Daily Current Affairs for 20th December 2022

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Criminalising consensual relationships

GS Paper 2: Government policies and interventions

Important for

Prelims exam: About Regulation to stop Acid attack

Mains exam: Impact of Acid Attack in Society

Why in News?

India is home to the largest adolescent population in the world. The National Family Health Surveys indicate that a significant proportion of Indian teenagers are sexually active.

Misuse of POCSO

  • According to an analysis by Enfold Proactive Health Trust, ‘romantic cases’ (where the relationship was consensual, according to the girls, their family members, or the court) constituted 24.3% of the total cases registered and disposed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act between 2016 and 2020 by special courts in Assam, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
  • While POCSO’s objective is to protect children below 18 years from sexual abuse, its unintended effect has been the criminal prosecution and the deprivation of liberty of young people in consensual relationships.
  • The law is also used by parents of adolescent girls to curtail sexual expression and “safeguard family honour”.
  • The ensuing criminal investigation and trial and the simultaneous inquiry under the child protection system have an adverse impact on the adolescents’ development, education, employment, self-esteem, social reputation, and family life.
  • For the adolescent boys, the long-term consequences of a conviction for statutory rape are incarceration and inclusion in the sex offender’s registry.

Provisions of POCSO Act

  • The law casts adolescent girls as “victims”, thus rendering them voiceless. These girls are institutionalised in children’s homes when they refuse to return to their parents. Adolescent boys are by default treated as children in conflict with the law and can even be tried as adults. Such blanket criminalisation of consensual sexual acts among or with adolescents is in gross oversight of their sexual development, bodily integrity and autonomy, and violates their right to life, privacy, and dignity. The penal approach also impedes adolescents’ right to barrier-free access to sexual and reproductive health services and information recognised under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram. The mandatory reporting obligation under the POCSO Act and the fear of the partner being reported to the police deters girls from availing themselves of medical services and inadvertently pushes them towards unsafe abortions.
  • The inclusion of consensual and non-exploitative acts involving adolescents detracts from the purpose of the POCSO Act and diverts time and resources from the investigation and trial of actual cases of sexual violence and exploitation. The median time between the lodging of the FIR and the disposal of such romantic cases was 1.4 years in Assam and 2.3 years each in Maharashtra and West Bengal.

Data Related to POCSO Cases

  • According to Crime in India, 2021, 92.6% of cases under the POCSO Act were pending disposal. Consensual cases among these are overburdening the criminal justice system.
  • The futility of using the criminal law to regulate adolescent sexuality is also evinced by the abnormally high acquittal rates (93.8% in romantic cases) and the fact that the girl did not say anything incriminating against the accused in 81.5% of the cases.
  • Further, in 46.5% of the cases, the victims were married to the accused. The acquittal rate in these cases was 98.1% as many courts did not wish to disturb the marital life of the couple.

Views of High Court and United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

  • Many High Courts have recognised that adolescent relationships are normal and criminalisation of such acts affects both parties. In Vijayalakshmi v. State Rep. (2021), the Madras High Court cited evidence that “adolescent romance is an important developmental marker for adolescents’ self-identity, functioning and capacity for intimacy”.
  • The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in General Comment No. 20 on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence urged states to balance protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse with respect for their evolving autonomy and recommended that “[s]tates should avoid criminalizing adolescents of similar ages for factually consensual and non-exploitative sexual activity.”
  • In 2019, it urged states to remove status offences, which criminalise adolescents who engage in consensual sexual acts with one another.

Way forward

  • Comprehensive sexuality education is needed to bridge knowledge gaps, build positive skills and attitudes so as to enable adolescents to make informed decisions and navigate through interpersonal relationships, while also realising the importance of their health and dignity.
  • Equal efforts need to be directed towards imparting knowledge, skills and attitudes to vulnerable groups such as children with disabilities or those out of schools.
  • An amendment needs to be considered to the POCSO Act and the Indian Penal Code to decriminalise consensual acts involving adolescents above 16 years, while also ensuring that those above 16 years and below 18 years are protected against non-consensual acts.
  • A provision recognising consent by those above 16 years may be considered, while criminalising acts against them if it is against their will, without their consent, or where their consent has been obtained through fear of death or hurt, intoxication, or if the accused is in a position of authority.
  • Till such time as the law is amended, law enforcement agencies, child welfare committees and juvenile justice boards may consider exercising the discretion available to them under existing provisions in the best interest of children, so as to avoid/minimise the harm caused by arrest, apprehension, and institutionalisation of adolescents in consensual cases.

The minimum tax on big businesses

GS Paper 3: Growth

Important for

Prelims exam: About Global Minimum Tax

Mains exam: Need of Global Minimum Tax

Why in News?

