Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
India in a Warming WorldIntegrating Climate Change and Development$

Navroz K. Dubash

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780199498734

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199498734.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 November 2021

Climate Change, Civil Society, and Social Movement in India

Climate Change, Civil Society, and Social Movement in India

(p.253) 15 Climate Change, Civil Society, and Social Movement in India*
India in a Warming World

Pradip Swarnakar

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

In India, climate change-related activities are primarily managed by the government, but civil society organizations (CSOs) are an integral part of policy formulation and implementation. This chapter aims to illustrate the operations of Indian CSOs that primarily focus on climate change. The chapter has four primary objectives. First, it elucidates what Indian CSOs have achieved from discursive possibilities and openings created by the global climate change debate. Second, it interprets the climate sustainability and justice frameworks to evaluate the work of Indian CSOs. Third, it expands the concept of climate justice framework into two directions based on its geographical scale of focus. Finally, it discusses the international collaboration of Indian CSOs either as members of international coalitions or in joint deliberations in international climate meetings.

Keywords:   civil society, climate justice, climate sustainability, climate movements, climate policy, non-government organizations, environmental movement, activism, international coalitions

Climate change is an unavoidable issue in India because a large number of Indians live in geographically vulnerable areas periodically affected by climate-related extreme weather events. In India, climate change-related activities are primarily managed by the government, but civil society organizations (CSOs)1 are an integral part of policy formulation and implementation. India has a vibrant civil society working in various fields of environment and development, with a considerable emphasis on climate change–related issues. This (p.254) engagement varies from policy advocacy and scientific research to community-based adaptation and grassroots mobilization.

The CSOs in the Global North are engaged in nature conservation and preservation associated with wilderness movements. However, in India, environmental activism follows a different discourse called ‘environmentalism of the poor’ (Martinez-Alier 2014), wherein protest is an outcome of the livelihood crises faced by marginalized populations that are highly dependent on natural resources (like forests and water). These protests have emerged as a result of governmental development agendas linked to the creation of dams, deforestation, and mining activities (Guha and Martinez-Alier 1997). When the climate change debate was surfacing globally in the early 1990s, based on concerns about global warming and its negative impacts, like rising sea-levels and biodiversity loss, Indian environmentalists were ‘ambiguous about engaging with climate change’ activism (Lele 2012: 208). Like other developing countries, India was more concerned with the challenges of development than the threat of climate change (Lele 2012). In order to support the developmental agenda of the government, CSOs in India were more concerned with developmental challenges like education, health, and other rural and urban development issues. The issue of climate change created a puzzle in the discourse of environmentalism of the poor, but, according to some, ‘climate change has brought environmentalism into the political mainstream’ (Dubash 2009b: 63).

Thus, for CSOs working on environmental issues in India, climate change is an opportunity to extend their environmental activism. However, the method of activism may not necessarily follow the Northern discourse regarding global warming and biodiversity loss. Instead, environmentalism of the poor, or livelihood-related discourse, can create a useful framework to engage with climate change. Concerning climate activism in India, the CSOs can play two crucial roles: (i) they can play a part in community-based approaches to the government’s adaptation and mitigation policies; and (ii) through championing these practices, they can demonstrate how economic development can be decoupled from the burning of fossil fuels. However, CSOs may undermine their legitimacy to the extent that these activities are seen as oppositional to the development and economic growth goals of the government and corporations. (p.255)

Based on this background, the purpose of this chapter is to illustrate the activities of Indian CSOs that primarily focus on climate change. The chapter is divided into four sections. The first section elucidates what CSOs can gain from discursive possibilities and openings created by the global climate change debate. Focusing on the politics of CSOs’ overall climate change–related activities, the next section elaborates two distinct frameworks by which CSOs’ engagement can be understood: (i) the ‘climate sustainability frame’, wherein CSOs’ activities are more focused on issues which generally avoid confrontation with the national government or corporations; and (ii) the ‘climate justice frame’, wherein CSOs focus on human rights, highlighting the vulnerabilities of marginal communities, in direct or indirect conflict with the government and corporations. The third section discusses how the climate justice framework can carry two different connotations based on its geographical scale of focus. When CSOs discuss historical emissions and international justice, they legitimize the policy position of the national government. However, when other CSOs discuss domestic injustice and vulnerabilities of the poor as a result of national policy and corporate atrocities, they delegitimize the national government. The fourth and final section discusses international collaboration by Indian CSOs either as members of international coalitions or in joint deliberations in international climate meetings.

