Daily Current Affairs 31.08.2021 (India is indeed walking the green talk, Marital rape: an indignity to women, India supports Palestine peace process: Shringla

Daily Current Affairs 31.08.2021 (India is indeed walking the green talk, Marital rape: an indignity to women, India supports Palestine peace process: Shringla


1.India is indeed walking the green talk

Even with all its challenges, the country is setting a global example in meeting its Nationally Determined Contributions

Did you know that even at the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (December 2020), India was the only G20 nation compliant with the agreement? Or that the country has been ranked within the top 10 for two years consecutively in the Climate Change Performance Index, released by an independent international organisation that evaluates the performance of countries emitting 90%+ of global greenhouse gases (GHGs)? Or that the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme is the world’s largest zero-subsidy LED bulb programme for domestic consumers?

A world comparison needed

Despite these accomplishments, global pressures are intensifying on India to commit more towards the Conference of the Parties (COP26), scheduled for November 2021 in Glasgow. Early this year, the COP26 President, Alok Sharma, and the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, visited India. In July, the U.S. called out to every significant economy for committing to a meaningful reduction by 2030.

That brings us to the question. Is it fair to apply pressure on India to raise its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) committed in the Paris Agreement? We can attempt to answer the question by comparing the achievements of other countries vis-à-vis India’s performance, given that climate change is a global public good and there is a free-rider problem — not much incentive for countries to contribute their fair share since they can enjoy benefits even otherwise.

Let us first gather the historical perspective. Examining World Bank data for CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) over two decades since the Kyoto protocol informs that at the current rate, both China and the U.S. could emit five times more than India in 2030. The U.K.’s emission levels could be more than 1.5 times that of India. Brazil, with its dense forests, may end up at similar levels.

On China and the U.S.

Among recent efforts, last year, China, the world’s largest GHG emitter, joined the ‘race to zero’ and targets carbon neutrality by 2060. Interestingly, it hopes to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 for bending the emissions curve. The Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis tracking governments’ actions, also expressed its concern stating, “Most worryingly, China remains committed to supporting the coal industry while the rest of the world experiences a decline, and is now home to half of the world’s coal capacity.” Recently, the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement and committed to reducing emissions by 50%-52% in 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. While they re-energise their fight on climate change, legislation may not be straightforward, given the Democrats’ strength in Congress. Such ambitions will also require much more near-term investment than even the U.S. President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package.

France and Australia

The French government, during the novel coronavirus pandemic, set green conditions for bailing out its aviation industry. However, the analysts say that no baseline for reducing emissions from domestic flights was fixed, and it is unclear what measures were adopted to promote rail for domestic travel.

An Australian Prime Minister, in 2018, lost his chair on a proposal to address climate change through an emissions-reduction target. The complicated domestic politics prevented them from addressing the problem, despite the country being vulnerable, and stretches of the famous Great Barrier Reef having died in recent years. It was, at least, the third instance in Australia when climate issues brought down its Prime Minister. It illustrates how difficult it is for governments to develop policies to mitigate climate change.

Walking it like talking it

In comparison, with all its challenges, India is on track (as reports/documents show) to meet and exceed the NDC commitment to achieve 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based sources by 2030; this share is 38.18% (November 2020). Similarly, against the voluntary declaration for reducing the emission intensity of GDP by 20%-25% by 2020, India has reduced it by 24% between 2005-2016. More importantly, we achieved these targets with around 2% out of the U.S.$100 billion committed to developing nations in Copenhagen (2009), realised by 2015.

As part of its mitigation efforts, India is implementing one of the most extensive renewable energy expansion programmes to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030. India has also coupled its post-pandemic revival with environmental protection. As part of the fiscal stimulus, the Government announced several green measures, including a $26.5-billion investment in biogas and cleaner fuels, $3.5 billion in incentives for producing efficient solar photovoltaic (PV) and advanced chemistry cell battery, and $780 million towards an afforestation programme.

Some activists feel that India needs to demonstrate action at the global level. However, we need to appreciate that among many steps, India provided leadership for setting up the International Solar Alliance, a coalition of solar-resource-rich countries, and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, a partnership of governments, United Nations agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and knowledge institutions.

The developed nations could also intensify their pressure especially on jurisdictions not meeting the Paris Agreement goals. At this stage, India can always share independent international assessments, acknowledging that our climate action is among the few compatible with the well-below 2°C warming target. India’s contribution to global emissions is well below its equitable share of the worldwide carbon budget by any equity criterion.

To sum up, India has indeed walked the talk. Other countries must deliver on their promises early and demonstrate tangible results ahead of COP26. In any case, we can always suo motu revise the NDC for the first stocktake (2023) while simultaneously protecting our interests. The responsibility of sustaining the entire planet does not rest on a few countries; everyone has to act.

