The Union budget for 2020–21 marginally increased the budgetary allocation for the environment ministry from the last fiscal year by nearly five per cent, with no change in the amount allotted to pollution control and climate change. Presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, Rs 3,100 crore has been allocated to the ministry, out of which Rs 460 crore goes towards pollution-abatement measures. These amounts do not portend too well for the fight against global warming and may be interpreted as a sign of the extent of the government’s commitment towards this urgent issue.
For the Climate Change Action Plan, the funds provided in the budget amount to Rs 40 crore, same as last fiscal. The allocation for National Mission for Green India has seen an increase from Rs 240 crore in the last financial year to Rs 311 crore. The national afforestation programme gets Rs 246 crore, an improvement over last year’s amount of Rs 179 crore. The funding for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is about Rs 5,753 crore.
For wildlife, Project Tiger got a cut of Rs 50 crore bringing its current allocation down to Rs 300 crore, while some love was shown to Project Elephant, which received Rs 35 crore, an increase of Rs 5 crore. No such stepmotherly treatment for Swachh Bharat Mission, which gets Rs 12,300 crore, a 28 per cent increase.
Fortunately, air pollution has received much-needed budgetary attention: Rs 4,400 crore will be provided to states to formulate comprehensive plans for ensuring clean air—a significant increase in terms of allocation. ‘The government proposes to encourage such states that are formulating and implementing plans for ensuring cleaner air in cities above one million. Parameters for the incentives would be notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change. Allocation for this purpose is ₹4,400 crore for 2020–21,’ said Sitharaman.
On the country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, Sitharaman said that a lot of work under the 2015 Paris Agreement would kick in from 1 January 2021 on the ‘best effort basis’. The reason for this one-year gestation period is unclear and so is the meaning of the phrase ‘best effort’.