Climate Change as a Christmas Tree: Discursive Possibilities and Openings

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was established in India in 1985 in line with the Indian constitutional scope, which states that ‘the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country’ (Divan and Rosencranz 2001: 45). Until 2007, climate change was mainly a foreign-policy issue collaboratively handled by the Ministry of External Affairs and the MoEF (Dubash and Joseph 2016: 46). Then, the establishment of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change (PMCCC) in 2007 widened the scope to include the media, businesses, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (Aamodt and Stensdal 2017: 117). For the environmental CSOs in India, ‘local (p.256) environmental and developmental issues were the main concern for decades’ (Aamodt and Stensdal 2017: 121). However, in the early twenty-first century, CSOs began to link their existing work with global climate change (Lele 2012). This process of engagement with climate change can be described through a ‘Christmas tree’ model, wherein everyone (including CSOs) hung their favourite baubles or their existing areas of focus in the global climate change debate (Hulme 2009). It has been observed that, 2007 onwards, CSO engagement with climate change issues began increasing substantially. This ‘rapid increase in the number and diversity of organizations’ focusing on climate change is known as the process of crowding-in (Ylä-Anttila and Swarnakar 2017: 279). The crowding-in of Indian CSOs evolved from five distinct mechanisms, mostly influenced by the activities of global institutions: the expansion of discursive opportunities; the effects of global conferences; the network effects created by expanding global CSO networks; the adoption and innovation of action repertoires; and global pressure effects that propel states to act in ways that create opportunities for CSOs (Ylä-Anttila and Swarnakar 2017: 274).

The first mechanism is the expansion of discursive opportunities, which demonstrates that climate change is already in the global discourse and Indian CSOs have achieved the opportunity to reframe their issues in line with this global debate. Second, international climate events, such as the annual United Nations climate conferences (Conference of the Parties [COP]) and other related events, attract a large number of CSOs from the Global South, particularly from India, to exhibit domestic and grassroots activities. Third, the personal and inter-organizational network of Indian CSOs creates the opportunity to mobilize funds and ‘boost national-level mobilization on a global issue’ related to climate change. Fourth, to promote climate change awareness, CSOs can follow traditional social movement repertoires, but they can also innovate new repertoires. Finally, the process of crowding-in follows the mechanism of global pressure effect, which creates political opportunities for CSOs at the state and local level, primarily through various global institutions (Ylä-Anttila and Swarnakar 2017: 281–7).

Scholars have argued that the creation of major policies related to climate change in India have been influenced by global climate (p.257) change negotiations (Dubash 2009a; Vihma 2011). From the discussion here, it may be concluded that Indian CSOs gained considerable opportunities 2007 onwards to increase engagement with climate change–related activities. However, the activities of CSOs do not always follow government mandates, and they sometimes even create conflict. The next section will discuss how the politics of climate change is inextricably intertwined with the science of climate change and how the activities of Indian CSOs are related.

Decoupling Politics from Science: Climate Sustainability and Climate Justice

At the macro level, climate change is caused by a disturbed carbon cycle, which means that more carbon is entering the atmosphere than it has a natural capacity to recycle. This problem can be solved either by using more efficient or innovative technologies or ‘by changing the exploitative nature of development’ (Roy 2015: 31). Most nation-states do not want to compromise their respective developmental agendas or the quality of life of their citizens. Therefore, they either look for technological fixes or dodge the problem by denying/questioning the science, or claiming the right to development. Moreover, in the last 50 years, the primacy of science in global warming politics has failed to produce meaningful results because the solutions have largely depended on the relationship between scientists, environmentalists, and politicians, which has changed over time (Howe 2016). Even if people wish to take action based on scientific knowledge, it is complicated to determine the economic feasibility of such action. Scholars have argued the (im)possibility of decoupling economic growth and negative ecological impact (Fletcher and Rammelt 2017).

To elaborate on the activities of Indian CSOs, the decoupling of the politics of climate change actions and climate science must be discussed.2 In the last three decades, climate science has proven (p.258) (with objective facts and data) that global warming is occurring and if the process continues, then the existence of the earth and human beings will be jeopardized (Chapters 2 and 3 in this volume). The scientific knowledge, in other words, demands action concerning mitigation and adaptation by stakeholders. Possible actions include economic, technological, and policy support from national governments, intergovernmental agencies, and corporations. In this context, CSOs’ actions are mainly directed towards compelling institutional leaders to act on the scientific knowledge in order to create a sustainable society, particularly for ordinary citizens. All participants in the climate debate have a political agenda or position because climate, like all environmental problems, is an inherently political issue.3 For example, if the government wants to pass a new law to reduce fossil fuels, then the government will be in opposition with the fossil fuel industry.

