February 4, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we look at whether this year’s budget allocates enough amounts to tackle the emerging climate crisis. We also look at how Goa votes for the person rather than the party, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is this year’s Union Budget green enough?
If you were given pocket money as a kid, the conundrum – apart from getting enough – was what to spend it on. As you grew older and started to earn money, perhaps spending patterns became more responsible. You had short and long-term priorities and allocated money accordingly. But how much would you spend on a current problem to mitigate its effects for the next generation?
That’s the question to be asked concerning this year’s budget and climate change. There’s an understandable level of urgency and impatience on climate policies. World leaders, activists, and scientists speak at length on it. But it’s the leaders that have the power to do something. They’ve got the chequebook. This year’s Union budget has been called forward-looking on tackling the climate crisis in India by some. Others say it isn’t enough and doesn’t address key issues.
In the decades since the first Union budget in 1948, there’s been an understandable push towards growth and industrialisation. India, newly independent, needed to keep pace with the West. Agriculture and food security were the main focus. Then came employment, improving the livelihoods of the poor and marginalised sections.
In 1991-92 came economic liberalisation. The gates to the Indian market and economy were opened to outsiders. In the final budget of the UPA II reign in 2013 came sustainable development. However, there wasn’t much money allocated to tackle issues like pollution and emissions, as Chandra Bhushan pointed out.
As with other countries, the poor are often the worst hit by extreme climate events. That poses a challenge to India – combat climate change and lift millions out of poverty simultaneously. It’s going to be an expensive task. According to India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution estimates, $2.5 trillion is needed from 2015 to 2030 to combat climate change. That works out to roughly $170 billion a year.
While there’s the obvious moral incentive, there’s an economic one too. Green sectors like renewable energy and low-carbon transport help drive the Indian economy. According to the World Economic Forum, transitioning to green energy will help create 50 million jobs and contribute more than $1 trillion to the Indian economy. If you want to look at it another way, climate change and extreme weather events will put 4.5% of India’s GDP annually at risk, per a McKinsey report.
What’s the case abroad? In the US, President Biden has made climate change not just a domestic economic issue, but a national security one. His signature Build Back Better plan includes the biggest clean-energy investment in US history – $555 billion. In September 2020, the EU said it will need to spend a minimum of 30% of the 1.8 trillion Euros budget to support climate objectives.
Foundation for climate action budget
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made India’s commitment at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year – bringing down carbon intensity to 45% by 2030, a reduction of 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030, among others. Taking the baton was Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in presenting the latest budget. In general, it’s a budget that recognises India’s energy transition needs and provides a lot of money for them.
Here are some numbers to give some context. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) sees a higher estimated expenditure of ₹3,030 crores compared to ₹2,520 crores in 2021-22. The Centre’s Electric Vehicle (EV) policy sees a boost from ₹800 crores last year to ₹2,908.28 crores.
For renewable energy, solar power remains the driver. Case in point, the budget has laid the road to make India a solar powerhouse. India plans to quadruple its renewable power generation capacity by 2030. This includes 280 GW of solar. The budget grants ₹19,500 crores for local equipment production. It has made the industry happy. Shares of listed industries in the solar energy industry spiked after the announcements.
There’s one important component in the budget that signalled the government’s intention to drive sustainable economic growth – green bonds. These are debt instruments where the issuer pledges to use proceeds to finance projects that have positive environmental effects. As Shailendra Yashwant, senior advisor to Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), wrote, this can be a game-changer, and overall, the budget has set the foundation for climate action.
Faint shades of green budget
The budget included a lot of references to climate action, energy transition, etc. However, like many government policies, they might sound good on paper but fail to materialise. In some cases, what’s on the paper itself isn’t adequate or is negated by something else. The devil’s in the details. Sustainable development is the need of the hour. This budget proposes two often contradictory things – climate action policies while throwing money at developing ‘world-class modern infrastructure’.
If India is serious about climate change, isolated policies like installing solar panels and encouraging electric vehicles won’t cut it. Responding to climate change should be adaptation rather than just mitigation. Here’s how it falls short – only ₹30 crores towards the Climate Change Action Plan and ₹60 crores for the National Adaptation Fund. That’s the same as last year. The budget gave river-linking projects a comeback; not exactly climate-friendly.
The budget lacks a broad thrust on issues like multi-modal connectivity. The energy sector is interlinked with other sectors of the economy – health, education, transportation, etc. A barrier to energy transition in India is electricity transmission infrastructure. There is little in the budget for this, especially to scale-up R&D, manufacturing, and distribution. In this context, Jami Hossain, Vice President of the World Wind Energy Association, called the budget a dampener for the renewable energy sector.
