Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 26th August 2021

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1.  Negotiating the new global climate policy

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Environment & Biodiversity
Sub Theme: Climate Change Negotiations | UPSC

This is the sixth cycle of global review of climate change being conducted by IPCC. This report is significant as its findings will compel countries to up their climate commitments in Glasgow climate summit of UNFCCC.

Salient Findings:

  • Unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.
  • Recent changes across the climate system are unprecedented over many thousands of years.
  • Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.
  • Global surface temperatures is now higher by 1.07 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial level.
  • Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
  • The report notes that the Carbon dioxide has been and will continue to be the dominant cause of global warming under all greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.
  • GHG warming is assessed to be partially offset by aerosol cooling by almost 30%.
  • From a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH4 emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution and would improve air quality.

India’s stand on the report

  • Developed countries have usurped more than their fair share of the global carbon budget. Reaching net zero alone is not enough, as it is the cumulative emissions up to net zero that determine the temperatures that is reached.
  • India’s cumulative and per capita current emissions are significantly low and far less than its fair share of global carbon budget.
  • Thus, this report vindicates India’s position that historical cumulative emissions are the source of the climate crisis today.
  • The report is clarion call for the developed countries to undertake immediate, deep emission cuts and decarbonisation of their economies.

 

India’s stand on Climate Change at the G20 summit 

  • India is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, and is among countries most vulnerable to climate change.
  • India has urged the group of 20 nations (G20) having per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions above the global average to bring it down to the world average, thereby vacating ‘some’ carbon space for developing nations.
  • The developed world occupies an estimated 67-75% of carbon space.
  • India is the only major economy with actions in line to keep global warming below 2°C of pre-industrial levels.
  • India’s per capita emissions are just about one-third of the global average.

 

India’s NDC vs achievements – 

  • To reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030.
  • India has also committed to have 40% of its total installed power generation capacity from renewables by 2030.
  • Against the targeted emission reduction of 33-35 % by 2030, India has already achieved emission reduction of 28% over 2005 levels and at this pace, it is all set to exceed its NDC commitments before 2030
  • India already has achieved 38.5 % installed capacity from renewables and when the renewable capacity under construction is also accounted for, the share of renewables in the installed capacity goes well over 48%, which is way above the commitments made under the Paris Agreement.

Net Zero emissions meaning – 

Net zero means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out.

Per Capita Carbon emission – 

Carbon emissions per capita are measured as the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the country as a consequence of all relevant human (production and consumption) activities, divided by the population of the country

The debate 

  • G7 countries are pitching for achieving Net zero of the current emissions by 2050.
  • India has urged G20 nations having per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions above the global average to bring it down to the world average, thereby vacating ‘some’ carbon space for developing nations.
  • Accepting ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050 effectively reduces India’s carbon space.

Per capita emissions – 

  • The world’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are 6.55 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
  • India’s per capita emission at 1.96 tonnes is less than one-third; emissions of the United States, Canada and Australia are more than two-a-half times; Germany, the United Kingdom and France are above, and China, at 6.4 tonnes, is just below the global average.

Historical Global Carbon emissions 

  • By contributing over 60% of global cumulative emissions, with just one-fourth of the global population, North America and Europe are responsible for nearly 970 billion tonnes of carbon emissions.

Need for classifying emission sources – 

  • Infrastructure, or construction, essential for urbanisation and quality of living is responsible for two-fifths of global carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion and 25% of emissions overall.
  • These emissions arise from energy intensive cement production and half of the steel produced which is used in construction, both having no substitutes.

Transforming the Climate Policy –  

  • While measuring emissions focus should be on causes of such emissions.
  • IPCC report has reiterated that impacts such as a rise in sea level, variability of rainfall and temperature increases will not be reversible for some time even after emissions fall.
  • Hence Adaptations should take a centre place in climate negotiations.
  • There should be a shift from environmental damage and its implications for well-being to comparable levels of well-being within global ecological limits.
  • There is a need for a debate on what society values and whether societal priorities or market exchange and pricing mechanisms determine what is to be valued, produced, and consumed.
  • With different civilisational values, consumption of the middle class in developing countries is less wasteful than in the first phase of urbanisation.
  • To fight the issue of Climate Change the commitment centric approach should give way to the common cause approach.
  • Common cause approach would involve just focussing on achieving commitments but also  a focus of sharing prosperity.
  • Such an approach should all together change the way of life.
  • It should transform – what we value, the way we live, and how we interact with one another.

 

2.  A Taliban outreach that needs correction

UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS Paper II: International Relations
Sub Theme:  Problems with India’s Engagement with Taliban| UPSC

Context: Taliban has been engaging with US, china, Russia, and neighboring countries to gain legitimacy. The bigger question concerning India has been that should India engage with Taliban directly or not?

India although had indirectly done an outreach to Taliban it has abstained form a direct engagement officially.

Why should India not engage with Taliban?

  • Even if India tries to engage, such negotiations would be disrupted by Pakistan and dominant Haqqani network.
  • Further the countries like China and Pakistan would not completely rely on Taliban.
  • Indian concerns of Security in Kashmir cannot be achieved by trusting Taliban.
  • Taliban which is a Sunni group would stand against the interest of Shia Iran.
  • Further Afghanistan turning into a breeding ground for terrorist outfits will be a common concern for all the countries of the region.
  • This can be one of the areas of convergence for all the regional countries to engage.
  • Also, Pakistan’s dominant control over Afghanistan would not be acceptable to other regional powers.
  • Besides that, Taliban itself will seek autonomy from the control of Pakistan.

