Treating the planet well can aid progress

News: The 2020 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), titled “The Next Frontier – Human Development and the Anthropocene” proposed a planetary pressure-adjusted Human Development Index (HDI).

This adjustment has been worked out by factoring in per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emission (production) and per capita material footprint.

The purpose is to communicate the risk involved in continuing with existing practices of resource use and environmental management to the larger society. And the effect that environmental stress can perpetuate on development.

It helps to predict the nature of planetary pressure generated by the developed countries and indirectly indicates their responsibility in combating the situation.

How planetary pressure adjustment will affect country rankings?

The world average of HDI in 2019 came down from 0.737 to 0.683.

The global ranking of several countries will be altered, in both positive and negative sense. For instance, among 66 very high human development countries, 30 countries will record a fall in rank values.

Whereas, India will gain in global rankings by eight points (131st rank under HDI and 123rd rank under PHDI). Because its per capita carbon emission and material footprint are well below the global average.

However, India’s natural resource use is far from efficient and environmental problems are increasing.

The twin challenges of poverty alleviation and environmental safeguarding that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stated in the Stockholm conference in 1972 still remain unattended.

What are the present challenges faced by India regarding Human development?

India has 27.9% of people under the Multidimensional Poverty Index.

States like Kerala that have an exemplary achievement in human development lags on the environmental front.

India fares poorly in SDG goals 1(No poverty) and 2(Zero hunger). For instance, According to NITI Aayog (2020-21), India scored 60 (Performer grade, score 50-64) for no poverty and 47 (Aspirant grade, score 0-49) for zero hunger out of 100 points.

India’s score in SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) also warrant improvement.

However, one significant prospect for India is that there is now widespread awareness about the environment and several initiatives both at the level of the government and the community. For example, The Chipko movement (1973) in Uttarakhand and the Silent Valley movement (the late 1970s) in Kerala.

What is the way forward?

First, it is now well established that there are interdependencies of earth system processes, including social processes. It is now essential to consider people and the planet as being a part of an interconnected social-ecological system. Thus, an integrated perspective is necessary.

This can be addressed at the local level, for which India has constitutional provisions in the form of the 73rd and 74th Amendments.

Second, advances in earth system science and sustainability research along with enabling technology of remote sensing and geographic information system have helped to explain the impact of human activities at the ground level. They also provide insights into how to mitigate these impacts and improve life.

What is required is a reorientation of the planning process, adoption of a decentralised approach, a plan for proper institutional arrangements, and steps to enable political decisions.

Source: This post is based on the article “Treating the planet well can aid progress” published in Live mint on 12th Jan 2022.

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