The nuanced relationship between government and industry pushes the CSOs4 to adopt one of two strategic frameworks. The first is the climate sustainability framework, which is primarily targeted at the betterment of the environment, breakthroughs in climate science, and innovations in climate-friendly technology. The CSOs that work in this strategic frame are apolitical because they avoid directly confronting other interest groups, such as the national government or corporations. There are two main reasons for choosing this framework. First, the organization might be focused on climate science research in line with international bodies like Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Second, the organization could be instrumental for setting the government’s (p.259) agenda with regard to climate mitigation policy. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is the oldest and most prominent organization in India (Chapter 7 in this volume) that often contributes to IPCC assessment reports and framing of mitigation policy (Dubash 2015).5 In recent years, a group of non-government think tanks have actively engaged with the government’s climate policy, particularly sustainable energy transition models (Dubash 2015: 2). For example, the founder of Delhi-based Integrated Research and Action for Development is a former member of the Planning Commission and is involved in the policy process of low-carbon strategies and inclusive growth (Planning Commission 2014). Other CSOs, like the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), Center for Study of Science, Technology & Policy (CSTEP), and Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF),6 have written post-Paris policy road maps directing future energy transition pathways (Chaturvedi, Koti, and Chordia 2018; Sridhar et al. 2018; SSEF 2018).

Alternatively, there is a group of CSOs whose activities are part of a climate justice framework.7 The CSOs working in this framework advocate for environmental justice and emphasize inclusive solutions to climate change because the people at the bottom of the pyramid are the first victims of climate disasters due to lack of resources and adaptability (Bullard and Johnson 2000). Moreover, CSOs in this category believe that while the government is focused on a technological fix, ‘the poor are demonstrating the best practice for mitigating and adapting to climate change’ (Roy 2015: 39). For these CSOs, vulnerability and adaption of the (p.260) local community are key issues. For example, organizations like the Hazards Centre (Roy 2015), Delhi Science Forum (Raghunandan 2012), Environics Trust, and Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (Ray et al. 2011) are often critical to climate policy because they focus on human rights–based approaches to vulnerability and adaptation of marginalized communities. This strategic frame of action is very much political because it often targets a specific organization or institution which is responsible for contributing to climate change. This can be a multinational corporation, foreign government or even the national government, or a local industry. Furthermore, this framework actively addresses class differences between the rich and poor. In most cases, rich people or countries are responsible for creating climate problems, while the poor suffer the consequences.

Indian CSOs employing both climate sustainability and climate justice frameworks agree with climate science and believe that climate change is real and anthropogenic. This is because the public discourse in India, unlike in the United States (US), has generally accepted climate change as a scientific reality, and there is very little denial of global climate change (Billet 2010; Kukkonen et al. 2018). It is important to note that the two framing categories are not mutually exclusive. An organization can engage in activities from both frameworks. It is easy to identify whether a specific activity is based on the sustainability or justice framework. For example, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is a major knowledge-based organization which has engaged in both climate science and policy as well as justice issues (Gough and Shackley 2001). The idea of climate justice is complicated and often debated. The political opportunity structure8 of CSOs varies depending on whether their focus is on the international or national domain. The next section will elaborate on two different types of climate justice claims.

(p.261) Two Sides of Climate Justice: International versus Domestic

Climate politics represents struggles over the sharing and sustaining of valued goods, particularly natural and common property resources. Climate justice9 arguments focus on the unequal distribution of climate change effects which were caused, or are being caused, by a certain group of people: ‘Asymmetries of cause and effect in climate change directly reflect global development divides, making the question of how to address climate change unalterably a question of justice’ (Goodman 2009: 501). This discussion of justice is based on moral and normative claims of who is responsible for creating the problem and who is suffering or going to suffer most.10 Before discussing CSOs’ climate justice activities, the policy position of the Indian government and its close relation with the concept of climate justice should be examined. In global climate negotiations, India has been a ‘staunch advocate and defender of the Kyoto Protocol principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR)’ (Raghunandan 2012: 123; see also Kukkonen et al. 2018; Lele 2012), which emphasizes the ecological debt (Srinivasan et al. 2008) of the developed countries responsible for historical emissions. This position is based on the concept of international climate justice. The primary advantage of this position is that India, as a developing country, can easily escape any legally binding commitment.

This position is influenced by a report from the CSE (Lele 2012), which clearly differentiates between the survival emissions of the poor (p.262) and the luxury emissions of the rich (Agarwal and Narain 2012).11 In India’s policy domain, this long-standing position is sacrosanct and, to a great extent, above critical assessment. For example, during the Copenhagen climate conference, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh ‘sought to position India as a forward-looking player in climate negotiations’ by emphasizing domestic action (Dubash and Joseph 2016: 48). This ‘narrative re-formulation’ immediately resulted in strong opposition from various policy actors in India, including mainstream CSOs, who claimed that ‘domestic climate policy in India should be minimally linked to the international process’ (Dubash and Joseph 2016: 48). More recently, during the Paris climate conference,12 India submitted its pledge in the form of the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). The title of the report clearly highlights the term ‘climate justice’ (Government of India [GoI] 2015). For the GoI, the idea of climate justice is regarded as being owed an ecological debt. During the Marrakesh COP, Environment Minister Anil M. Dave said that ‘climate justice for India was the same as receiving finance from developed countries’ (Venkat 2016). From the aforementioned discussion, it may be concluded that if Indian CSOs advocate for international climate justice, then they are actually supporting or legitimizing the policy position of the state. In this situation, there is much less chance of conflict with the national bureaucratic apparatus, and it may even create opportunities for CSOs to receive funding from government departments.

