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The G20 hypocrisy

The third Group of 20 (G20) tourism working group meeting under India’s presidency will be held in Indian-occupied-Kashmir between May 22 and May 24.

India will no doubt use this event to legitimize its illegal revoking of the special status of IOK, on 5th August, 2019, and will itself – and expect others to – turn a blind eye to the ongoing human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir.

Foreign delegates will be taken on a sightseeing tour, undermining the demands of constitutional safeguards for land, employment, environment and cultural identity of the Ladakhi people, mostly tribal population, after revoking Occupied Kashmir’s status, presented during a strike in 2021, by the Apex Body of Leh, and the Kargil Democratic Alliance in Ladakh region. The city of Leh, predominantly Buddhist, joined in the protest with the city of Kargil, with Muslim majority population, and demanded statehood and protection of rights.

Besides India’s actions in Occupied Kashmir, many powerful G20 members, being industrialized nations with huge military arsenals, are responsible for environmental destruction due to their wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ukraine and so on, which falls under international humanitarian law (the law of war), and was addressed in the UNGA Resolution A/RES/47/37 on ‘Protection of the Environment in Times of Armed Conflict,’ as well as by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the ‘Guidelines for Military Manuals and Instructions on the Protection of the Environment in Times of Armed Conflict,’ and in ‘Guidelines on the Protection of the Natural Environment in Armed Conflict,’ 2020.

The G20 summit will portray India as a responsible nuclear power, although India’s non-serious nuclear policy is proof of its non-serious attitude towards environmental protection. In 2019, an Indian aircraft was shot down, and the captured pilot returned, for entering Pakistani airspace, while in 2022, India accidently fired a missile into Pakistan. In both cases, India’s carelessness could have escalated the situation between the two nuclear powers.

In 2012, a parliamentary report on nuclear safety regulations in India highlighted serious shortcomings and failures of mandatory international norms. The Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant incident endangered the lives of the workers and was declared as ‘serious.’ The report on the Tarapur Atomic Power Station showed radiation related problems, including cancer, goitre, and infertility etc among employees and nearby villages. In 2016, an emergency was declared within the nuclear plant at Kakrapar in Gujarat, after a major heavy water leak in the reactor.

In 2017, at least 29 people were killed and around 100 injured, in a blast at a coal-fired power plant in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Many industrialized nations supported India’s opposition to coal ‘phase out’ and settling for ‘phase down,’ at the UN Climate Change Conference (or COP26), 2021, most of whom were G20 members. This demonstrated the G20’s neoliberalism philosophy which is detrimental to the environment.

Neoliberalism opposes state intervention while supporting an open market economic system, but its hypocrisy and fragility are exposed when it needs bail-outs by the state during a financial crisis. In 2017, the Carbon Majors Report stated that only 100 companies have been responsible for more than 70 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), only 60 years of harvest is left in the world due to top soil destruction and depletion.

Neither does the media address these issues nor do the G20 members, at the organizational level and in their individual capacity. Besides influencing the media, successful lobbying by the coal, oil and gas industries was apparent at UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), 2022 when fossil fuel delegations jumped to 25 per cent since COP26.

In 2021, it was reported that the energy policies of China, Russia, Brazil and Australia, a key group of G20 nations, associated with 5 degrees Celsius rises in atmospheric temperatures, would cause disastrous global warming. In 2022, the UN expert pointed out that G20 members account for 78 per cent of emissions over the last decade.

India transitioned from a protectionist to an open market economic system under the premiership of Narasimha Rao and Rajiv Gandhi, but witnessed appropriation of lands and natural resources, which also prevented marginalized local climate vulnerable communities from accessing and controlling land, water, forest and urban commons which are vital for public good.

In March 2023, international environmental law achieved a lot after the UNGA adopted a resolution proposed by Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, to seek the International Court of Justice’s opinion regarding states’ legal obligations to protect climate systems and people affected by climate change.

Issues like compensation for climate-affected communities, environmental impact assessment, and regulation of industrialized nations and neoliberal institutions like the G20, IMF and WTO makes the clash between environmental law and neoliberalism inevitable.

M Shahrukh Shahnawaz, "The G20 hypocrisy," The News. 2023-05-08.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Environmental impact , Global warming , Greenhouse , Agriculture , China , Russia , UNGA , ICRC