Why in News

Recently, India has reiterated her commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, prior to the Climate Ambition Summit which will start from 12th December 2020 at Glasgow, Scotland.

  • The Climate Ambition Summit 2020 will mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, and will provide a platform for government and non-governmental leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the multilateral process.

Key Points

  • Climate Ambition Summit 2020:

    • Objective: To set out new and ambitious commitments under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement that are mitigation, adaptation and finance commitments.
    • Scope: The Summit will provide a meaningful platform for businesses, cities and other non-state actors who are rallying together and collaborating to support governments and accelerate the systemic change required to reduce emissions and build resilience.
    • Hosted By: The United Nations, United Kingdom and France in partnership with Chile and Italy.
  • History of Emissions:
    • As the most abundant Greenhouse Gas (GHG) in our atmosphere, carbon dioxide (CO2) has become a direct proxy for measuring climate change. Its levels have varied widely over the course of the Earth’s 4.54 billion year history.
    • Historically it’s the developed countries that have been major contributors to carbon emissions.
    • Historical Emissions:
      • The United States (US) has the highest historical emissions at 25%, followed by the European Union (EU) at 22% and China at 13%.
      • India has a low carbon emission contribution of only 3%.

Paris Climate Accord

  • Legal status: It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change.
  • Adoption: It was adopted by 196 countries at Conference of the Parties COP 21 in Paris in December 2015.
  • Goal: To limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius, and preferably limit it to 1.5° Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • Objective: To achieve the long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century.
  • Current Status of Global Emissions:
    • Five years after the Paris agreement, all states have submitted their national contributions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
    • The contributions are radically insufficient to reach the well below 2 degrees Celsius limit and are even further from the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature limit identified in the Paris Agreement.
    • Besides India, only Bhutan, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Morocco and Gambia were complying with the accord.
    • China has the highest GHG emissions (30%) while the US contributes 13.5% and the EU 8.7%.
  • India’s Current Emissions:
    • A United Nations report released earlier this year stated that India’s per capita emissions are actually 60% lower than the global average.
    • The emissions in the country grew 1.4% in 2019, much lower than its average of 3.3% per year over the last decade.
    • Some of the Measures taken by India to Control Emissions:
      • Bharat Stage (BS) VI norms: These are emission control standards put in place by the government to keep a check on air pollution.
      • National Solar Mission: It is a major initiative of the Government of India and State Governments to promote ecologically sustainable growth while addressing India’s energy security challenge.
      • National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy 2018: The main objective of the policy is to provide a framework for promotion of large grid connected wind-solar photovoltaic (PV) hybrid systems for optimal and efficient utilization of wind and solar resources, transmission infrastructure and land.
      • All these and many other initiatives helped India in cutting CO2 emissions by 164 million kg.
  • Issues in Achieving the Pledged Targets:
    • Most of the Nations have been slow to update their national contributions for reducing emissions for 2025-2030, however several have announced net zero emission targets in the recent past.
      • Net zero emission means that all man-​made greenhouse gas emissions must be removed from the atmosphere through reduction measures, thus reducing the Earth’s net climate balance.
    • The net zero targets are subject to credibility, accountability and fairness checks.
      • Credibility: The plans and policies of nations is not credible enough to meet the long term net zero targets as :
        • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 degrees Celsius Report indicated that to stay within a reasonable chance of achieving 1.5 degrees Celsius, global CO2 emissions have to fall by 45% from the 2010 levels by 2030 but current national contributions are not on track for such a fall.
      • Accountability: There is limited or no accountability for the long-term net zero goals and short-term national contributions as:
        • Many net zero goals have not yet been embedded in national contributions and long-term strategies under the Paris Agreement.
        • In any case, accountability under the Paris Agreement is limited. States are not obliged to achieve their self-selected targets. There is no mechanism to review the adequacy of individual contributions. States are only asked to provide justifications for the fairness and ambition of their targets.
        • The transparency framework does not contain a robust review function, and the compliance committee is facilitative and limited to ensuring compliance with a short list of binding procedural obligations..
      • Fairness: Issues of fairness and justice, both between and within generations, are unavoidable:
        • There is no mechanism to check that whether the net zero targets, and pathways to net zero are fair or how much are states doing in comparison to others and relative to how much they should.