On the other hand, another group of CSOs argue domestic injustice and vulnerabilities of the poor, attributing these to (p.263) insufficient national policies and corporate atrocities. The domestic climate justice framework is not appreciated by the government, and on many occasions it has been confronted with repressive measures by the state. Before the establishment of the PMCCC or the crowding-in of Indian CSOs, a noticeable climate justice movement occurred during the COP 8 Summit in New Delhi in 2002. The protest group was a coalition of fishermen from Kerala and West Bengal representing the National Fishworkers’ Forum and farmers from the Andhra Pradesh Vyavasay Vruthidarula Union (Agricultural Workers and Marginal Farmers Union). They were supported by activists including those from Narmada Bachao Andolan, indigenous peoples from the northeast, and groups from mining-impacted areas of Odisha (Khastagir 2002; Pettit 2004: 103; Roberts and Parks 2009: 385–6). The organizers of the movement called it the ‘human face of the rising movement for Climate Justice’ (Khastagir 2002).

Three important points should be noted in this context. First, CSOs working within the domestic climate justice framework do not accept market-based principles because they believe that a market-based capitalist ecosystem is primarily responsible for today’s climate change. Second, they are closely associated with the concept of environmentalism of the poor and the struggles of marginalized people to maintain their traditional livelihoods. Such struggles are local and many associations are active in their local communities, and thus are connected with people’s livelihoods (for example, farmer or fisherman’s unions). Third, when activists raise issues about domestic-level justice (both environmental and climate, which are interconnected13), then they may face state repression. In the past, ‘environmental activists have been beaten up, vilified and shot for campaigning against the building of dams and the relocation of multinational corporations on their home soil’ (Rowell 1996: 1). During the anti-coal movement, Greenpeace India faced strong retaliation from the government (Talukdar 2018). Moreover, scholars have argued that state–NGO relationships can be characterized (p.264) by ‘hostility of politicians, party workers, local élites, lower level bureaucrats, and lower level employees of the state toward NGO activity’ (Sen 1999: 327).

The CSOs in India are often involved in climate justice (both international and domestic), but the very idea of climate justice has been adopted by the government and used as a long-standing strategy for international negotiation. This could help CSOs that focus on climate justice to avoid immediate conflict with the government. However, in some cases, particularly in local environmental struggles, the government and CSOs have come into conflict (Ylä-Anttila et al. 2015). The CSOs often engage in climate change and related environmental debates, but ‘the multitude is not bracketed by unified antagonism’ (Harms and Powalla 2014: 190). To overcome domestic hurdles, is it possible for local small-scale CSOs to receive support (moral and financial) from an international audience, mainly international environmental organizations? In this context, it is essential to understand the opportunities of those CSOs that have become members of international climate coalitions or presented their stories in annual COP meetings. The next section will elaborate on this issue.

The Power of Network and Collective Bargaining

In the Indian climate domain, representatives of NGOs are ‘actively involved in network building initiatives, such as CANSA’ (Azhoni, Holman, and Jude 2017: 152). The Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA)14 was established in 1991 by a group of ‘South Asian NGOs and scientists who were concerned about the adverse impact of global climate change on the poor and most vulnerable sections of the society’ (Behera 2012: 17). In 2018, CANSA had 160 member organizations from 8 countries.15 Members of CANSA have the opportunity to work on national and sub-national issues. Being a member of this global platform, a CSO can connect with other like-minded CSOs in India or other South Asian countries. (p.265) This network works closely with the government and has become a significant bridge between the CSOs and the government. For example, before the Paris COP 21, CANSA acknowledged the need for India’s rights to economic development and highlighted the government’s effort towards renewable energy solutions. The CANSA report stated:

India’s goals for economic growth are ambitious. ... There is progress from the Modi government on renewable energy (RE), and promises to build smart cities, model villages, to develop solar power and to deliver electricity for all. … the dominant view of government is that growth is required before resources can be invested in climate action: growth first, climate action later. ... We make the convincing case that moving to sustainable energy now could deliver India’s desired growth and development objectives. (CANSA 2015: 2; emphasis added)

