In the din of the FY22 Budget, supposed to take care of the COVID-19 pains and bring India back to a GDP growth trajectory of 8 per cent or more—one of the most critical aspects of this growth, captured so well in a chapter of the Economic Survey 2020-21—sustainable development, could not get the attention it deserves. (https://www.indiabudget.gov.
Getting the growth to move at a faster pace is a necessity for a country like India; however, it also has to conform to the sustainable development goals and objectives. COVID-19, though, has impacted the movement towards this; it has also re-enforced the need for a clean, green and sustainable growth model.
What is it that India has committed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through the Paris Agreement? The Survey has rightly pointed out upfront that: “In its NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution), India has sought to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030; achieve 40 per cent of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030; and enhance forest and tree cover to create additional carbon sink equivalent to 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030.”
Despite COVID-19 stress in India and globally, Chief Economic Adviser Krishnamurthy V Subramanian stressing that, “The need to develop sustainably, however, remains at the core of the country’s development strategy,” reinforces India’s commitment.
Albeit well placed, this is just an intent. Ground realities of the COVID-inflicted world indicate that the task has just got more difficult and complicated. The pandemic has forced countries worldwide, including India, to step back on their Social Development Goals (SDGs).
The Survey mentions that 2020 was to be the year for the developed countries for mobilising $100 billion a year for climate finance, but it has not happened yet. Keep in mind that the developing countries’ climate actions have to be supported by the developed countries, this is certainly not a good situation to be in, especially when they are also designed to suit the developmental goals of a particular country, which is already under severe stress due to COVID-19.
India revised its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in line with the NDC submitted by the country under the Paris Agreement.
While the country and the whole world prepares for a reset of the strategies to attain the SDGs, a renewed global corporate stress on the clean and green development supported by specially designed policy and incentivising mechanism could help make up for the lost ground due to COVID-19 in an effective manner.
As a step in this direction, in India, the government can look at floating a promotion window — Clean Energy and Environment Responsibility (CEER) embedded with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)—and then expand on the idea making it an inclusive agenda and not just limited to a few large companies.
Those included in the CEER ambit may be provided specific benefits to facilitate ease of doing business for them. These must include ease in getting finance and clearances from both Central and the State governments. The companies, both domestic and foreign, with a strong CEER plan along with the identified results, must get priority status in dealings with the government.
The government can quickly initiate stakeholders’ consultation on CEER to concretise this framework for not only mitigating the COVID impact but also formulating the ground rules and a roadmap. The biggest advantage of a CEER roadmap would be the availability of finances for sustainable development outside the government domain. Companies with global foothold and ambitions have been treading this path, and it has to now transcend to all businesses.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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