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A National Legal Framework on Climate Change

Climate Change is not a recent phenomenon, it has been happening since the industrial ages but in the recent time the effects of it have become evident. The world is experiencing various changes in its climate and there is an increase in intensity and frequency of extreme events such as Heat waves, flashfloods, earthquakes, hurricanes etc. and onset of slow events such as desertification, sea level rise, ocean acidification, etc. In 1988 World Meteorological Organization and United Nation Environment Programme formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to assess to impact on climate change, IPCC has issued comprehensive assessments in 1990, 1996, 2001, 2007 and 2013, methodology reports, technical papers, and periodic special reports assessing specific impacts of climate change.

In its latest report called AR5 (Summary for Policymakers) which forms the basis on which heads of nation create their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution), these INDCs are projected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that countries promise to publish before Conference of Parties 21 held in Paris, while it was a great step towards combating Climate Change but it missed the mark as adding up of all INDCs was nowhere close to the goal of 2 degree[1] Celsius above preindustrial level which is disheartening, But it shows that climate change is being dealt with by the International Front.

On the National Front, the story is not so clear, this study aims to and inform about climate change affecting India and how the country is dealing with it. There is no doubt that climate change is affecting India, India is a developing country and lies in the lower-middle income group it also is ranked 4th highest emitter of GHG in the world[2] and developing countries will hit the hardest by climate change[3] firstly due to geography of these countries Secondly, due to strong dependence on agriculture and finally with their fewer resources comes greater vulnerability.

The effects of climate change have already begun to appear in India, the pattern of rainfall is disrupted and according to estimates, the output of Kharif crops is likely to go down by 2.8%[4] this is especially harmful for country like India in which more 50% population directly or indirectly depend on agriculture[5] and not only rainfall is affected but also India is experiencing extreme heat, In 2016 Phalodi in Rajasthan experienced temperature of up to 51 degree Celsius becoming the highest recorded temperature in India[6] the officials responded that temperature were rising every year and this is due to global warming. There are also instances of frequent droughts, groundwater depletion, rise in sea level and melting of glacier etc. All this indicates that India is suffering from climate change and it is necessary to tackle the issue before it turns even more grave than it already is.

India is a Non-Annex 1 party under Kyoto Protocol which is an international agreement linked with United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change which commits its parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets[7].

But India being Non-Annex 1 country this protocol has no binding force over India to meet its promised goals. But India is an active participant in Clean Development Mechanism(CDM) which was established by protocol. It has also undertaken 1479 projects under this mechanism as of February 2014[8] India had released Greenhouse Gas inventory in 2007 where it highlighted that it will be the first developing country to release its emission inventory every two years. India has pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% below 2005 by 2030[9]. As India’s annual loss from natural disasters is estimated $9.8 Billion[10] and it is expected that India risks loss of 8.7% GDP by 2100 on climate change[11]