Another significant coalition in climate action is Climate Justice Now! (CJN!), a global network of CSOs campaigning for climate justice. The CJN! was founded at the 2007 UNFCCC meeting in Bali, and it strongly mobilized CSOs during UNFCCC meetings in Copenhagen and Cancun. In 2007, CJN! asserted four core climate action principles: (i) those who have benefited most from economic growth should be responsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and funding renewable energy; (ii) natural resources should be distributed fairly; (iii) there should be equal participation in decision making; and (iv) those who are suffering the worst effects of climate change should be compensated (Kluttz and Walter 2018: 95; Koukouzelis 2017). Climate Action Network (CAN) is a dominant member of the UNFCCC system, and some non-state actors were not happy with its overall approach. The CJN! emerged from ‘a split from the remainder of the ENGO constituency where the mainstream Climate Action Network (CAN) allocated the constituency focal point’ (Kuyper, Bäckstrand, and Schroeder 2017: 98). In 2014, CJN! included 730 member organizations, 29 of which were from India (CJN! 2014).16 (p.266)

The overall objectives of these two important climate coalitions are different, and Indian CSOs can receive different membership benefits from them. If a CSO is working from a sustainability or international climate justice framework (supporter of growth first, CBDR policy), then membership with CANSA can lead to vital opportunities. Alternatively, if the CSO is more radical and has a conflict of interest with the state (supporter of domestic justice or anti-fossil fuel activity), then the CJN! network can be a compelling opportunity to mobilize moral and financial support. There is a clear distinction between these two groups: the ‘first generation of the reform-oriented pragmatic climate movement, embodied in CAN, and the second generation anti-capitalist, system-critical radical climate justice movement of CJN!’ (Kuyper, Bäckstrand, and Schroeder 2017: 98). Apart from being a member of a transnational civil society network, a CSO can also exhibit its activities by participating in international climate negotiations at COPs, particularly during smaller events.

It has been well documented that NGOs have been key players in the early development of the climate regime (Bäckstrand et al. 2017). From the beginning, ‘civil society has been an important and defining feature’ in all of the mega climate change meetings (COP) and until 2009, ‘over half (51 percent) came from civil society, representing over 1,300 NGOs’ (Cabré 2011: 10). During COP 21 in Paris, more than 2,000 observer organizations were accredited and admitted (Kuyper, Bäckstrand, and Schroeder 2017: 95). In order to assess the potential opportunities of the international network, Indian CSOs often participate in annual COP meetings. By analysing the participation network of Indian CSOs during smaller events, Swarnakar and Ylä-Anttila (2016) found that a few clusters of organizations, primarily disconnected from the larger influential organizations, regularly participate in exhibiting their views on grassroots problems. It has also been found that justice-based organizations, like the Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society and Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights and Values in India, have a core collaboration network with the organizations from India, South Asia, and developed countries. However, CSOs like TERI, that operate from both the climate sustainability framework and the international justice framework, are connected with the prominent research and funding organizations of developed nations.

(p.267) Need for a Grand Narrative

This chapter broadens the understanding of complex, multi-layered relationships between climate change, civil society, and related social movements in India. India has a long history of environmental activism tied to livelihood concerns of marginalized communities, often labelled the ‘environmentalism of the poor. At the time of India’s prominent environmental justice movements like Narmada and Chipko, both of which focused on the impacts of state policies and actions on local livelihoods, climate justice was not part of the mainstream discourse. From 2007, however, a large number of CSOs moved beyond the framework of local livelihood issues to engage in climate-related issues. The Indian climate justice movement is descended from both the traditional environmentalism of the poor and the Indian climate change movement of CSOs crowding-in after 2007. However, neither arm of the Indian climate change movement has succeeded in giving birth to a collective narrative of climate justice. Looking at the history of engagement in climate change policy, it can be inferred that, in India, the idea of climate justice has been, to a large extent, adopted by the government and used as a mainstream policy agenda for international negotiations. However, it is difficult to integrate CSOs’ actions into a single narrative because Indian civil society is also somewhat conflicted, wanting to hold both the Indian government and the North accountable. Finally, Indian CSOs, particularly those with a more radical domestic justice focus, are confined to local issues and fail to create a grand narrative linked to global climate issues (like 2 degrees, 350 parts per million, and so on). The future success of Indian climate change activism depends on reclaiming the climate justice narrative from the government. Whether Indian CSOs will accomplish this through international networks or by building local power is yet to be seen.


Bibliography references:

Aamodt, Solveig and Iselin Stensdal. 2017. ‘Seizing Policy Windows: Policy Influence of Climate Advocacy Coalitions in Brazil, China, and India, 2000–2015’, Global Environmental Change, 46(September): 114–25.

