Skip to main content

Environmental politics: Towards just, sustainable recovery from COVID-19


By Simi Mehta*
The COVID-19 Pandemic has highlighted the opportunity to maximize the impact of national and global energy policies while reducing air pollution and greenhouse emissions. The importance of the real-world package to drive energy transitions has never been felt so urgently as now. Opportunities for making amends to the past gaps remain at the disposal of the nation states. Domestic constituencies and compulsions remain at the core of all environmental politics and energy policy.
With that in mind, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi conducted a Special Lecture on “Environmental Politics and Energy Policy: A Just and Sustainable Recovery from COVID-19". The IMPRI Center for Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development (ECCSD) hosted Prof Johannes Urpelainen, Director and Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment, and Founding Director, Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP), Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC, USA as the speakers for the talk. Dr. Hippu Salk Kristle Nathan, Associate Professor, Institute of Rural Management, Anand were the discussants.
The first observation was the timing of the pandemic when we were going through a public health crisis and witnessing increased problems with climate change. Concern and awareness of climate change reached an all-time high just before COIVD-19 in early 2020 with the Youth Climate Movement and governments.

Economic Recovery Post-COVID-19

The second observation was the impact on the economy and people’s changed lifestyle. A feature of the COIVD-19 recovery is the K-shaped recovery, where some parts of the economy are doing better than ever like some mega companies- Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Netflix. The other parts of the economy, where many people are working, have suffered. Globally, this is a misleading picture because in most countries you do not have many companies like that. As a result, in most countries, the economic damage is far more significant, which includes countries like India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh.
Research on the COVID-19 economic stimulus policies in the group of the largest twenty economies shows the structure of depending on policies if it increased or reduced emissions and their spendings during the time period.

The Role of Public Transportation

Dr. Hippu Salk Kristle Nathan focused on the idea of transportation and building a system that is meant for the public and not for cars, where one thinks that one’s car is a liability, not an asset. He further quoted Enrique Penalosa, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport”.
The efficiency was expected to lead to an inverted U, but what happened globally is a straight U because of many reasons, be it lack of availability and access of choices or consuming goods as status symbols. Lack of availability of decent public spaces and transportation forces even the conscious ones to opt for personal means.
He believes we need some fundamental change in terms of national decisions as far as India is concerned. Furthermore, we need to learn from European countries about renewable energy and other sustainable incentives.

Question and Answer

One question asked was that “The path dependence is organizational and infrastructural within energy transition debates. Do you think that the economic impacts of COVID-19, especially for developing countries like India is likely to downrate its climate ambitions, increase its dependence on carbon-intensive energy sources and kick the global energy transitions further down the road?”
He replied that path dependency is very important. The debuilding of fossil fuels is happening in both spheres. Ten years ago, it was a complete niche conversation but today it is mainstream. The path dependency has led to more progress.
Replying to the next question by another viewer about limiting the economic activities as COVID-19 affected during the tenure, which led to less carbon emission, he believes it is not going to be the permanent solution because it slightly declined the charts. We need to go to the decarbonized way rather than shrinking the economy to zero.
Dr. Nathan pointed to the governmental failure towards the decentralized establishments working in this direction rather than attracted to large scale plants which probably has some investment in stakeholder. The way forward is to empower the local decentralized bodies in the field which play crucial roles at the ground, smaller level for sustainable development.

*Inputs: Anshula Mehta, Ritika Gupta, Ishika Chowdhary. Acknowledgment: Annu, Research Intern at IMPRI

Comments

TRENDING

Why's Govt of India reluctant to consider battery storage system for renewal energy?

By Shankar Sharma*  If having so many small size battery energy storage system (BESS) at different locations of the grid, as in the report from Australia (a portfolio of 27 small battery storage projects across three Australian states that will total arounds 270 MWh), is considered to be techno-economically attractive in a commercially driven market such as Australia, the question that becomes a lot more relevance to Indian scenario is: why are our planners not in favour of installing such small size BESS at most of the distribution sub-stations not only to accelerate the addition of RE power capacities, but also to minimise the need for large size solar/ wind power parks, dedicated transmission lines and pumped storage plants; which will also minimise the associated technical losses.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-relates deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

New MVA-INDIA MPs asked to raise Maharashtra milk farmers' demand

By Our Representative  All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) national president Dr Ashok Dhawale and AIKS Maharashtra general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale have asked three newly-elected MPs of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA-INDIA) from the milk belt of Maharashtra Dr Amol Kolhe (NCP),  Bhausaheb Wakchaure (SS), and Nilesh Lanke (NCP), to take up the cause of milk farmers of Maharashtra in Parliament.  After congratulating them on their resounding victory over their BJP-NDA rivals, the AIKS leaders apprised them of the milk farmers struggle which is intensifying in the state under the leadership of the AIKS and the Milk Farmers Joint Struggle Committee, and requested them to support it. All three MPs agreed not only to support, but also to take the initiative in this struggle, an official AIKS communique claimed. Farmers in Maharashtra are currently getting as low as Rs 24-27 per litre for cow milk, which is being sold in the market for Rs 56-60 per litre, the AIKS leaders noted. The low price to farmer

Report suggests Indian democracy 'hasn't achieved' equitable economic decentralization

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram  The news that the current economic inequality in the country is worse than during British rule is unsettling. This suggests the harsh reality that our democracy has not achieved equitable economic decentralization. A recent report by Thomas Piketty and three other economists reveals shocking findings: in 2023-24, the top 1% of the wealthiest people in India hold 40% of the nation's wealth, with a 22.6% share in income. 

Next door neighbour, a WB cop, threatens Dalit small business owner, files 'false' criminal case

By Kirity Roy*  This is about an incident of continuous threat, harassment, intimidation and subsequent false implication in a criminal case. The victims of continuous ill treatments belong to Malo, a scheduled caste community of West Bengal. They are father and son duo, Ganesh Halder, aged 70 years, and Pintu Halder, aged 35 years. Both are residents of village and post Puratan Bongaon, under Bongaon Police Station of 24 Parganas (North) district of West Bengal.  The perpetrators of these illegal and unjust acts are a serving police constable attached with the Bongaon police station and his wife, who are neighbours of the victims. The victims own a Ghani (oil extracting mill from mustard) and rice and flour huller in the locality. The perpetrators are living behind this mill with many others. The locality has many business establishments and shops. Though the mill is running for more than 20 years, nobody opposed its function. All of a sudden, three months back, the police personnel s