‘We have not inherited the planet from our fathers, we have borrowed it from our children’
The only probable reason that could bring together and unite the leaders of the world is Environmental Pollution and Global warming. These predicaments have been long discussed and debated subjects of the 21st Century. Pollution, in the disguise of development, has brought our planet on to a brink of destruction. Activists and organizations from different corners of the world have been fighting the long-lost battle of sustainable development and a pollution free environment. But in the past few decades, governments and legal systems of different nations have also joined in this battle to ensure that the world of tomorrow is not a lost cause.
Domestic statutes and international conventions are being enacted in order to minimize the lethal effects of our past delinquencies towards the environment, which has presented itself in the form of Global Warming. The new 'odd-even cars formula' of the Delhi Government and the UN Climate Change Conference of 2015 [theConference] in Paris, held from November 30th, 2015 to December 12th, 2015 clearly unveils the exigency and seriousness of the situation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 7 million people died in 2012 due to exposure from air pollution. Such statistics can only be decreased by imposing strict and stringent laws for both the public and the governments. The 'odd-even cars formula' in Delhi is focused on reducing air pollution at the public level in the National Capital Region of India, while the Conference is leveled to impact the decisions and legislation of all the various governments in the globe.
The Infamous Odd-Even Formula
A judicial tornado of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) flocked the Courts of Delhi after the State Government publicized its intentions of implementing a rule that focuses on cutting down air pollution in the city, just a day after the Delhi High Court compared the city to a 'gas chamber'. The courts in the capital city have seen countless petitions and litigations aimed at revoking the disturbance in the lifestyle of Delhi-ites due to its smoky streets. The deterioration of Monuments and widespread disease due to pollutants is affecting daily lives of residents. Delhi has been the victim of air pollution due to industrialization as well as increasing motor vehicles leading to noise pollution.
The Delhi State Government aims at bringing down the levels of pollutants in the atmosphere by allowing private vehicles with odd and even registration numbers to be on the roads only on alternate days from January 1st, 2016. This means that private vehicles which have an even registration number would be allowed to be on the roads on a particular day, while those vehicles with an odd registration number would be permitted on the roads the next day. The Government expects to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads of the city, which would, in turn, reduce the per day carbon emissions into the atmosphere. It is set to come into effect on a 15-day trial basis starting from the first day of the year.
A number of vehicles such as two-wheelers (bikes, scooters etc.), CNG or hybrid vehicles, women-only cars, VIPs cars, police and army vehicles are exempted from the plan so as to ensure the keen performance of the functions of the executive, legislative and judicial functions of the National Capital Region. With the powers conferred upon the State Government under Section 200 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (Law No. 59 of 1988), a fine of INR 2,000/- [AED 110/-] would be levied from the defaulters of the new rule. The rule would be implemented only on weekdays from 8 am – 8 pm. Heavy and light vehicles that run on diesel are the intrinsic factors that raise the alarm of pollution in the city. Therefore, the applicability of the rule, in such a cramped city, is subject to multiple determinants.
The Delhi Government has acted in pursuance of Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Indian Constitution which has laid down some of the fundamental principles that are to be followed by the State in the implementation of laws and governance of the country. Article 48A of the Constitution, as brought about by the Forty Second Amendment, enunciates that the State shall strive to protect and improve the environment. Reducing the pollution levels in the National Capital of the country could come under the ambit of the principle. Governments and authorities of the developing countries should take more effort to ensure a clean and pollution-free environment for its citizens. Precise and uncompromising legislation regarding environmental protection and sustenance is the only recourse that is left for trying to bring awareness to the public as ultimately we are responsible for the damages that have occurred to our surroundings.
Metropolis, such as Beijing (China) and Bogota (Columbia), have already implemented similar pollution-control rules, to tackle the advancing population of cars in the streets of these overcrowded cities, in the past. Beijing had imposed its alternative-day driving ban just ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics to take the grip of the ballooning pollution in the city. This had helped in a pollution-rate drop by up to twenty percent. India hopes to achieve corresponding results in curbing pollution.
