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Civil Society and the Climate Change Movement in India: A Critical Evaluation of Development-Environment Dialectic from Rio to Paris

Sat, September 1, 9:00 to 10:30am, ICC, E5.3


India holds a dual position in today's global climate politics. On the one hand India is a major contributor to carbon emissions, and on the other it is a developing economy with low per capita and historic emissions. In climate debates, India positions itself as a developing nation with an urgent need to meet the basic needs of its citizens. The “right to development” narrative has been strengthened with the idea of “common but differentiated responsibility.” Therefore, the concept of climate justice has had a predominantly outward focus towards global equity. Against this backdrop, our paper aims to identify critical civil society narratives on climate justice and their movements against national and international actors. To examine the dynamics of the climate movement in India, we focussed on the period from the Rio Earth summit to COP21 in Paris. Employing the conceptual framework of "climate-dialectic," we critically evaluated significant networks and mobilisations around climate change, or other related movements whose impact may be attributed to mitigating climate change. We found that most movements initiated as local resistances to protect livelihoods and human rights of communities, although anti-coal and anti-dam projects were also likely to impact the debate. In conclusion, we have highlighted that unlike Northern countries, India lacks a grand narrative on climate change movement mobilized by transnational environmental non-governmental organizations. Instead, the Indian movement can be regarded as a mosaic of dispersed mobilisations that challenge the deleterious effects of development, from which common themes for an emergent climate justice debate can be drawn.