Members of the European Union last week agreed in principle to implement a minimum tax of 15% on big businesses.

Key Points

  • Last year, 136 countries had agreed on a plan to redistribute tax rights across jurisdictions and enforce a minimum tax rate of 15% on large multinational corporations.
  • It is estimated that the minimum tax rate would boost global tax revenues by $150 billion annually.

What is it?

  • EU members have agreed to implement a minimum tax rate of 15% on big businesses in accordance with Pillar 2 of the global tax agreement framed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last year.
    • Under the OECD’s plan, governments will be equipped to impose additional taxes in case companies are found to be paying taxes that are considered too low.
    • This is to ensure that big businesses with global operations do not benefit by domiciling themselves in tax havens in order to save on taxes.
  • Pillar 1 of the OECD’s tax plan, on the other hand, tries to address the question of taxing rights.
    • Large multinational companies have traditionally paid taxes in their home countries even though they did most of their business in foreign countries.
  • The OECD plan tries to give more taxing rights to the governments of countries where large businesses conduct a substantial amount of their business.
    • As a result, large U.S. tech companies may have to pay more taxes to governments of developing countries.

What is the need for a global minimum tax?

  • Corporate tax rates across the world have been dropping over the last few decades as a result of competition between governments to spur economic growth through greater private investments.
  • Global corporate tax rates have fallen from over 40% in the 1980s to under 25% in 2020, thanks to global tax competition that was kick-started by former Ministers.
  • The OECD’s tax plan tries to put an end to this “race to the bottom” which has made it harder for governments to shore up the revenues required to fund their rising spending budgets.
  • The minimum tax proposal is particularly relevant at a time when the fiscal state of governments across the world has deteriorated as seen in the worsening of public debt metrics.

What lies ahead?

  • Some governments, particularly those of traditional tax havens, are likely to disagree and stall the implementation of the OECD’s tax plan.
  • High tax jurisdictions like the EU are more likely to fully adopt the minimum tax plan as it saves them from having to compete against low tax jurisdictions.
  • Low tax jurisdictions, on the other hand, are likely to resist the OECD’s plan unless they are compensated sufficiently in other ways.
  • It should be noted that, even within the EU, countries such as Poland have already tried to stall the adoption of the global minimum tax proposal citing various non-economic reasons.
  • Since the OECD’s plan essentially tries to form a global tax cartel, it will always face the risk of losing out to low-tax jurisdictions outside the cartel and cheating by members within the cartel.
  • After all, countries both within and outside the cartel will have the incentive to boost investments and economic growth within their respective jurisdictions by offering lower tax rates to businesses.
  • This is a structural problem that will persist as long as the global tax cartel continues to exist.

What good will the OECD’s tax plan do to the global economy?

  • Supporters of the OECD’s tax plan believe that it will end the global “race to the bottom” and help governments collect the revenues required for social spending.
  • Many believe that the plan will also help counter rising global inequality by making it tougher for large businesses to pay low taxes by availing the services of tax havens.
  • Critics of the OECD’s proposal, however, see the global minimum tax as a threat.
    • They argue that without tax competition between governments, the world would be taxed a lot more than it is today, thus adversely affecting global economic growth.
    • In other words, these critics believe that it is the threat of tax competition that keeps a check on governments which would otherwise tax their citizens heavily to fund profligate spending programs.

What are carbon markets and how do they operate?

GS Paper 3: Environmental pollution and degradation

Important for

Prelims exam: About Carbon Market

Mains exam: Significance of Carbon Market

Why in News?

The Parliament passed the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 on Monday, December 12, declining the Opposition’s demands to send it for scrutiny to a parliamentary committee and amid concerns expressed by members over carbon markets. The Bill amends the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, to empower the Government to establish carbon markets in India and specify a carbon credit trading scheme.

What are carbon markets?

  • In order to keep global warming within 2°C, ideally no more than 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be reduced by 25 to 50% over this decade.
  • Nearly 170 countries have submitted their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) so far as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which they have agreed to update every five years.
  • NDCs are climate commitments by countries setting targets to achieve net-zero emissions. India, for instance, is working on a long-term roadmap to achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2070.
  • In order to meet their NDCs, one mitigation strategy is becoming popular with several countries carbon markets.
  • Article 6 of the Paris Agreement provides for the use of international carbon markets by countries to fulfil their NDCs.
  • Carbon markets are essentially a tool for putting a price on carbon emissions they establish trading systems where carbon credits or allowances can be bought and sold. A carbon credit is a kind of tradable permit that, per United Nations standards, equals one tonne of carbon dioxide removed, reduced, or sequestered from the atmosphere. Carbon allowances or caps, meanwhile, are determined by countries or governments according to their emission reduction targets.
  • A United Nations Development Program release this year noted that interest in carbon markets is growing globally, i.e, 83% of NDCs submitted by countries mention their intent to make use of international market mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What are the types of carbon markets?