Air pollution is something Indians are intimately familiar with. On this, the budget failed. There were no extra commitments on projects like the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The Commission on Air Quality Management for National Capital and Adjoining Areas was allocated ₹17 crores. Last year it was ₹20 crores. For biodiversity conservation, the budget allocates ₹8.5 crores; that’s less than last year. As Dharmesh Shah, senior technical advisor at Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) wrote, the budget’s professed climate gains are negated with counter-intuitive policies and inadequate funding.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The budget is adequate to help India tackle climate change.
b) The budget is inadequate to help India tackle climate change.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
What an all-women news network in India shows us about democracy
For the Left:
Nationalisation did not kill Air India, politics did. Tata’s challenge lies beyond fixing it
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Lifting ban on pig imports (Mizoram) – After 17 months, the state government has lifted the ban on pig and pig product imports. The ban was enacted in August 2020 due to an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF). But as of 2022, no new cases of ASF have been reported since January. Still, every imported pig needs to have a health and Common Swine Fever vaccination certificate to maintain this low count.
Why it matters: Before the ban, 86% of Mizoram’s pork intake was based on imports. But after the ASF outbreak in late 2019, the imports started generally declining. Just last year, another outbreak of ASF happened in March that claimed 29,824 pigs. Another 10,381 pigs had to be put down to prevent the disease from spreading. 272 villages and 11 districts were affected by it.
Stay on reservation (Haryana) – On Thursday, the High Court stayed the state government’s order to reserve 75% of private-sector jobs for locals. This is because of the sheer number of petitions that were filed against it claiming that the provision was against meritocracy. The Act was supposed to come into force from 15 January 2022 onwards but it has now been put on hold.
Why it matters: As per the May-August 2021 report from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), Haryana is the most unemployed state. While the state government is sure that this report was “fanciful” and biased, the report did claim that the unemployment rate in Haryana was at 35.7%. Following which the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill was passed that offered the reservation to locals.
Aid extended for PwDs (Odisha) – The state government has decided to extend the Bhima Bhoi Bhinnakhyama Samarthya Abhiyan for another five years, till 2025-26. The scheme aims to ensure equal employment, opportunities and social justice to Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in the state. This expenditure is going to cost the state another ₹139.25 crores and has already been accepted by their Expenditure Finance Committee.
Why it matters: As per a national survey conducted in 2018, Odisha has the highest number of PwDs compared to any other state in the country. Covering 3.2% of the state’s population, Odisha was successful in meeting its goals with the scheme from 2016, when it was launched, to 2018-19. This saw a steady decline the following years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the enforcement of the model code of conduct in the state.
Person over party (Goa) – General election trends in Goa point out that the people of the state vote more based on personality than based on party loyalty. This is happening due to the state’s smaller population. According to the 2011 census, Goa’s population falls around 14.85 lakh. This means that each constituency has around 25,000 to 30,000 voters. This allows candidates to form personal connections with the people themselves, instead of through a party.
Why it matters: The political parties seemed to have understood this as 35% of Goa’s candidates belong to members of 7 families. Big parties including the TMC, Congress and even the BJP, who claim to be against dynastic politics, have given tickets to members of the same family. With state elections right around the corner, starting on 14 February to 10 March, several opinion polls have tried to predict poll results to only end up with an inconclusive result.
All for social justice (Tamil Nadu) – After announcing the launch of an All India Federation for Social Justice, CM M K Stalin wrote to 37 leaders to nominate their party members for it. All the leaders were non-BJP, including but not limited to Sonia Gandhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Farooq Abdullah, etc. According to the CM, this organisation would create a roadmap to secure social justice for all, keeping citizens safe from bigotry and religious hegemony.
Why it matters: Out of the 6,200 complaints that the National Commission for Minorities has received over the last 3 years, 70% were filed by Muslims. 2021 saw an increase in crimes against Christians as well, with 486 incidents in total. This is a 75% increase from 2020. The letter also said that this social justice organisation would look into safeguarding federalism which, given the Centre’s various national policies, is considered to be under threat.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
38 – As per an investigative report by The Klaxon, an Australian newspaper, at least 38 Chinese soldiers drowned in the Galwan River during the 2020 Galwan clash between India and China. This comes as a direct contradiction to Beijing’s official announcement of 4 soldiers perishing.