 

3. Income and quotas

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme:  Creamy Layer in Reservation| UPSC

Context: Supreme court on Tuesday quashed a Haryana government notification saying that Economic criteria shouldn’t be the sole basis for identification of creamy layer for OBC reservations

Article 340 empowered the president to appoint a commission to investigate the conditions of socio and educationally backward classes and suggest measures to improve their conditions

Accordingly, In 1979, the Morarji Desai Government appointed the a Backward Classes Commission under the chairmanship of B.P.Mandal

Mandal commission:

The commission identified more than 3500 castes as socially and educationally backward classes by using 11 indicators (social, educational and economical)

It recommended for reservation of 27% government jobs for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) so that the total reservation for all (SCs, STs and OBCs) amounts to 50%

Based on these recommendations, after ten years in 1990 the V.P. Singh Government declared reservation of 27% government jobs for the OBCs. 

Indra Sawhney Judgement: 

The constitutional validity of this OBC reservation was challenged in the supreme court. In this case, supreme court upheld the constitutional validity of27% reservation for the OBCs with certain conditions. One such condition is creamy layer

What is creamy layer?

The SC in Indrasawhney judgement found it necessary to identify sections of Backward Classes who were already “highly advanced socially as well as economically and educationally” and remove them out of the purview of reservation.  They include:

The children of high-ranking constitutional functionaries, employees of a certain rank in the Union and State governments (Group A/Class I Officers of All India Central and State Services, Group B/Class II Officers of Central and State Services, employees of Public Sector Undertakings etc. and armed forces)

Those affluent enough to employ others

Those with significant property and agricultural holdings

Those who are above an identified annual income

Why creamy layer?

When socially and educationally backward classes are determined by giving importance to caste, it shall not be forgotten that a segment of that caste is economically advanced and they do not require the protection of reservation. By excluding those who have already attained economic well-being or educational advancement, the reservation benefits would reach the most deserving sections

Haryana notification case:

Supreme court on Tuesday quashed a Haryana government notification of 2016, which specified an Economic criterion for exclusion of creamy layer within the backward classes. The court held that economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for deciding the creamy layer from among backward classes.

Why economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for deciding the creamy layer?

Challenge of Identification: The identification has been a thorny issue. The basic question here is how rich or advanced should a Backward Class section be to included in creamy layer.  Same income limit for both rural and urban areas is arbitrary

Not a remedy for economic backwardness: Reservation is a means to ending discrimination based on caste which has been a feature of the Indian society for thousands of years. It is not a remedy for economic backwardness. Mandating an economic ceiling for reservation misunderstands how caste works. Lower castes face discrimination even if they are well-off or educated

Unfilled seats: Placing too many restrictions on reservation benefits may leave the seats unfilled.

Ex: in 2018, the highly sought-after Delhi University did not manage to fill its reserved category seats. This is true of government jobs as well

 

4.  Helping and hindering justice

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II- Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Role of Technology in Indian Judiciary | Access to Justice|UPSC

Various technological initiatives taken by Indian Judiciary:

  • E-court project: 
  • The eCourts Project was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005”
  • In 3 phases, the project aimed to connect all the courts digitally; enabling e-filing of cases and tracking them online and eventually digitising all the court processes like virtual hearing, live streaming of court proceedings etc.

 

  • National Judicial data grid:
  • NJDG, a flagship project implemented under the aegis of the eCourts project, has been recognized as a significant innovation under the Ease of Doing Business initiative of the Government of India
  • The portal is a national repository of data relating to cases pending and disposed of in all district and taluka courts of the country
  • NJDG gives the consolidated figures of cases instituted, disposed and the pendency of cases in all courts across the country. These statistics are updated every day by respective courts

 

  • LIMBS (legal information management & briefing system):

Since, government is considered to be the biggest litigant in India, it is equally important to digitise, automate, and monitor cases from the ministry/department’s side for cases where the government is a litigant. It is for this purpose that the LIMBS was put in place.

  • LIMBS is a web based portal developed by Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law & Justice for monitoring and handling of various court cases of Govt
  • It is an innovative and easy-to-access online tool which is available 24×7 to all stakeholders—government officials, department users, nodal officers, higher officials of ministries, advocates, arbitrators

 

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) based portal ‘SUPACE’:
  • SUPACE , Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court’s Efficiency, is an Artificial intelligence(AI) tool that collects relevant facts and laws and makes them available to a judge.
  • It is not designed to take decisions, but only to process facts and to make them available to judges looking for an input for a decision

However, contrary to the popular perception, adoption of technology by the courts during pandemic has not reduced pendency of cases. Evidence from National judicial data grid  shows that despite considerable investment to digitalise judicial infrastructure and administration, Pendency of cases reached an all-time high during

this year of virtual functioning of the courts.

Limitations of Digital justice delivery:

Uneven digital access: Adequate data speed and data volume are basic needs which are not uniformly available across the country. This creates disparity between different courts in accessing eCourts systems and services.

Technology adoption: Lawyers in semi urban and rural districts find online hearings challenging, not only due to connectivity issues but also because of unfamiliarity with this way of working  technology, no matter how advanced, cannot be a substitute for judges.

Technology is not value neutral. It often reinforces the existing biases and stereotypes in the society. Since AI works on data, there is a chance that some communities of the society are labelled as potential criminals and Habitual offenders

Data security: lack of adequate date safety infrastructure jeopardise the potential benefits of digitisation of Judiciary

Huge Vacancies: The India Justice Report 2020 pegs vacancies in the High Court at 38% (2018-19) and in lower courts at 22% for the same period. Given such a huge number of vacancies, technology alone cannot address the issue of pendency of cases

Hence, Technology can be a game changer, but it is not a panacea for the ills plaguing courts. Technology should be complemented by other administrative related judicial reforms for faster, efficient and inclusive justice delivery

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