Poor can’t be burdened with fight against climate change: Mahajan

By Arul Louis,

United Nations : In a strong message to the developed nations, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has said that sustainable development and a victory in the war against climate change cannot be attained on the backs of the poor.

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“The burden of sustainability cannot be placed on the poor,” Mahajan said. “Livelihood concerns of the underprivileged cannot be compromised for lifestyle interests of others.”

Addressing a session of the Preparatory Committee for the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliaments on UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG) and the future agenda Monday, she said: “Our efforts to mainstream sustainability will remain hollow unless we are able to confront the issues of inequity in consumption of global resources and reducing the unsustainable ecological footprints of the developed countries.”

India has been under pressure from developed nations to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions even though it could put its poverty fighting programmes at risk. Though India is often portrayed as the third worst emitter of carbon dioxide, after China and the US, its per capital output of carbon dioxide is only 1.7 tonnes against 17.6 tonnes for the US in 2010, according to the World Bank.

Mahajan reiterated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concept of saving the environment by promoting frugality and respect for nature.

“Indian traditional wisdom emphasises a culture of frugality, of doing more with less, of taking only as much as required from nature and of no wastage,” she said.

“In India, we worship earth, water, air, fire and space which are the five elements of nature. These ideals need to be embraced if we are serious about combating climate change and sustainable development.”

Warning that persistent poverty in many countries was “not only politically untenable” but “also economically unviable and morally indefensible”, she highlighted the global clamour for development. The elections that brought the BJP to power “symbolised a great yearning for growth and development by the people of India”, she said.

“Ending poverty must be the central and overriding objective of the new development agenda for the post-2015 period,” she said.

The preparatory committee is meeting here ahead of the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament to be held next year in the run-up to the UN Summit which is expected to set new development goals to follow the MDG. One of the issues that the speakers’ conference will take up is promoting gender equality.

Speaking at another committee session on mainstreaming gender equality, Mahajan, who is the second woman to be the speaker of the Lok Sabha, said: “India was among the early pioneers of gender empowerment. Our freedom struggle and subsequent political evolution has given women equal political rights, including at the grassroots level.”

Now, she said, “India is fully committed to the promotion of gender equality and for utilising enabling technologies, in particular information communication technology (ICT), for the empowerment of women.”

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected])