse gas emissions while also emphasising that "the developing country parties' first and overriding priorities are economic and social development."

As a result, India is wary of recent UNFCCC discussions about requiring rapidly industrialising countries (like Brazil, China, and India) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This, India believes, goes against the UNFCCC's spirit.

It also doesn't seem fair to impose restrictions on India when its per capita carbon emissions are expected to increase by less than half of the global average of 3.8 tonnes in 2030.

India's emissions are expected to rise from 0.9 tonnes per capita in 2000 to 1.6 tonnes per capita in 2030. The Indian government is already contributing to global efforts through a number of programmes. Cleaner fuels are required for vehicles in India's National Auto-fuel Policy, for example.

The Energy Conservation Act of 2001 outlines strategies for improving energy efficiency.

For example, the Electricity Act of 2003 encourages the use of renewable energy. In recent years, India has made significant efforts, such as importing natural gas and encouraging the use of clean coal technologies.

The government plans to launch a National Mission on Biodiesel in 2011–2012, which will entail the use of approximately 11 million hectares of land to produce biodiesel. India also has one of the most extensive renewable energy programmes in the world.

In 1997, India conducted a review of the implementation of the Rio Earth Summit agreements. One of the key findings was that no significant progress had been made in terms of transferring new and additional financial resources, as well as environmentally sound technology, to developing countries on favourable terms.

In order for developing countries to meet their UNFCCC commitments, India believes that developed countries must take immediate steps to provide financial resources and clean technologies.

India also believes that SAARC countries should take a united stance on major global environmental issues in order for the region's voice to be heard more clearly.

Is there a single environmental movement or several?

Governments have reacted to the threat of global environmental degradation until now. However, rather than governments, some of the most significant responses to this challenge have come from groups of environmentally conscious volunteers working in different parts of the world.

Some work on a global scale, but the vast majority work on a local level. Environmental movements are among the most active, diverse, and powerful social movements in the world today.

Within social movements, new forms of political action emerge or are reinvented. These movements generate new ideas and long-term perspectives on what we should and shouldn't do in our individual and collective lives.

Here are a few examples of how today's environmental movements are characterised by diversity. Forest movements in the southern hemisphere, such as those in Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, continental Africa, and India (to name a few), are under severe stress.

Forest clearance in the Third World continues at an alarming rate, despite three decades of environmental activism. The destruction of the world's last great forests has increased in the last decade.

The minerals industry is one of the most powerful forms of industry on the planet. A large number of economies in the South are now reopening to MNCs as a result of global economic liberalisation.

The mineral industry's extraction of earth, use of chemicals, pollution of waterways and land, clearance of native vegetation, and displacement of communities, among other factors, continue to be criticised and opposed around the world.

A vast network of groups and organisations in the Philippines, for example, waged a campaign against the Western Mining Corporation (WMC), an Australian multinational corporation.

Anti-nuclear sentiments and advocacy for Australian indigenous peoples' basic rights are driving much of the opposition to the company in Australia.

The anti-mega-dam movement is another group of people fighting mega-dams. Every country where a mega-dam is being built is likely to face opposition from environmental groups.

Anti-dam movements are increasingly being replaced by pro-river movements for more sustainable and equitable management of river systems and valleys.

The first anti-dam movement in the North was the campaign to save the Franklin River and its surrounding forests in Australia, which began in the early 1980s. This was an anti-dam campaign as well as a campaign for wilderness and forests.

From Turkey to Thailand to South Africa, and from Indonesia to China, mega-dam construction is on the rise.

Some of the most powerful anti-dam and pro-river movements in the world have originated in India.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan is one of the most well-known of these movements. It's worth noting that in India's anti-dam and other environmental movements, nonviolence is the most common theme.

Resource Geopolitics

In resource geopolitics, it's all about who gets what, when, where, and how. Resources have been a significant means and motivation for European power expansion on a global scale.

They have also been the focus of inter-state rivalry. Trade, war, and power have dominated Western geopolitical thinking about resources, with an emphasis on overseas resources and maritime navigation.

Naval timber supply became a top priority for major European powers in the 17th century, as sea power itself was based on access to timber. The critical importance of ensuring an uninterrupted supply of strategic resources, particularly oil, was well established during both World Wars.

Throughout the Cold War, the industrialised countries of the North employed a variety of strategies to ensure a constant flow of resources.

Military forces were stationed near extraction sites and along communication corridors, strategic resources were accumulated, efforts were made to prop up friendly governments in producing countries, and multinational corporations benefited from favourable international agreements.