Agarwal, Anil and Sunita Narain. 2012. ‘Global Warming in an Unequal World’, in Navroz K. Dubash (ed.), Handbook of Climate Change and (p.268) India: Development, Politics and Governance, p. 81. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Azhoni, Adani, Ian Holman, and Simon Jude. 2017. ‘Adapting Water Management to Climate Change: Institutional Involvement, Inter-institutional Networks and Barriers in India’, Global Environmental Change, 44(September): 144–57.

Bäckstrand, Karin, Jonathan W. Kuyper, Björn-Ola Linnér, and Eva Lövbrand. 2017. ‘Non-state Actors in Global Climate Governance: From Copenhagen to Paris and Beyond’, Environmental Politics, 26(4): 561–79.

Behera, Navnita Chadha. 2012. ‘SAARC and Beyond: Civil Society and Regional Integration in South Asia’, in Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Sridhar Khatri, and Hans-Peter Brunner (eds), Regional Integration and Economic Development in South Asia, pp. 3–42. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Billett, Simon. 2010. ‘Dividing Climate Change: Global Warming in the Indian Mass Media’, Climatic Change, 99(1–2): 1–16.

Bond, Patrick and Michael K. Dorsey. 2010. ‘Anatomies of Environmental Knowledge & Resistance: Diverse Climate Justice Movements and Waning Eco-neoliberalism’, The Journal of Australian Political Economy, 66: 286–316.

Bullard, Robert D. and Glenn S. Johnson. 2000. ‘Environmentalism and Public Policy: Environmental Justice: Grassroots Activism and Its Impact on Public Policy Decision Making’, Journal of Social Issues, 56(3): 555–78.

Cabré, Miquel Muñoz. 2011. ‘Issue-Linkages to Climate Change Measured through NGO Participation in the UNFCCC’, Global Environmental Politics, 11(3): 10–22.

Chaturvedi, Vaibhav, Poonam Nagar Koti, and Anjali Ramakrishnan Chordia. 2018. Sustainable Development, Uncertainties, and India’s Climate Policy: Pathways towards Nationally Determined Contribution and Mid-Century Strategy. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA). 2015. ‘India’s Triple Challenge: Growth, Development and Climate Change’, November. Available at http://www.cansouthasia.net/pdf_files/Triple_Challenge.pdf; accessed on 23 May 2018.

Climate Justice Now! (CJN!). 2014. ‘CJN! Network Members’. Available at http://web.archive.org/web/20150405192316, http://www.climate-justice-now.org/category/climate-justice-movement/cjn-members; accessed April 2015. (p.269)

Cohen, Jean L. and Andrew Arato. 1992. Civil Society and Political Theory. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Divan, Shyam and Armin Rosencranz. 2001. Environmental Law and Policy in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Dubash, Navroz K. 2009a. ‘Toward a Progressive Indian and Global Climate Politics’, CPR Climate Initiative Working Paper No. 1, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, 1 September.

———. 2009b. ‘Environmentalism in the Age of Climate Change’, Seminar, 601: 63–6.

———. 2013. ‘The Politics of Climate Change in India: Narratives of Equity and Cobenefits’, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 4(3): 191–201.

———. 2015. ‘Critical Knowledge Gaps That Influence India’s Role in Global and Domestic Climate Change Platforms’. New Delhi: Centre for Policy Research.

Dubash, Navroz K. and Neha B. Joseph. 2016. ‘Evolution of Institutions for Climate Policy in India’, Economic & Political Weekly, 51(3): 45–54.

Duwe, Matthias. 2001. ‘The Climate Action Network: A Glance Behind the Curtains of a Transnational NGO Network’, Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law, 10(2): 177–89.

Fletcher, Robert and Crelis Rammelt. 2017. ‘Decoupling: A Key Fantasy of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda’, Globalizations, 14(3): 450–67.

Goodman, James. 2009. ‘From Global Justice to Climate Justice? Justice Ecologism in an Era of Global Warming’, New Political Science, 31(4): 499–514.

Government of India (GoI). 2015. ‘India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution: Working towards Climate Justice’. Available at http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Published%20Documents/India/1/INDIA%20INDC%20TO%20UNFCCC.pdf; accessed on 22 May 2018.

Gough, Clair and Simon Shackley. 2001. ‘The Respectable Politics of Climate Change: The Epistemic Communities and NGOs’. International Affairs, 77(2): 329–46.

Guha, Ramachandra and Joan Martinez-Alier. 1997. Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South. New Delhi: Routledge.

Harms, Arne and Oliver Powalla. 2014. ‘India—The Long March to a Climate Movement’, in Matthias Dietz and Heiko Garrelts (eds), Routledge Handbook of the Climate Change Movement, pp. 179–93. Abingdon: Routledge.

Howe, Joshua P. 2016. Behind the Curve: Science and the Politics of Global Warming. Seattle: University of Washington Press. (p.270)

Hulme, Mike. 2009. Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity. UK: Cambridge University Press.