India has adopted a National Action Plan on Climate Change in 2008 this plan draws out various existing and future policies and programmes for climate change mitigation, adaptation and knowledge awareness. This plan envisages eight national plans namely National Solar Plan, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency in Industry, National Water Mission, National Mission of Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission for a Green India, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, National Mission on Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change. Each of these plans include various measures in their capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The primary objective of these mission is summarised in the following table-
Mission Primary Objective
National Solar Mission
  • To establish India as a global leader in solar energy, by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country as quickly as possible.
  • To create an enabling policy framework for the deployment of 100,000 MW of solar power by 2022.
  • To create favourable conditions for solar manufacturing capability, particularly solar thermal for indigenous production and market leadership.
National Mission on Sustainable Habitat
  • National Mission on Sustainable Habitat seeks to promote sustainability of habitats through improvements in energy efficiency in buildings, urban planning, improved management of solid and liquid waste, modal shift towards public transport and conservation through appropriate changes in legal and regulatory framework.
  • It also seeks to improve ability of habitats to adapt to climate change by improving resilience of infrastructure, community based disaster management and measures for improving advance warning systems for extreme weather events.
National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency in Industry
  • NMEEE seeks to strengthen the market for energy efficiency by creating conducive regulatory and policy regime.
  • NMEEE has been envisaged to foster innovative and sustainable business models to the energy efficiency sector.
  • The NMEEE seeks to create and sustain markets for energy efficiency in the entire country which will benefit the country and the consumers.
National Water Mission
  • Ensuring integrated water resource management for conservation of water, minimization of wastage and equitable distribution both across and within states.
  • Developing a framework for optimum water use through increase in water use efficiency by 20% through regulatory mechanisms with differential entitlements and pricing, taking the National Water Policy (NWP) into consideration.
  • Ensuring that a considerable share of water needs of urban areas is met through recycling of waste water.
  • Meeting water requirements of coastal cities through the adoption of new and appropriate technologies such as low-temperature desalination technologies allowing use of ocean water.
  • Revisiting NWP to ensure basin-level management strategies to deal with variability in rainfall and river flows due to climate change.
  • Developing new regulatory structures to optimize efficiency of existing irrigation systems.
National Mission of Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem
  • Develop a sustainable National capacity to continuously assess the health status of the Himalayan Ecosystem
  • Assist States in the Indian Himalayan Region with their implementation of actions selected for sustainable development.
National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Development of drought and pest-resistant crop varieties.
  • Improving methods to conserve soil and water to ensure their optimal utilization.
  • Generate awareness through stakeholder consultations, training workshops and demonstration exercises for farming communities, for agro-climatic information sharing and dissemination.
  • Financial support to enable farmers to invest in and adopt relevant technologies to overcome climate related stresses.
National Mission for Green India
  • Increased forest/tree cover on 5 million hectares (ha) of forest/non-forest lands and improved quality of forest cover on another 5 million ha of non-forest/forest lands (a total of 10 million ha)
  • Improved ecosystem services including biodiversity, hydrological services, and carbon sequestration from the 10 million ha of forest/ non-forest lands mentioned above
  • Increased forest-based livelihood income of about 3 million households, living in and around the forests
  • Enhanced annual CO2 sequestration by 50 to 60 million tons in the year 2020.
National Mission on Strategic knowledge on Climate Change
  • Formation of knowledge networks among the existing knowledge institutions engaged in research and development relating to climate science.
  • Establishment of global technology watch groups with institutional capacities to carry out research on risk minimized technology selection for developmental choices
  • Development of national capacity for modelling the regional impact of climate change on different ecological zones within the country for different seasons and living standards
  • Establishing research networks and encouraging research in the areas of climate change impacts on important socio-economic sectors like agriculture, health, natural ecosystems, biodiversity, coastal zones, etc.
Table 1: Various National Mission in National Action Plan on Climate Change[12]

In addition to these plans there are several measures that India has taken to mitigate the GHG emission, India has a policy which is relevant to reduction in GHG emission called the Integrated Energy Policy in 2006 which puts emphasis on energy efficiency on all sectors, mass transport and renewable resources, development of nuclear and other types of clean energy and research and development on clean energy. There are provisions in acts such as Energy Conservation Act 2001, Electricity Act 2003, National Tariff Policy 2006, Petroleum and Gas Regulatory Board Act 2006.

In Energy Conservation Act the government in empowered to give energy saving certificates to those whose consumption of energy is less than the prescribed limit and sell these certificates to those who consume more than prescribed limit to comply to the standards and norms. Under this Act large consumers of energy should follow Energy Conservation Building Code which calls for optimisation of the energy for large building, compliance with this code is incorporated in mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment requirement for large building, but this code is voluntary but if building take note of this code it is estimated that that the energy consumption can be reduced by 30-40 %[13].

The Electricity Act 2003 and National Tariff Policy 2006 provides for Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) and State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC)[14] which prescribes certain percentage of total power purchased by grid from renewable based sources, there is also provision of preferential tariff for renewable based power and the Act mandates for preparation of National Energy Policy. In 2010 Finance Bill there was the creation of a fund for clean energy called National Clean Energy Fund to invest in field of clean energy.

The Indian Network on Climate Change Action published a report titled Climate Change and India: A 4X4 Assessment a Sectoral and Regional Analysis for 2030s. in this report it has assessed impacts of climate change on 4 sectors- water resources, forest, agriculture, human health in four critical regions of India – the Himalayan region, the North East, Western Ghats and Coastal India.[15]

Apart from these agencies and policies there is also a private member’s bill Climate Change Bill 2012 which is said to be a Bill to set a target for the reduction of targeted greenhouse gas emissions; to establish a National Committee on climate change; to provide for carbon budgeting and carbon trading schemes and to encourage other such activities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto[16], it also sets terms such as Energy Intensity Index of GDP which implies quantity of energy used per unit of GDP and establishment of Carbon Trading Authority which shall, within one year of the commencement of this Act, formulate a scheme to be known as the Carbon Trading Scheme. It also calls for integration of various Individual Acts such as the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988; the Indian Forests Act, 1927; the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; the Energy Conservation Act, 2001; and the Climate Change Action Plan.

There are also cases of Climate Change happening in India, latest judgements of National Green Tribunal indicate that Climate Change Litigation is on the rise in India. In Feb 2014 Tribunal in a case[17] in which tourism industry was impacting the environment in Rohtang Pass, the tribunal directed the state government to control pollution and environmental damage also emphasised black carbon on glaciers.