Western strategic thinking in the traditional sense was still preoccupied with access to supplies, which the Soviet Union could threaten.

Western control of the Gulf of Mexico's oil and strategic minerals in Southern and Central Africa were major concerns.

After the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disintegrated, the security of supply for a variety of minerals, particularly radioactive materials, has remained a concern for government and business decisions.

On the other hand, oil continues to be the most critical resource in global strategy.

For the majority of the twentieth century, oil was a readily available and indispensable source of energy for the global economy.

Due to the immense wealth associated with oil, political conflicts over its control abound, and the history of petroleum is also a history of war and struggle.

This is more evident in West and Central Asia than anywhere else on Earth. Around 30% of the world's oil production is produced in West Asia, specifically the Gulf region.

It controls approximately 64% of known global reserves, making it the only region capable of meeting any significant increase in oil demand. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest producer, accounting for nearly a quarter of global reserves.

Iraq is second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of known reserves. Additionally, because large swaths of Iraqi territory remain unexplored, actual reserves may be much larger.

The United States, Europe, Japan, and, increasingly, India and China are located far from the region's petroleum-consuming countries.

Water is another critical resource that is relevant to global politics. Regional disparities and the increasing scarcity of fresh water in some parts of the world indicate that disagreements over shared water resources could become a major source of conflict in the twenty-first century.

The term "water wars" was coined by some world political commentators to describe the possibility of violent conflict over this life-sustaining resource.

Countries that share a river can disagree on a variety of issues. A typical disagreement is between a downstream (lower riparian) state and an upstream (upper riparian) state over pollution, excessive irrigation, or the construction of dams by the upstream state, which may reduce or degrade the quality of water available to the downstream state.

States have used force to protect or seize freshwater resources. Two examples are the 1950s and 1960s conflict between Israel, Syria, and Jordan over each side's attempts to divert water from the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers, as well as more recent threats between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq over the construction of dams on the Euphrates River.

Numerous studies have discovered that countries that share rivers — and there are a large number of them — engage in military conflicts with one another.

Indigenous Peoples and their Rights

The issue of indigenous peoples combines environmental, resource, and political concerns. Indigenous populations, according to the United Nations, are descendants of peoples who lived in a country's current territory at the time when people of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived from other parts of the world and overcame them.

Indigenous peoples today follow their own social, economic, and cultural customs and traditions more than the institutions of the country to which they have now become a part.

What are the common interests of the world's estimated 30 million indigenous peoples, including those in India?

There are 20 lakh indigenous people in the Philippines' Cordillera region, ten lakh Mapuche in Chile, six lakh tribal people in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts, 35 lakh North Americans, 50,000 Kuna east of the Panama Canal, and ten lakh Small Peoples in the Soviet North.

Indigenous people, like other social movements, talk about their struggles, agendas, and rights.

Indigenous peoples should be admitted to the world community as equals, according to indigenous voices in world politics. Indigenous peoples live in Central and South America, Africa, India (where they are referred to as Tribals), and Southeast Asia.

Over thousands of years, the Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian peoples inhabited many of the present-day island states in the Oceania region (including Australia and New Zealand).

They are pleading with governments to accept indigenous nations' continued existence as enduring communities with distinct identities. Indigenous peoples all over the world use the phrase "since time immemorial" to describe their continued occupation of the lands from which they came.

Indigenous societies' worldviews on land and the variety of life systems supported by it are strikingly similar, regardless of their geographical location. The most obvious threat to indigenous people's survival is the loss of land, which also means the loss of an economic resource base.

Is it possible to have political autonomy without being bound by the means of physical survival?

The Scheduled Tribes, who make up nearly 8% of India's population, are commonly referred to as "indigenous people."

With the exception of a few small groups of hunters and gatherers, the majority of India's indigenous peoples rely on land cultivation for their survival.

They had free access to as much land as they could cultivate for centuries, if not millennia. Areas that had previously been inhabited by Scheduled Tribe communities were only subjected to outside forces after the establishment of British colonial rule.

Despite having constitutional protection in political representation, they have not reaped any of the benefits of the country's development.

They have, in fact, paid a high price for development, as they are the single largest group of people displaced by various development projects since independence.

For a long time, issues concerning indigenous peoples' rights have been ignored in domestic and international politics. Growing international contacts among indigenous leaders from around the world in the 1970s sparked a sense of shared concern and experiences.

In 1975, the World Council of Indigenous Peoples was established. The Council went on to become the first of 11 indigenous NGOs to be granted UN consultative status.


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