Isaksen, Kari-Anne and Kristian Stokke. 2014. ‘Changing Climate Discourse and Politics in India: Climate Change as Challenge and Opportunity for Diplomacy and Development’, Geoforum, 57(November): 110–19.

Khastagir, N. 2002. ‘The Human Face of Climate Change: Thousands Gather in India to Demand Climate Justice’, Corporate Watch, 4 November. Available at https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/211/44309.html; accessed 15 May 2018.

Kluttz, Jenalee and Pierre Walter. 2018. ‘Conceptualizing Learning in the Climate Justice Movement’, Adult Education Quarterly, 68(2): 91–107.

Koukouzelis, Kostas. 2017. ‘Climate Change Social Movements and Cosmopolitanism’, Globalizations, 14(5): 746–61.

Kukkonen, Anna, Tuomas Ylä-Anttila, Pradip Swarnakar, Jeffrey Broadbent, Myanna Lahsen, and Mark C.J. Stoddart. 2018. ‘International Organizations, Advocacy Coalitions, and Domestication of Global Norms: Debates on Climate Change in Canada, the US, Brazil, and India’, Environmental Science & Policy, 81(March): 54–62.

Kuyper, Jonathan, Karin Bäckstrand, and Heike Schroeder. 2017. ‘Institutional Accountability of Nonstate Actors in the UNFCCC: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty’, Review of Policy Research, 34(1): 88–109.

Lele, Sharachchandra. 2012. ‘Climate Change and the Indian Environmental Movement’, in Navroz K. Dubash (ed.), Handbook of Climate Change and India: Development, Politics and Governance, pp. 208–17. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Martinez-Alier, Joan. 2014. ‘The Environmentalism of the Poor’, Geoforum, 54: 239–41.

Oivo, Katariina. 2014. ‘Inspired Justice Environmentalism: Action and Moral Argumentation of Indian Civil Society on Climate Change’, Masters Dissertation, University of Helsinki.

Okereke, Chukwumerije and Philip Coventry. 2016. ‘Climate Justice and the International Regime: Before, During, and After Paris’, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 7(6): 834–51.

Pettit, Jethro. 2004. ‘Climate Justice: A New Social Movement for Atmospheric Rights’, IDS Bulletin, 35(3): 102–6.

Planning Commission. 2014. The Final Report of the Expert Group on Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth. New Delhi: Government of India.

Raghunandan, D. 2012. ‘India’s Climate Policy: Squaring the Circle’, IDS Bulletin, 43(s1): 122–9.

Ray, M., N. Doshi, N. Alag, and R. Sreedhar. 2011. ‘Climate Vulnerability in North Western Himalayas’, A contribution to the ongoing nation-wide (p.271) climate studies vulnerability in various eco-regions of India, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change.

Roberts, J. Timmons and Bradley C. Parks. 2009. ‘Ecologically Unequal Exchange, Ecological Debt, and Climate Justice: The History and Implications of Three Related Ideas for a New Social Movement’, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 50(3–4): 385–409.

Rowell, Andrew. 1996. Green Backlash: Global Subversion of the Environment Movement. Routledge.

Roy, Dunu. 2015. ‘A Subaltern View of Climate Change’, Economic & Political Weekly, 50(31): 31–9.

Schlosberg, David and Lisette B. Collins. 2014. ‘From Environmental to Climate Justice: Climate Change and the Discourse of Environmental Justice’, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 5(3): 359–74.

Sen, Siddhartha. 1999. ‘Some Aspects of State–NGO Relationships in India in the Post-Independence Era’, Development and Change, 30(2): 327–55.

Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF). 2018. Integrating Renewable Energy Modelling with Power Sector Planning for India: Production and Reliability Simulations for 2022. New Delhi: SSEF.

Sridhar, Harshid, Thirumalai N.C., Vaishalee Dash, and Mridula D. Bharadwaj. 2018. Transition to All-Electric Public Transportation: Energy Resource Assessment. Bangalore: Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy.

Srinivasan, U. Thara, Susan P. Carey, Eric Hallstein, Paul A.T. Higgins, Amber C. Kerr, Laura E. Koteen, Adam B. Smith, Reg Watson, John Harte, and Richard B. Norgaard. 2008. ‘The Debt of Nations and the Distribution of Ecological Impacts from Human Activities’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(5): 1768–73.

Swarnakar, P. and T. Ylä-Anttila. 2016. ‘Social Movement Organizations, Epistemic Communities or a “Third Sector”? The Divergent Roles of Indian Civil Society Organizations in Policy Networks of Climate Change’, Third ISA Forum of Sociology, Vienna, 10–14 July.

Talukdar, Ruchira. 2018. ‘Reigniting a Debate on Coal: Case Study on the Indian Government’s Crackdown on Greenpeace’, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 10(1): 47–62.

