This World Environment Day, the new Environment Minister in the Modi government is faced with a host of challenges.
Says E Somanathan, Professor, Economics and Planning Unit, Indian Statistical Institute: “To curb the prevailing (environmental) issues, an independent regulatory body should be constituted.”
The recent Lok Sabha elections may not have debated environment and the looming crisis, but the challenges are there for all to see.
The fast-growing urban areas in our country are fast becoming unlivable. The unacceptably high levels of pollution in several cities, including in Delhi, shows a serious disconnect between the prevalent patterns of urbanization, consumption choices and the environmental concerns.
“We need a correct balance of ecology and economics”, says Hem Pandey, Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). He further opines, “India as a highly populated country with a growing economy and per capita income requires not just implementation of environmental policies but also require scientific and technical support.”
Somanathan informs, “Whenever we burn coal or oil that causes pollution, we have to track all the pollutants involved. The government needs to have a regulatory body to track how much damage is done by various pollutants and put a fee on them appropriately. Due to this fee, people will find those things expensive to use. A pollutant fee for coal, petrol and other pollutants will help the government mitigate the environmental problems.”
Considering the current crisis of water, he adds, “The overarching problem of water scarcity is seeping into the urban cities with the recent case of Chennai etc. The main issue of extraction of groundwater is one of the major causes which is primarily used in agriculture. To curb this, farmers should be given Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) wherein they should pay for the electricity which is currently given free of cost and further conserve water”.
Anand Sharma, Member of Rajya Sabha and Chairman of Standing Committee Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), on the other hand, says: “The prevailing gap between the poor and rich growing is one of the major causes of all these problems”.
The state of the air we breathe
Seventy cities breathe excessively polluted air irrespective of major overarching schemes of various governments. Somanathan says, “We don’t really have a policy. There is no body that is doing a comprehensive assessment of the situation. Moreover, there are various sources adding to the problem of air pollution. We don’t have a technical body comprising of scientists and economists which can assess the situation. However, we need a pollution fee for all the pollutants which will automatically direct people to use cleaner ways of doing things which will decrease the pollution levels tremendously. Pandey adds, “The biggest challenge for India today is not the policies and legal framework for the Environment Ministry but a collative measure of all the sectors where mitigation actions of the growth and development are to be met by state-of-the-art technology.”
How prepared we are as a country:
Climate change leading to more disasters including an increase in the frequency of droughts as well as floods are creating havoc not in India but in other parts of the globe as well. “We need much better planning of reservoirs, information system which should be available to the public and be transparent also. Lack in coordination between the IMD and the authorities which manage the dams and reservoirs also leads to various problems during disasters. We need people with specializations in scientific expertise.
"We need to replicate the institutional structure that is there in developed countries. We need an independent environmental agency that automatically funds and hires all the technical support in terms of manpower and other equipment independently. Currently, we lack all this in the system. Our ministry which is a political body is unsuitable for scientific and technical work. We need to separate scientific and technical decision making from political decision making," adds Somanathan.
Further, Leena Shrivastava, Vice Chancellor of TERI School of Advanced Studies adds, "India needs to prepare a strategy for a Green Economy incorporating concepts of a resource efficient, circular economy. Environmental issues in the industry have to be mainstreamed and not considered as a separate project clearance requirement. All industry activity must be driven towards a net-zero impact outcome in a defined time-frame of five years. In essence, environmental policy should get the same importance as the fiscal policy – after all the environment is rapidly becoming one of the most scarce and endangered factors of production."
With the current state of affairs, economics and environment go hand-in-hand.
The incumbent Environment Minister clearly has his task cut out.Read More
Policies in favour of reducing air pollution will help in monetary benefits. TERI, in its latest research on Delhi air pollution, has revealed that estimates of economic benefits in terms of health from air pollution reduction (to safer limit 100 micro gram per cubic) for a typical household amount is Rs 33,978.12 and for the entire population of Delhi it is Rs 52.4 billion.
In Delhi, a typical household can save about 2.54 per cent per year of their annual income from reduction in pollution exposure to safe levels. In discussions, various facts pertaining to different exposures, particularly on children, instance - hovering of vehicles run of fuel containing lead, high tension wires and their impact on mental ability were discussed.
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The 10th meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) President’s Advisory Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development was held today at ADB headquarters.
The Advisory Group’s discussions focused on the results and implications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C for developing member countries (DMCs) and ADB’s work in the Asia and Pacific region. The group also considered approaches for effectively tackling climate change, building climate and disaster resilience, and enhancing environmental sustainability. The Advisory Group has been meeting since 2009.
The ADB President’s Advisory Group is headed by IPCC Chair Prof. Hoesung Lee and composed of the following high-level international experts: Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs (Columbia University), Prof. Leena Srivastava (TERI School of Advanced Studies in India), Mr. Andrew Steer (CEO, World Resources Institute), Prof. Dadi Zhou (National Development and Reform Commission in the People’s Republic of China), Prof. Laurence Tubiana (CEO, European Climate Foundation), Prof. Yukari Takamura (University of Tokyo), and Dame Meg Taylor (Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum). Mr. Lee, Mr. Zhou, and Ms. Takamura came to ADB headquarters for the meeting, while other members participated via video conference.
As part of ADB’s new long-term Strategy 2030, the bank has committed to ensuring that 75% of its operations support climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030, while providing cumulative climate financing of $80 billion from ADB’s own sources between 2019 and 2030.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Nakao emphasized that the bank will scale up support for climate change mitigation by prioritizing investments for low greenhouse gas emission (GHG) energy, implementing sustainable transport and urban transportation strategies, and encouraging DMCs to shift to a low GHG emission development path. On adaptation, ADB will take a comprehensive approach to promote physical, financial, social and institutional, and eco-based resilience.
Mr. Lee explained the main findings of the IPCC report and challenges to achieving pathways consistent with limiting the increase in global warming to 1.5°C. Ms. Takamura mentioned that one encouraging sign in climate actions is the increase in voluntary involvement of nongovernment actors, such as business associations and local communities. Mr. Zhou suggested that countries should regard clear climate targets as important as gross domestic product growth. Finally, Ms. Srivastava, Mr. Steer, and Ms. Tubiana emphasized ADB’s role among multilateral development banks, increased consumer awareness, and clear messages to the public regarding realistic pathways to limit global warming.
In 2018, ADB loan and grant commitments for climate change mitigation and adaptation totaled $4.5 billion for 103 projects. The projects included green, climate-resilient, and low-carbon urban development in Mongolia; climate-resilient port infrastructure in Nauru; and supporting timely and accurate forecasting of extreme weather events in Tajikistan.
In addition, ADB is providing technical assistance in the region, including helping Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines enhance their capacity for designing and implementing investment projects that strengthen resilience of the urban poor. ADB has also been hosting regional knowledge events such as the 6th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in October 2018, which was co-organized with the governments of the Philippines and Palau. The Office of the General Counsel has hosted events on climate and environmental law by inviting judges and other law experts.
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