The EPI may rankle but India can recast policies

News: Recently, India was placed last among all 180 assessed countries in the latest Environmental Performance Index (EPI), carried out by Yale and Columbia Universities.

Key findings of the EPI index

India performed better in sub-metrics such as growth rates for black carbon, methane and fluorinated gases, and greenhouse gas emissions based on their intensity and per capita volumes.

India performed low on projected GHG emissions for mid-century, a target for Net Zero emissions. The EPI report estimates that China, India, the United States, and Russia are expected to account for over 50% of global residual greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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What is controversial in the index?

It emphasised on climate change mitigation. It prioritised the release of GHGs from countries. It reduced the emphasis on the stock of CO2 from industrialised countries which is warming the globe. India would have ranked much better, if the latter was emphasised more than the former.

The Indian Government’s response

The ranking agencies have not “engaged” with India on the climate change mitigation programme.

India protested the EPI for introducing a new metric on climate with increased weight in the calculation compared to the 2020 assessment.

The Union government rejected the ranking based on the grounds that it used “unfounded assumptions”, “surmises” and “unscientific methods.”

The important tenets, like the United Nations principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), which forms the basis of the Paris Agreement, have been ignored by the agencies in the EPI.

The report ignored the facts that India has to raise the living standards of hundreds of millions. Despite this, India has secured to have low per capita GHG emissions, reduced intensity of GHG emissions in its economy, India has made big strides for achieving 40% renewable power generation, India’s support to electric vehicles, India launched a major carbon sink initiative, and India has done a lot for wetland conservation.

What are the objections to various claims made by the Indian Government?

The ISFR was based on poor methodology. For example, it relied on a relaxed definition of forest, it claimed expansion of forests when satellite imagery of the same areas showed a decline, the urban tree agglomerations were found added as forest.

There is little doubt that India’s air is very polluted. For example, in 93% of India, the amount of pollution remains well above the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

India does not have a centralised system to drive pollution control efforts and achieve substantial improvements.

Way Forward

The Union government can focus on providing clean public transport, cycling and pedestrianisation because the present transport system contributes about 13% of emissions.

In order to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2070, the government can strive to reduce emissions from buildings, including embedded carbon in construction materials such as cement and steel.

India can expand rooftop solar power across residential deployments and commercial structures.

The government must provide stronger protection for biomes. It can generate wide-ranging benefits and biodiversity can recover. This protection of tree cover will augment carbon sinks.

India can adopt models of development beyond GDP, which has been proposed by Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and Jean-Paul Fitoussi.

India can adopt a rigorous dashboard approach to indicators. It can assign high weight to the environment.

Source: The post is based on an article “The EPI may rankle but India can recast politics” published in the “The Hindu” on 20th June 2022.

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