2.Marital rape: an indignity to women

The marital rape exception is antithetical to women’s dignity, equality and autonomy

The High Court of Chhattisgarh recently decided a criminal revision petition challenging the charges framed against the applicant husband. Based on the allegations of his wife, charges were framed by a trial court under Section 376 (rape), Section 377 (carnal intercourse against the order of nature) and Section 498A (cruelty towards wife by husband or his relatives) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The High Court upheld charges under Sections 498A and 377 but discharged the husband under Section 376 on the ground that by virtue of Exception 2 to Section 375 (the definition of rape), sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife (provided she is over the age of 18) would not amount to the offence of rape.

Since the High Court was bound by the law, which exempts husbands from being tried or punished for raping their wives by creating the legal fiction that all sex within marriage is consensual, no other conclusion was open to the Court. Notwithstanding this, the discrepancies and failings of Indian criminal law, highlighted by the judgment, deserve scrutiny.

Inconsistent provisions

First, the marital rape exception is inconsistent with other sexual offences, which make no such exemption for marriage. Thus, a husband may be tried for offences such as sexual harassment, molestation, voyeurism, and forcible disrobing in the same way as any other man. A husband separated from his wife (though not divorced) may even be tried for rape (Section 376B). A husband may be charged and tried for non-consensual penetrative sexual interactions other than penile-vaginal penetration with his wife under Section 377 (prior to the decision of the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, 2018, consent or lack thereof was not relevant to Section 377, but it is now). As a result, penetrative intercourse that is penile-vaginal is protected from criminal prosecution when performed by a husband with his wife, even when done forcibly or without consent. If there is an underlying rationale to this extremely limited exemption, it is not immediately clear.

Patriarchal beliefs

Second, the marital rape exception is an insult to the constitutional goals of individual autonomy, dignity and of gender equality enshrined in fundamental rights such as Article 21 (the right to life) and Article 14 (the right to equality). In Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018), the Supreme Court held that the offence of adultery was unconstitutional because it was founded on the principle that a woman is her husband’s property after marriage. The marital rape exception betrays a similar patriarchal belief: that upon marriage, a wife’s right to personal and sexual autonomy, bodily integrity and human dignity are surrendered. Her husband is her sexual master and his right to rape her is legally protected.

A commonly cited rationale for preserving the marital rape exemption is that recognising marital rape as a criminal offence would ‘destroy the institution of marriage’. This was the government’s defence in Independent Thought v. Union of India (2017). Rejecting this claim, the Supreme Court astutely observed, “Marriage is not institutional but personal – nothing can destroy the ‘institution’ of marriage except a statute that makes marriage illegal and punishable.” If it is true, however, that criminalising marital rape will destroy the institution of marriage, what does that tell us about this so-called institution? If its very existence depends on husbands’ right to rape their wives, and on the legally sanctioned violation of wives’ sexual autonomy, is this institution worth saving? Does this kind of marriage deserve to be the cornerstone of our society? Surely, we can do better.

Another argument frequently raised against the criminalisation of marital rape is that since marriage is a sexual relationship, determining the validity of marital rape allegations would be difficult. Even if we accept, arguendo, that marriage is necessarily a sexual relationship, this argument does not hold water. It is not marriage that creates a problem in adjudication, but the dangerously erroneous belief that consent may simply be assumed from a woman’s clothes, her sexual history, or indeed, her relationship status. While the current law seems to operate under this misconception, marriage does not signify perpetual sexual consent. Therefore, the determination of consent or lack thereof in the context of a sexual interaction within marriage would be the same as in any other context (especially in other ongoing sexual relationships): through physical evidence, through the prosecutrix’s testimony and through the defence of the accused.

Underlining subordination

It is shocking that Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC survives to this day. Antithetical to the liberal and progressive values of our Constitution, and violative of India’s international obligations under instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the provision underlines women’s subordination to men, especially within marriage. In 2017, the Supreme Court, in Independent Thought, had read down the exception so that husbands who raped their minor wives could no longer hide behind it. It is high time adult women are afforded the same protection and dignity in marriage.

3.India supports Palestine peace process: Shringla

Afghanistan crisis dominates UN Security Council proceedings as India’s presidency draws to a close

India will support “all efforts” to restart the peace process between Israel and Palestine, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla conveyed to the UN Security Council meeting on Monday which also witnessed tabling of an important resolution on Afghanistan.

“Given our long-standing and firm commitment to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine, within secure, recognised and mutually agreed borders, living side by side with Israel in peace and security, India will remain fully supportive of all efforts to restart the peace process,” Mr. Shringla said. India’s presidency of the UNSC will end on Tuesday after a month during which the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan dominated the agenda of the topmost UN organ.

Later in the session, a resolution on Afghanistan drafted by the United Kingdom and France was taken up for discussion and possible voting. The draft resolution seeks protection of civilians and security guarantees for humanitarian access. The text reflects international concerns about the security situation in Afghanistan and its capital Kabul. The humanitarian access mentioned in the draft resolution is aimed at ensuring that people who are willing to leave Afghanistan will be allowed to do so under secure circumstances beyond August 31, the deadline for the U.S. troops to withdraw from the country.

