India’s high growth is a good position for the G20, but urban pollution must be controlled

The timing is perfect for India to take over the G20 presidency. When the chips are down for the US, Europe and even China on the GDP growth front, India is a shining star with likely GDP growth of 6.8% in 2022 and an expected 6.1% in 2023. according to the IMF forecast. It is perhaps the first time in the last 40 years that India will overtake China (3.2% in 2022 and 4.4% in 2023) in two consecutive years by a wide margin. That makes India stand tall.

Inflation is not out of control. It’s a slightly higher than RBI tolerance band but surely better than in the US, EU and UK. Therefore, this is the time for India to show its economic strategy, along with the culture and motto of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”: one land, one family, one future. The government’s motto of LiFE (lifestyle for the environment) could shine even more.

But there is a stain that India needs to erase as soon as possible: the pollution in its cities. One wonders what the heads of the G20 nations would think upon reaching Delhi when the capital of the country is being branded as most polluted city in the world. the Air Quality Index (ICA) for Delhi during November 1-15, it stood at 267 compared to Washington DC at 8 and Beijing at 97. Delhi has the poorest AQI among the G20 nations.

Delhi residents feel as if they are being pushed into a gas chamber. The Air Quality Living Index Report (2022) from the University of Chicago states that Delhiites are losing their life expectancy by 10 years. If this is true, what is the purpose of getting the highest GDP growth? Mere slogans about LiFE may not remove this stain. It needs urgent and tough political decisions, with strict implementation, which may sometimes not be politically acceptable. But there is no escape from the current situation under a business as usual scenario.

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if the prime minister Narendra Modi can retain India’s highest growth and significantly improve AQI in the country’s cities, can afford the BJP generously in the 2024 elections. And if he manages to solve the problem of Russia…Ukraine conflict, with the support of the very capable Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, Prime Minister Modi may even get a Nobel Peace Prize. Opportunity is knocking on his door to give his best to India and the world. Only by December 2023 will we know if you have seized this opportunity or passed it by.

We know that the G20 represents two thirds of the world’s population, about 85 percent of world GDP and more than 75 percent of world trade. Therefore, this is the right forum for PM Modi and India to emerge as a responsible world leader, even a vishwa guru.

The message that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be reduced is becoming louder and clearer as climate change has begun to cause significant damage through heat waves, droughts, and floods of intensity and frequency. getting older. The COP27 agreement on the creation of a “loss and damage fund” to compensate developing countries is a good start. But the international community is well short of the Paris targets, with no viable path to contain global warming to an additional 1.5°C.

According to Climate Watch, the largest GHG emitters in 2019 were China (12.06 billion tonnes of CO2e), the United States (5.77 Bt of CO2e) and India (3.36 Bt of CO2e). However, in terms of GHG emissions per capita in 2021, Australia (23.6 tCO2e) leads, followed by Saudi Arabia (20.4 tCO2e) and Canada (20.3 tCO2e). Our calculations show that, in terms of total GHG emissions per billion dollars of GDP in PPP terms (tCO2e/billion dollars of GDP, PPP), South Africa (0.65 tCO2e), Indonesia (0.55 tCO2e ) and China (0.44 tCO2e) lead the way in 2021. In terms of emissions per capita (2.4 tCO2e) and emission intensity of GDP, PPP (0.33 tCO2e), India is in a relatively much better position . And India can show this to the G20 bosses, as long as it cleans up its own cities, starting with Delhi, making them livable.

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What is it that PM Modi and the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal can you make Delhi habitable? We know that every winter, when the winds are calm and particulates accumulate, the political blame game over stubble burning in Punjab’s rice paddies begins. According to SAFAR (Air Quality Research and Forecasting System), most stubble burning in Delhi’s AQI this year was 34 percent (last year it was 42 percent). Measures aimed at stubble management are not likely to be successful. Unless the paddy area in Punjab is reduced by at least one million hectares, this problem is likely to persist. The shift from paddy rice to corn, soybeans, legumes and fruits and vegetables requires a “diversification strategy” for at least five years, generously rewarding farmers with carbon credits and water and energy savings.

Vehicle pollution in Delhi is another major cause of low AQI. The answer is an accelerated strategy to promote electric vehicles (EVs). Incentivizing and even subsidizing electric vehicles and charging stations in all parking lots and residential neighborhoods is the way to go.

To control dust, heavy fines should be levied on builders who fail to use water sprinklers multiple times a day on construction sites. All thermal power plants in and around Delhi need to be replaced with more renewable energy sources. Solarization should be mandatory for all government buildings, schools and public spaces with a specified minimum area. This will help them to finance themselves with the help of net metering. Easy access to finance for such renewables would be key.

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Learning from other G20 nations on how to improve AQI in Indian cities and save millions of lives from choking with every breath must be as high a priority as financial stability and growth in this interconnected world.

Gulati is a Distinguished Professor and Thangaraj is a Research Fellow at ICRIER. views are personal