Class 12 Political Science Chapter 8 Environment and Natural Resources NCERT Notes
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The main objective of Environment and Natural Resources Class 12 Contemporary World Politics Textbook Political Science NCERT notes are to make sure that students will be able to understand the details of every chapter in clear and precise manner. They are very useful in making you memorize things easily and quickly.
Chapter 8 Environment and Natural Resources Contemporary World Politics Class 12 Political Science CBSE NCERT Notes
This chapter focuses on the increasing importance of environmental and resource issues in global politics. It provides a comparative analysis of various environmental movements that emerged during the 1960s and later.
The chapter also highlights India’s stance on recent environmental debates.
In the last, the chapter brief the voices and concerns of indigenous peoples who are often marginalized in contemporary world politics.
Environmental Concerns in Global Politics
Environmental concerns have a long history, awareness of the environmental consequences of economic growth acquired an increasingly political character from the 1960s onwards.
The Club of Rome, a global think tank, published a book in 1972 entitled Limits to Growth, dramatising the potential depletion of the Earth’s resources against the backdrop of rapidly growing world population.
International agencies, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), began holding international conferences and promoting detailed studies to get a more coordinated and effective response to environmental problems.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was a significant event in the consolidation of environmental issues in global politics. This was also called the Earth Summit. The summit was attended by 170 states, thousands of NGOs and many multinational corporations.
Five years earlier, the 1987 Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, had warned that traditional patterns of economic growth were not sustainable in the long term.
The Rio Summit produced conventions dealing with climate change, biodiversity, forestry, and recommended a list of development practices called ‘Agenda 21’. Some critics have pointed out that Agenda 21 was biased in favour of economic growth rather than ensuring ecological conservation.
The Protection of Global Commons
Commons are resources shared by a community rather than owned by an individual or group.
Global commons are areas or regions of the world that require common governance by the international community. Examples of global commons include the earth’s atmosphere, Antarctica, the ocean floor, and outer space.
Sustainable management of global commons is crucial to prevent overuse and exploitation.
Managing global commons is challenging due to competing interests and conflicting claims by different states and actors.
Cooperation over the global commons is not easy. There have been many path-breaking agreements such as the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, the 1987 Montreal Protocol, and the 1991 Antarctic Environmental Protocol.
The discovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic in the mid-1980s revealed the opportunity as well as dangers inherent in tackling global environmental problems.
The history of outer space as a global commons shows that the management of these areas is thoroughly influenced by North-South inequalities.
Technology and industrial development are crucial issues in managing global commons. This is important because the benefits of exploitative activities in outer space are far from being equal either for the present or future generations.
Common but Differentiated Responsibilities
The North, consisting of developed countries, and the South, made up of developing countries, have different perspectives on environmental issues.
North (developed countries) wants everyone to be equally responsible for ecological conservation. South (developing countries) believes that the North caused more ecological degradation and should bear more responsibility for fixing the damage.
Developing countries cannot be subjected to the same restrictions as developed countries because they are still in the process of industrialization.
The principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ was accepted at the Earth Summit in 1992, acknowledging the responsibility that developed countries bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development.
The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) states that parties must act to protect the climate system “on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”
Developed countries are responsible for the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases, while per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low.
This led to the exemption of China, India, and other developing countries from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement setting targets for industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
The protocol was agreed to in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, based on principles set out in UNFCCC.
Common Property Resources
Common property represents a resource that is owned and managed by a group, with members having both rights and duties regarding its use and maintenance.
Many village communities in India have defined members’ rights and responsibilities through mutual understanding and centuries of practice.
However, factors such as privatisation, agricultural intensification, population growth, and ecosystem degradation have caused common property to dwindle in size, quality, and availability to the poor in much of the world.
The management of sacred groves on state-owned forest land in South India is an example of a common property regime, traditionally managed by village communities.
India’s Stand on Environmental Issues
India signed and ratified Kyoto Protocol in 2002.
Developing countries like India and China were exempt from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol because their contribution to greenhouse gases emission during industrialization period was not significant. Critics argue that India and China will become leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
At the G-8 meeting in June 2005, India pointed out that the per capita emission rates of the developing countries are a tiny fraction of those in the developed world.
India believes that major responsibility of curbing emission rests with developed countries which have accumulated emissions over a long period of time.
India’s international negotiating position is based on the principles of historical responsibility enshrined in the UNFCCC. This acknowledges that developed countries are responsible for most historical and current greenhouse gas emissions.
India is wary of recent discussions within UNFCCC about introducing binding commitments on rapidly industrializing countries (such as Brazil, China and India) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. India feels this contravenes the very spirit of UNFCCC.
India’s rise in per capita carbon emissions by 2030 is likely to still represent less than half the world average of 3.8 tonnes in 2000.
Indian emissions are predicted to rise from 0.9 tonnes per capita in 2000 to 1.6 tonnes per capita in 2030.