In the second case[18], orders were sought from the Tribunal directing the Central and State governments to show the steps taken by them to implement the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), the Tribunal directed states that were yet to draft their action plans in accordance with the NAPCC to prepare the same and to get them approved by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change MoEFCC expeditiously.

The third case was before the Western Bench of the Tribunal and concerned the implementation of the MoEFCC’s Notification requiring coal-based thermal power plants to use coal with ash content not exceeding 34%[19], Tribunal directed MoEFCC to setup a monitoring and compliance protocol to ensure to effective implementation of Notification, it justified its order by stating that its benefit will lessen the GHG emission which will lessen the carbon footprint.

In another case[20] a voluntary organization approached the tribunal to issue direction to stop emission of HCF-23, a greenhouse gas according to Kyoto protocol by industries, while the tribunal didn’t intervene directly in the case, but it declared that the concerned authorities should take necessary action to deal with the problem. All these cases show the growing clout of climate litigation in India.

There are several targets that India has set which it wants to achieve as mentioned in its INDC[21] to the United Nation in relation to Wind Energy, India wants to achieve a target of 60 GW of wind power installed capacity by 2022, in relation to solar power India wants to enhance its solar power generation capacity to 100GW by 2022, increase to 10 GW and more than 100 GW is also desired in Biomass and Hydropower respectively by 2022. India has pledged to reduced economic intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 from 2005 levels, it also has pledged to create additional carbon sinks of 2.5 to 3 Billion tons of CO2 through additional afforestation by 2030.

Also to increase the share of non-fossil based energy resources to 40% of installed electric power capacity by 2030, with help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance including from Green Climate Fund[22]. According to some reports India’s emissions intensity will be 51–53% below 2005 levels[23] which above its target but, there uncertainty about targets as new mega coal power plants are still being given licenses[24] and the cost of solar power is still huge which makes renewable energy less competitive in comparison to non-renewable energy.

All this makes one thing clear that road to Climate Change mitigation and adaptation is riddled with obstacles, but it is one that we must take to save our planet and our species. While there are number of agencies, policies, cases, conventions already in place, there is still need for a solid legislation for climate change as climate change is a serious threat and should be treated as world’s top priority as it can lead to the total annihilation of our species, if proper action are not taken climate change will act as sixth Mass Extinction Event which will end humanity from the face of this planet and might also end all life on this planet.

  1. FutureLearn. The 2° target in the Paris Agreement - Climate Change Leadership - Uppsala University. FutureLearn,
  2. Greenhouse gases: India fourth biggest emitter, but lags far behind top three - Times of India. The Times of India,
  3. Stern, Nicholas. Climate Change – Our Approach. The Economics of Climate Change, 2006, p. 29., doi:10.1017/cbo9780511817434.004.
  4. Livemint. Climate change is going to hit the Indian economy hard., 29 Sept. 2017,
  5. Ibid 4.
  6. Staff, Scroll. Phalodi city in Rajasthan sizzles at 51°C, the highest-Ever temperature recorded in India., Https://, 19 May 2016,
  7. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Kyoto Protocol, 30 May 2013,
  8. The London School of Economics and Political Science. Climate Change Legislation in India, Graham Research Institute On Climate Change and Environment, 22 Aug. 2017,
  9. Mohan, Vishwa. India commits to 35% cut in emission rate by 2030. The Economic Times, 3 Oct. 2015,
  10. Disasters cost India $10bn per year: UN report - Times of India. The Times of India,
  11. India risks loss of 8.7% of GDP by 2100 on climate change: ADB. The Economic Times, 19 Aug. 2014,
  12. Pmf. National Action Plan On Climate Change. PMF IAS, 19 June 2016,
  13. Ibid, 8.
  14. National Action Plan On Climate Change, Ministry of Environment and Forest.
  15. Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change. Climate Change and India,
  16. Climate Change Bill 2012,
  17. Court on its own Motion v. State of Himachal Pradesh & Others, Application No. 237 of 2013, Judgment dated 6 February 2014.
  18. Gaurav Kumar Bansal v Union of India & Others, Original Application No. 498 of 2014.
  19. Ratandeep Rangari v. State of Maharashtra and Others, Application No. 19 of 2014.
  20. Indian Council for Enviro-legal Action v MoEFCC and Others, Judgment dated 10 December 2015.
  21. India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution: Working Towards Climate Justice,
  22. Tracker, Climate Action. India. CLIMATE ACTION TRACKER,
  23. Ibid, 22.
  24. Ibid, 22.

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