Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 11th 2015 Contents SBG16 THE ECONOMIST
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt OCTOBER 11 • 2015
Every so often a country comes along whose
economic transformation has a vast impact on
the world s climate system. For the past gen-
eration that country has been China. Next it
will be India.
Given India s size and its population of 1.3 billion, its emissions
of carbon dioxide are in relative terms still tiny. At 1.6 tonnes
of carbon per person each year, they are roughly the same as
China s per-head emissions in 1980, when that country plunged
into economic reforms.
Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to emulate China s
sizzling growth. He has set India a target of expanding GDP
by eight per cent a year. If it comes close to meeting that
target, emissions will soar, as China s have done. Today Chinese
emissions per head are four times those in India.
Government planners think that, with economic growth of
between eight per cent and nine per cent, India s total emissions
of carbon dioxide would more than triple by 2030, from 1.7
billion tonnes in 2010 to 5.3 billion. Per-head emissions would
increase to 3.6 tonnes---and that assumes a fair amount of
energy savings. If India were to use the same amount of energy
per unit of GDP in 2030 as it does now, then emissions would
top six billion tonnes by 2030.
India is on the way to becoming the biggest contributor to
increases in greenhouse gases within 15 years; a powerful
reason for caring about its progress on environmental mat-
On October 1 Modi s government filed its emissions plans
in advance of a United Nations climate conference set to take
place in Paris in November. Unlike most other big countries,
India refused to set a date by which the absolute amount of
carbon it pumps out would peak and start to fall. Instead it
promised that its carbon intensity---that is, carbon emissions
per unit of GDP---would fall by a third before 2030.
By setting a relative rather than an absolute target, India
has incurred criticism. That is unfair, because to cap emissions
would be to deny many Indians the chance to better their
hard lives. The country has more poor people than anywhere
else in the world: 230 million living on US$1.90 a day or less,
which is the World Bank s definition of extreme poverty.
Almost half of rural households, or between 250 million and
300 million people, have no electricity. For the poor, growth
is essential and carbon comes with it.
To accept that is not to give up on curbing emissions,
however. India has huge potential to change its trajectory. To
put this in context, consider that plans announced by President
Barack Obama s administration would cut American emissions
by between 26 per cent and 28 per cent by 2025, or a bit less
than two billion tonnes of carbon a year. By contrast, the dif-
ference between a good and a bad outcome in India during
the same period, depending on whether good policies are
adopted or not, would amount to almost three billion tonnes.
In other words, India could do more good for the climate, as
well as more harm, than most countries.
If there is reason to be optimistic, it is that the environment
matters to Indians themselves. Thirteen of the world s 20
most-polluted cities are in the subcontinent. Smoke from
cooking with wood or dung in Indian homes may be responsible
for 500,000 early deaths a year, mostly of women and chil-
Climate change could do grave harm to India. Some two-
thirds of its agriculture depends on the monsoon, which may
become less reliable as a result of global warming. Some
Himalayan glaciers are retreating, sending less water to rivers
that feed hundreds of millions of people downstream. A quarter
of Indians live near coasts that are vulnerable to sea-level
Many countries suffer one or more of these problems, but
few have all of them. So, while Indians need growth, they
cannot ignore the consequences of it.
Given the environmental pressures, gloom is not hard to
find. Jairam Ramesh, environment minister in the previous,
Congress-led government, shook his head as he reflects on
the near-total local opposition to a plan to protect the Western
Ghats, a mountain range that is one of the world s most bio-
logically diverse regions.
"We are losing the battle of ideas," he said.
Although tree plantations are growing in India, old-growth
forests still are shrinking. Pressure to cut down more trees
will increase, because most of India s untapped coal reserves
are underneath its forests. Coal accounts for more than half
of India s power generation, and India plans to double coal
output by 2020.
As for water, another crucial environmental resource, for
the moment India is one of the lucky large developing countries
with adequate supplies. However, according to a study in 2013
by two UN agencies, it will go from having 174,000 gallons
of water per person per year in 2001 to only 350,000 gallons
in 2025--- little more than 265,000 gallons per head by 2050,
which is the international definition of water scarcity.
As if all that were not enough, Modi came to power in 2014
vowing to sweep aside regulatory obstacles to growth including,
by implication, environmental regulations. He vowed to expand
a manufacturing sector which, at 17 per cent of GDP, is half
the relative size of China s. Factories pollute more than services
do.If India faces a trade-off between growth and greenery, the
only likely outcome is that growth wins. It is not a simple
swap, however. Rather, the government has multiple objectives,
and this multiplicity makes pro-environment policies more
likely to stick.
To see how, look at energy. The government has four main
goals beyond increasing power to cities and industry.
First, it wants to bring electricity to those without it. Total
electricity production has risen sharply in recent years, but
the number of people without power has fallen only slowly.
Something needs to change.
Next, India wants to improve its energy security by buying
less from abroad. At the moment the country spends about
half its foreign-exchange earnings on fuel imports, an unusually
high share. Though the world s third-largest coal producer,
India imports a fifth of its coal because domestic mines cannot
keep pace. It imports four-fifths of its oil. That leaves the
country vulnerable to oil shocks, even if right now it is a ben-
eficiary of cheaper supplies.
Third, with as many as 12 million young Indians entering
the labor market each year, the country needs jobs, and factories
without power are no way to create them. Finally, India needs
to reform its inefficient electricity-distribution system. Blackouts
and brownouts are rife, and almost all the state utilities are
India needs to do all these things regardless of environmental
considerations. However, research by the Center for the Study
of Science, Technology and Policy (C-STEP), a think tank in
Bangalore, suggests that the energy mix you get if you try to
improve access, security and so on is similar to what you get
if you simply concentrate on cutting carbon and preventing
deforestation. In other words, the trade-off between doing
the right thing for the economy and doing the right thing for
the environment is not as stark as it looks.
India and the environment:
...Catching up with
China and its pollution
Links Archive October 10th 2015 October 12th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page