It is understood that the resolution will be used to enforce a window of evacuation for foreign nationals who continue to remain stuck in Kabul. Apart from India and the U.S., many other countries have been unable to evacuate their nationals or allied Afghan personnel. At least 180 Hindu and Sikh Afghans remain in Kabul amid indications that the Taliban have delayed granting permission to them to travel abroad.

The resolution can also be used to force the Taliban to adhere to some of the basic international humanitarian norms. The Taliban have been demanding to take up the issue of representation on behalf of Afghanistan at the UN. But experts here believe it is likely that a discussion on the Taliban’s right to represent Afghanistan at the UN will get “pushed” till the group allows full evacuation of foreigners and others willing to leave Afghanistan.

United Nation Security Council

  • About:
    • The UNs Charter established six main organs of the UN, including the UNSC. Article 23 of the UN Charter concerns the composition of the UNSC.
      • The other 5 organs of the UN are—the General Assembly, the Trusteeship Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat.
    • The UNSC has been given primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and may meet whenever peace is threatened.
    • While other organs of the UN make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.
  • Headquarter:
    • The council is headquartered at NewYork.
  • Members:
    • The UNSC is composed of 15 members, 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent.
      • Five permanent members: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
      • Ten non-permanent members: Elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
    • Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term. The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis.
    • The council’s presidency is a capacity that rotates every month among its 15 members.
  • Voting and Discussions at UNSC:
    • Each member of the Security Council has one vote. Decisions of the Security Council on matters are made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members.
      • “No” vote from one of the five permanent members blocks the passage of the resolution.
    • Any member of the UN which is not a member of the Security Council may participate, without vote, in the discussion of any question brought before the Security Council whenever the latter considers that the interests of that member are specially affected.
  • India as a Permanent Member:
    • India has been advocating a permanent seat in UNSC.
    • India has the following objective criteria, such as population, territorial size, Gross Domestic Product, economic potential, civilisational legacy, cultural diversity, political system and past and ongoing contributions to UN activities especially to UN peacekeeping operations.

4.N. Korea may have restarted N-reactor: IAEA

‘Deeply troubling development’ a sign it is expanding banned weapons programme, says UN agency

Nuclear-armed North Korea appears to have restarted its plutonium-producing reprocessing reactor in a “deeply troubling” development, the UN atomic agency has said, a possible sign Pyongyang is expanding its banned weapons programme.

The development on the 5-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon — North Korea’s main nuclear complex — comes with nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington at a standstill.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered to dismantle part of the Yongbyon complex at a second summit with then U.S. President Donald Trump but not other sites, in exchange for sanctions relief, and his offer was rejected.

North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

“Since early July, there have been indications, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation of the reactor,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in its annual report.

The Yongbyon reactor appeared to have been inactive from December 2018 until then, added the report dated Friday.

IAEA inspectors were kicked out of North Korea in 2009, and the agency has since monitored it from outside.

The possible operation of the reactor follows a recent indication that Pyongyang is also using a nearby radiochemical laboratory to separate plutonium from spent fuel previously removed from the reactor.

The signs of the reactor and laboratory operations were “deeply troubling”, the IAEA said, adding the activities were a “clear violation” of UN resolutions.

A senior U.S. State Department official said Washington was aware of the report and was closely coordinating with partner countries.

“This report underscores the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy so we can achieve the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” the official said.

“We continue to seek dialogue with the DPRK so we can address this reported activity and the full range of issues related to denuclearisation.”

The Biden administration has previously promised a “practical, calibrated approach”, including diplomatic efforts, to persuade the impoverished North to give up its banned weapons programmes.

But Pyongyang has never shown any indication it would be willing to surrender its nuclear arsenal, and this month Mr. Kim’s sister and key adviser Kim Yo Jong demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the peninsula.

Pyongyang has stayed away from nuclear talks since the collapse of the second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi.

International Atomic Energy Agency

  • About:
    • Widely known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace and Development” organization within the United Nations family, the IAEA is the international centre for cooperation in the nuclear field.
  • Establishment:
    • The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations generated by the discoveries and diverse uses of nuclear technology.
  • Headquarter: Vienna, Austria.
  • Objective:
    • The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
      • In 2005, it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for a safe and peaceful world.
  • Functions:
    • It is an independent international organization that reports annually to the United Nation General Assembly.
    • When necessary, the IAEA also reports to the UN Security Council in regards to instances of members’ non-compliance with safeguards and security obligations.
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