There are broadly two types of carbon markets that exist today compliance markets and voluntary markets.

  • Voluntary markets are those in which emitters corporations, private individuals, and others buy carbon credits to offset the emission of one tonne of CO 2 or equivalent greenhouse gases.
    • Such carbon credits are created by activities which reduce CO 2 from the air, such as afforestation.
    • In a voluntary market, a corporation looking to compensate for its unavoidable GHG emissions purchases carbon credits from an entity engaged in projects that reduce, remove, capture, or avoid emissions.
    • For Instance, in the aviation sector, airlines may purchase carbon credits to offset the carbon footprints of the flights they operate. In voluntary markets, credits are verified by private firms as per popular standards.
    • There are also traders and online registries where climate projects are listed and certified credits can be bought.
  • Compliance markets set up by policies at the national, regional, and/or international level are officially regulated.
    • Today, compliance markets mostly operate under a principle called ‘cap-and-trade”, most popular in the European Union (EU).

EU’s emissions trading system (ETS)

  • Under the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) launched in 2005, member countries set a cap or limit for emissions in different sectors, such as power, oil, manufacturing, agriculture, and waste management.
  • This cap is determined as per the climate targets of countries and is lowered successively to reduce emissions.
  • Entities in this sector are issued annual allowances or permits by governments equal to the emissions they can generate.
  • If companies produce emissions beyond the capped amount, they have to purchase additional permit, either through official auctions or from companies which kept their emissions below the limit, leaving them with surplus allowances.This makes up the ‘trade’ part of cap-and-trade.
  • The market price of carbon gets determined by market forces when purchasers and sellers trade in emissions allowances. Notably, companies can also save up excess permits to use later.
  • Through this kind of carbon trading, companies can decide if it is more cost-efficient to employ clean energy technologies or to purchase additional allowances.
  • These markets may promote the reduction of energy use and encourage the shift to cleaner fuels.
  • Since government-regulated trading schemes provide a clear trajectory, indicating how emission limits would be made tighter and allowances made decreasingly available, they may prompt companies to innovate, invest in, and adopt cost-efficient low-carbon technologies.
  • The World Bank estimates that trading in carbon credits could reduce the cost of implementing NDCs by more than half by as much as $250 billion by 2030.

Other Countries Emission Trading System

  • Other national and sub-national compliance carbon markets also operate around the world China launched the world’s largest ETS in 2021, estimated to cover around one-seventh of the global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Markets also operate or are under development in North America, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, and New Zealand.
  • Last year, the value of global markets for tradeable carbon allowances or permits grew by 164% to a record 760 billion euros ($851 billion), according to an analysis by Refinitiv. The EU’s ETS contributed the most to this increase, accounting for 90% of the global value at 683 billion euros. As for voluntary carbon markets, their current global value is comparatively smaller at $2 billion.

International Organization on Emission Trading

  • The U.N. international carbon market envisioned in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is yet to kick off as multilateral discussions are still underway about how the inter-country carbon market will function.
  • Under the proposed market, countries would be able to offset their emissions by buying credits generated by greenhouse gas-reducing projects in other countries.
  • In the past, developing countries, particularly India, China and Brazil, gained significantly from a similar carbon market under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997.
  • India registered 1,703 projects under the CDM which is the second highest in the world. But with the 2015 Paris Agreement, the global scenario changed as even developing countries had to set emission reduction targets.

What are the challenges to carbon markets?

UNDP Concerns

  • It points out serious concerns pertaining to carbon markets- ranging from double counting of greenhouse gas reductions and quality and authenticity of climate projects that generate credits to poor market transparency.
  • There are also concerns about what critics call greenwashing companies may buy credits, simply offsetting carbon footprints instead of reducing their overall emissions or investing in clean technologies.

International Monetary Fund Concern

  • As for regulated or compliance markets, ETSs may not automatically reinforce climate mitigation instruments.
  • The International Monetary Fund points out that including high emission-generating sectors under trading schemes to offset their emissions by buying allowances may increase emissions on net and provide no automatic mechanism for prioritizing cost-effective projects in the offsetting sector.

The UNDP emphasises that for carbon markets to be successful, “emission reductions and removals must be real and aligned with the country’s NDCs”. It says that there must be “transparency in the institutional and financial infrastructure for carbon market transactions”.

What does the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, say about carbon markets and what are the concerns?