The Indian government is already participating in global efforts through a number of programmes. For example, India’s National Auto-fuel Policy mandates cleaner fuels for vehicles. The Energy Conservation Act, passed in 2001, outlines initiatives to improve energy efficiency. Similarly, the Electricity Act of 2003 encourages the use of renewable energy.
India is making efforts to import natural gas, encourage clean coal technologies, and launch a National Mission on Biodiesel using about 11 million hectares of land.
India ratified the Paris Climate Agreement on 2 October 2016 and has one of the largest renewable energy programmes in the world.
India reviewed the implementation of agreements at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1997 and concluded that there had been no meaningful progress in transferring financial resources and environmentally-sound technology on concessional terms to developing nations.
India finds it necessary that developed countries take immediate measures to provide developing countries with financial resources and clean technologies to enable them to meet their existing commitments under UNFCCC.
India also believes that SAARC countries should adopt a common position on major global environment issues to increase the region’s voice.
Environmental Movements: One or Many?
Governments have reacted to environmental degradation at an international level, but some of the most significant responses have come from environmentally conscious volunteers working at local levels and in groups.
Environmental movements are amongst the most vibrant, diverse, and powerful social movements across the globe today. They raise new ideas and long-term visions of what we should do and what we should not do in our individual and collective lives.
The forest movements of the South, in Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, continental Africa and India are faced with enormous pressures.
The mineral industry’s extraction of earth, its use of chemicals, its pollution of waterways and land, its clearance of native vegetation, its displacement of communities, amongst other factors, continue to invite criticism and resistance in various parts of the globe.
The Philippines provides a good example of a vast network of groups and organizations that campaigned against the Western Mining Corporation (WMC), an Australia-based multinational company, due to its negative impact on the environment and local communities.
Another group of movements are those involved in struggles against mega-dams. The early 1980s saw the first anti-dam movement launched in the North, namely, the campaign to save the Franklin River and its surrounding forests in Australia.
India has had some of the leading anti-dam, pro-river movements. Narmada Bachao Andolan is one of the best known of these movements.
Resource geopolitics is all about who gets what, when, where and how.
Resources have been a key factor in the expansion of European power and have been a focus of inter-state rivalry.
Western geopolitical thinking has been dominated by the relationship between trade, war, and power, with overseas resources and maritime navigation at the core.
Naval timber supply became a key priority for major European powers in the 17th century because sea power depended on access to timber.
Throughout the Cold War, industrialized countries used various methods to ensure a steady flow of resources, including military deployment near exploitation sites, stockpiling of strategic resources, and support for friendly governments in producing countries.
Traditional Western strategic thinking remained focused on access to supplies, which could be threatened by the Soviet Union.
After the end of the Cold War, the security of supply continues to worry governments and businesses with regard to several minerals, especially radioactive materials.
Oil continues to be the most important resource in global strategy.
Oil has been a crucial fuel for the global economy throughout the 20th century. Control over oil resources has resulted in political struggles and conflicts.
The Gulf region in West Asia is responsible for about 30% of global oil production and holds 64% of the world’s known reserves, making it the only region capable of satisfying any significant increase in demand.
Saudi Arabia has a quarter of the world’s total reserves and is the largest single producer, while Iraq has the second-largest known reserves, with the potential for even more.
The United States, Europe, Japan, and increasingly India and China, which consume this petroleum, are located at a considerable distance from the region.
Water is a crucial resource that is relevant to global politics, with regional variations and increasing scarcity in some parts of the world pointing to the possibility of disagreements over shared water resources.
Disagreements between countries that share rivers can arise over issues such as pollution, excessive irrigation, or the construction of dams, which can decrease or degrade the quality of water available to downstream states.
States have used force to protect or seize freshwater resources. Examples of violence include those between Israel, Syria, and Jordan in the 1950s and 1960s over attempts by each side to divert water from the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers, and more recent threats between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq over the construction of dams on the Euphrates River.
Studies show that countries that share rivers are involved in military conflicts with each other.
The Indigenous Peoples and their Rights
The UN defines indigenous populations as descendants of peoples who inhabited a country at the time when other cultures arrived and overcame them.
In the context of world politics, what are the common interests of approximately 30 crore indigenous peoples spread throughout the world including India.
Indigenous people occupy areas in Central and South America, Africa, India (where they are known as Tribals) and Southeast Asia. Many of the present day island states in the Oceania region (including Australia and New Zealand), were inhabited by the Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian people over the course of thousands of years.
In India, the description ‘indigenous people’ is usually applied to the Scheduled Tribes who constitute nearly eight percent of the population of the country.
During the 1970s, growing international contacts among indigenous leaders from around the world aroused a sense of common concern and shared experiences. The World Council of Indigenous Peoples was formed in 1975. The Council became subsequently the first of 11 indigenous NGOs to receive consultative status in the UN.