Tarrow, Sidney. 1994. Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective Action and Mass Politics. UK: Cambridge University Press.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). 2016. Strategizing Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions in India. Report 2013GW13. New Delhi: TERI.

Venkat, V. 2016. ‘India Demands “Climate justice”’, The Hindu, 2 December. Available at http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/India-demands-%E2%80%98climate-justice%E2%80%99/article16643833.ece; accessed on 5 May 2018. (p.272)

Vihma, Antto. 2011. ‘India and the Global Climate Governance: Between Principles and Pragmatism’, The Journal of Environment & Development, 20(1): 69–94.

Ylä-Anttila, Tuomas and Pradip Swarnakar. 2017. ‘Crowding-in: How Indian Civil Society Organizations Began Mobilizing around Climate Change’, The British Journal of Sociology, 68(2): 273–92.

Ylä-Anttila, Tuomas, Pradip Swarnakar, Sadaf Javed, and Katariina Oivo. 2015. ‘How to Avoid Seeing Like a State: Learning from CSOs’, Economic & Political Weekly, 50(17): 14–16.


(*) I would like to thank Navroz Dubash, Stephen Zavestoski, Tuomas Ylä-Anttila, and Ambuj Sagar for their comments.

(1) Civil society is a loosely defined concept, often considered to be the third force of a society, the others being the state and economy (Cohen and Arato 1992: ix). For this chapter, the term CSO is used to mean a non-profit organization not formally bound by business or governmental interests but which might, nonetheless, engage with them in its advocacy work.

(2) To summarize the climate policy position of India, Dubash (2009a) has outlined three archetypical political perspectives adopted by various climate actors, including CSOs: (i) growth-first realists have a rigid policy agenda on domestic action; (ii) sustainable development realists demand both national and global equity with co-benefits; and (iii) sustainable development internationalists are driven by the idea of domestic action and linking it to the national and global policy process. Taking cue from Dubash, Isaksen and Stokke (2014: 114) exhibit three discourses in Indian climate politics: Third World, win-win, and radical green.

(3) The term ‘political’ is being used in a non-pejorative way, in the sense of value loaded.

(4) In India, the activities of CSOs can be classified mainly into five types of climate change activities: raising awareness, advocacy, research, mitigation, and adaptation (Oivo 2014).

(5) For example, see the TERI (2016) report regarding nationally appropriate mitigation action strategies in India.

(6) In 2014, SSEF provided technical support for a government briefing paper for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 20. Available at http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/press-releases/Indian_Country_Paper_Low_Res.pdf; accessed on 4 September 2018.

(7) Here, justice refers to a moral or ethical obligation to share the burden of negative impacts of climate change. The idea of climate justice is discussed in more detail in the next section.

(8) Sidney Tarrow (1994: 76–7) defined political opportunity structures as the ‘consistent—but not necessarily formal or permanent—dimensions of the political environment that provide incentives for collective action by affecting people’s expectations for success or failure.’

(9) The definition of climate justice is contested and covers a range of approaches, from a demand for historical responsibility to per-capita equity to developmental, human, and environmental rights-based arguments. Climate justice means ‘moving to a post-carbon energy system, paying for the ecological and social damage of climate change, and protecting the voice and sovereignty of the most vulnerable’ (Schlosberg and Collins 2014: 367).

(10) In this context, Bond and Dorsey (2010: 293–4) identified five climate justice positions for elite or mainstream NGOs: the development rights approach; a related right or need to industrialize; a negotiated North/South approach; a human rights approach; and a commitment to carbon markets. They also mentioned that none of these five positions actually help to build a climate movement.

(11) The CSE and TERI are two of the most influential CSOs to shape government policy (Isaksen and Stokke 2014: 113). The CSE, TERI, and MoEF were instrumental in creating a climate advocacy coalition with the core belief that ‘India should concentrate on adaptation policies, and on mitigation policies that can provide co-benefits for basic developmental problems’ (Aamodt and Stensdal 2017: 121; see also Dubash 2013).

(12) The success of the Paris Agreement was mainly based on the voluntary commitments of nation-states. It has been observed that during COP 21, ‘despite the rise of neo-conservatism and self-interested power politics, questions of global distributive justice remain a central aspect of the international politics of climate change’ (Okereke and Coventry 2016: 834).

(13) The climate justice movement may be understood as ‘an addition to, or extension of, environmental justice perspectives’ (Kluttz and Walter 2018: 94).

(14) The CANSA is the South Asian branch of the transnational NGO network, Climate Action Network (CAN) (see Duwe 2001).

(15) See http://www.cansouthasia.net; accessed 23 May 2018.

(16) The website is no longer active and the data were gathered from archives.