  • The Bill empowers the Centre to specify a carbon credits trading scheme. Under the Bill, the central government or an authorised agency will issue carbon credit certificates to companies or even individuals registered and compliant with the scheme. These carbon credit certificates will be tradeable in nature. Other persons would be able to buy carbon credit certificates on a voluntary basis.
  • Opposition members pointed out that the Bill does not provide clarity on the mechanism to be used for the trading of carbon credit certificates whether it will be like the cap-and-trade schemes or use another method and who will regulate such trading.
  • Members also raised questions about the right ministry to bring in a scheme of this nature, pointing out that while carbon market schemes in other jurisdictions like the U.S., United Kingdom, and Switzerland are framed by their environment ministries, the Indian Bill was tabled by the power ministry instead of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Another important concern raised is that the Bill does not specify whether certificates under already existing schemes would also be interchangeable with carbon credit certificates and tradeable for reducing carbon emissions.
  • Notably, two types of tradeable certificates are already issued in India Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Energy Savings Certificates (ESCs).
    • These are issued when companies use renewable energy or save energy, which are also activities which reduce carbon emissions.
    • The question, thus, is whether all these certificates could be exchanged with each other.
    • There are concerns about whether overlapping schemes may dilute the overall impact of carbon trading.

COP-15 summit adopts historic biodiversity deal

GS Paper 3: Conservation

Important for

Prelims exam: About COP-15

Mains exam: Significance of CoP-15

Why in News?

The global framework comes on the day the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, or COP15 is set to end in Montreal. China, which holds the presidency at this conference, released a new draft on Sunday that gave the sometimes contentious talks much-needed momentum.


  • The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an international meeting bringing together governments from around the world.
  • Participants will set out new goals and develop an action plan for nature over the next decade.
  • The conference held in Montréal, Quebec, the seat of the UN CBD Secretariat, from December 7 – 19, 2022.
  • COP15 focused on protecting nature and halting biodiversity loss around the world.
  • The Government of Canada’s priority is to ensure the COP15 is a success for nature.
  • There is an urgent need for international partners to halt and reverse the alarming loss of biodiversity worldwide.


  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was first signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
  • Its main objectives are: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
  • The CBD is dedicated to promoting sustainable development and the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and microorganisms and their ecosystems it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.
  • The CBD Secretariat is located in Montréal, Quebec.

Outcomes of CoP-15

  • A suggestion in a draft text of the agreement to phase out agricultural subsidies. 
  • One of the proposed recommendations in the draft text is reducing the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals by at least half by 2030. 
  • The most significant part of the agreement is a commitment to protect 30% of land and water considered important for biodiversity by 2030, known as 30 by 30. Currently, 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas are protected.
  • The deal also calls for raising $200 billion by 2030 for biodiversity from a range of sources and working to phase out or reform subsidies that could provide another $500 billion for nature. As part of the financing package, the framework asks for increasing to at least $20 billion annually by 2025 the money that goes to poor countries. That number would increase to $30 billion each year by 2030.
  • Financing emerged late in the talks and risked derailing an agreement. Several African countries held up the final deal for almost nine hours. They wanted the creation of a new fund for biodiversity but agreed to the creation of one under the pre-existing Global Environmental Facility.
  • Congo opposed the deal because it didn’t set up that special biodiversity fund to provide developing countries with $100 billion by 2030.
  • Mr. Huang swept aside the opposition and the documents that make up the framework were adopted. The convention’s legal expert ruled Congo never formally objected to the document. Several other African countries, including Cameroon and Uganda, sided to no avail with Congo and said they would lodge a complaint.
  • The ministers and government officials from about 190 countries have mostly agreed that protecting biodiversity has to be a priority, with many comparing those efforts to climate talks that wrapped up last month in Egypt.
  • Climate change coupled with habitat loss, pollution and development have hammered the world’s biodiversity, with one estimate in 2019 warning that a million plant and animal species face extinction within decades a rate of loss 1,000 times greater than expected.
  • Humans use about 50,000 wild species routinely, and 1 out of 5 people of the world’s 8 billion population depend on those species for food and income, the report said.
  • But they struggled for nearly two weeks to agree on what that protection looks like and who will pay for it.
  • Brazil, speaking for developing countries during the week, said in a statement that a new funding mechanism dedicated to biodiversity should be established and that developed countries provide $100 billion annually in financial grants to emerging economies until 2030.
  • The Wildlife Conservation Society and other environmental groups were concerned that the deal puts off until 2050 a goal of preventing the extinction of species, preserving the integrity of ecosystems and maintaining the genetic diversity within populations. They fear that timeline is not ambitions enough.

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