The world meets in Paris
The government delegates of over 190 countries sat together in Paris and discussed the possibilities of tying down the annual rise in global temperature due to the emission of greenhouse gases that rises from the increased dependency on fossil fuels. It was the 21st session of the Conference of Parties [the COP] to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [the UNFCCC] and the 11th session of the COP to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. Global warming and its effects on general population have now come under the eye of the law-makers of many nations.
The existing international treaties that impose obligations on various countries will terminate in 2020. Hence, the Conference aims at regulating the greenhouse gas emissions for another decade, after the current obligations run out. The Conference negotiated the Paris Agreement [the Agreement], a global agreement between the attending parties to strive to reduce the pace at which the climate is changing. The Agreement seeks to oppress the rate of increase in global temperature to less than 2°C and would be legally binding only if joined by at least 55 countries that are responsible for a minimum of 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Such interested party countries would have to sign the agreement between April 22nd, 2016 and April 21st, 2017 and adopt it within their own legal system through ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
What is the prime factor in the implementation of any project? Finance! Developed countries have already exploited the environment to its optimum limit in order to achieve the advancement of technology and economy. But the case is different from developing countries and least developed countries; they neither have the required technology nor the financial capabilities to cap the pollution that they cause on a daily basis. Most countries lack the domestic resources that are the sine qua non to support the innovations which would help in adopting practices that would minimize the emission of greenhouse gases and therefore, their capacity to react to the change in global climate is very limited. A control can be brought over the emissions of greenhouse gases only if the nations are funded and regularized with the necessary technology that is required to put these global agreements into effect. Article 15 of the Agreement reiterates the developed country parties and other organizations and institutions to make contributions to country parties, which does not have the appropriate resources, for easing their transition to a clean energy economy. The countries would be required to make amendments to their domestic ecological, economic and social systems so as to retaliate to the expected change in climatic stimuli within their domestic jurisdictions. But the sanctions for violations of International Agreements under International Law are not appalling and therefore the liability of the nations to strictly adhere to the provisions of the Agreement is limited.
Effect on the Middle East
Most of the countries in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Sudan, Somalia, and UAE are Non-Annex 1 Parties to the UNFCCC. Many of these countries are developing countries who are directly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and are, hence, more prone to desertification and drought. The average temperature in this region is already considerably high and a further increase could have catastrophic results. Low-income countries such as Sudan and Somalia have lesser resources to engage in this fight against the pollution and global warming. Therefore, their position is comparatively weaker to that of the well-developed Western countries.
Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE, which has enormous resources of fossil fuels are more vulnerable to the responsive measures that could be taken to cut down the rate of greenhouse emissions. With a decline in the imports and consumption of fossil fuels by other countries, these Gulf countries that heavily depend on the income from fossil fuels could be skeptically affected. The countermeasures by importing countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions will certainly have the economic impact on the Gulf countries. The UNFCCC has emphasized activities that would answer the concerns of the vulnerable countries regarding insurance, investments and technology sharing. Environmental pollution and global warming not only affects the atmosphere and surroundings but also the economic stability of these countries, which makes the issue far more serious to them. With a rising trend in the use of renewable sources of energy, the proceeds from oil exports of the Gulf countries could considerably reduce. Due to the intense pressure from oil exporting countries, it was necessary for the negotiators of the Agreement to consider the concerns of these countries who would now have to set carbon-reduction targets and allow major finances in order to facilitate the transition.
The mammoth task of environment protection along with sustainable economic development needs support both financial and legislative to ensure and lure governments of various types of economies. It will be interesting to witness the implementation of the formulas would affect economies and attain development simultaneously. Please feel free to direct any inquiries on environmental law to our team of lawyers in Dubai and other offices across UAE.