India on Thursday warned the United Nations against “securitisation” of environmental problems, asking it not to link such problems to peace and security, PTI reported. India said linking up everything related to environmental degradation to peace and security cannot address climate change concerns, or ensure that real perpetrators of such degradation adhere to their commitments.

India’s representative was addressing a high-level open debate on maintenance of international peace and security at the UN Security Council. The debate was titled “Humanitarian Effects of Environmental Degradation and Peace and Security”. The representative said environmental degradation can have humanitarian impact just like other human activities.

“However, merely to link up everything related to environmental issues with peace and security does nothing to enhance our understanding of the problem; nothing to help us address these issues in a meaningful way and does nothing to call out the real perpetrators and make them adhere to their commitments on environmental issues or help change behaviour of people at subsistence level,” India said.

India said that in many cases, perpetrators of environmental degradation can be outside national boundaries, while people suffer inside. “Is peace and security then the right paradigm to address this issue or is strengthening implementation of agreements, an appropriate and probably a more effective way to do it?”

The statement added that there has been an increasing tendency both in the Security Council and the other organs of the United Nations to start discussing environmental matters with disregard for the various important principles that govern environmental discussions. It said that principles such as common but differentiated responsibilities are sacrosanct while discussing environmental despoliation.

“Steering away from these principles and other commitments, and attempting to discuss such issues by obfuscating those responsible for addressing them, will only do a disservice to the real issue rather than making it more meaningful to address them,” India said.

‘Need collective will’

India’s representative also said that there was a need for a collective will to address such important problems in a multi-dimensional way, under important conventions such as the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and 2015 Paris climate pact. “What we need therefore is greater resolve to implement the commitments and contributions undertaken under environmental agreements instead of ‘securitisation’ of environmental issues,” India said.

India warned against categorising countries with different energy mixes in the same way. It said the important metric should be whether respective commitments are being adhered to. India said there is no point in “demonising” one particular energy source, and that transitioning from one energy source to another requires huge financial commitment.

“In many developing countries, such problems arise from issues related to people living at subsistence levels,” India said. “The question then is: Do we want to treat poverty and subsistence agriculture as peace and security issues?” The Indian representative claimed that even the “best science” available does not indicate that environmental degradation is a threat to peace and security.

India says it is focused on combating environmental damage

India said it has reduced 38 million tonnes (3.8 crore tonnes) of carbon emissions annually. It added that 30 lakh hectares of forest and tree cover has been added in a decade, which has enhanced the combined forest and tree cover to 24.56% of the total geographical area. India aims to restore 2.6 crore hectares of degraded and deforested land and achieve land-degradation neutrality by 2030, its representative said at the debate. India is also trying to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.

India’s carbon emissions for 2020 are predicted to fall by around 8% because of the coronavirus lockdown, a senior environment ministry official said on August 27. Sujit Kumar Bajpayee, joint secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, however, added that the impact of the pandemic was complex and would take years to analyse.