ESSAY COMPETITION 2020
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TOPIC-BACK TO NATURE: INVESTING IN NATURE CAPITAL FOR THE RECOVERY OF LIVELIHOODS AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH!
INTRODUCTION- MOVING ON FROM MY PREVIOUS BLOG THAT prescribed why it is important and prudent for India to press a restart button to adopt a more sustainable, nature-friendly and inclusive growth model. Since then, I have spent some time understanding economic and fiscal packages announced by some countries to analyse their orientation towards nature and the environment. Almost every country is trying to provide relief and momentum to their economy and assist stressed sectors to overcome this difficult phase. However, few nations have grabbed this opportunity to not only revive the economy but also “protect nature” and mitigate adverse environmental impacts. These select countries have recognized that the threat from climate crisis is bigger and intense, and that it will create havoc eventually. The image below conveys this message beautifully.
The analysis finds that the lowest performing countries are the United States, China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and India. In comparison, Canada and the EU countries, specially Spain, UK and France are doing better with fund flows to nature-based activities exceeding those going against it. Trends from US and China are worrisome with focus on traditional industries such as fossil fuel-based energy, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture with relaxations in environmental conditions while Indonesia and Brazil have relied on traditional forest-based industries. Russia and Mexico are heavy fossil fuel energy producers and their response has only reinforced their brown industry orientation. The Indian package lacks specific details and orientation towards environmental sustainability. However, there is some hope as most governments have started attaching specific conditions for availing financial assistance from the government. These conditions could vary from generating employment to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with some promoting green industries directly.
Canada recently announced a large Employer Emergency Financing Facility, created to finance or provide bridge loans to its largest employers struggling during pandemic. However, the aid comes with strings attached such as ‘the borrowers must publish annual climate related disclosure reports including how their future operations will support environmental sustainability and national climate goals’. In addition, the oil & gas industry, Canada’s 3rd largest economic sector, received a separate $1.7 billion relief package that included significant funds for environmental clean-up projects and methane reduction initiatives. Similarly, South Korea announced a ‘New Green Deal’ of USD 110 billion investments in green energy, introduction of carbon tax and phasing out of coal financing by public sector institutions, setting 2050 as target for net zero emissions.
Recently, 155 global corporations with market capitalisation of $2.4 trillion with 5 million employees have signed a statement urging governments to align COVID-19 economic fiscal aids and packages with the latest climate science (2). Similarly, more than 200 organisations representing at least 40 million health workers – making up about half of the global medical workforce – have signed an open letter to the G20 leaders and their chief medical advisers, pointing to the 7 million premature deaths to which air pollution contributes each year around the world (3). The letter urges, in order to ensure considerations of public health and environmental concerns in the stimulus, that public health systems should be strengthened in the wake of how environmental degradation could help to unleash future diseases. The signatories want reforms with public support shifted towards renewable energy for cleaner air, cut greenhouse gas emissions and help spur economic growth.
CONCLUSION-While it may look very ambitious and impractical, considering the large section of population still lives under poverty line, it is paradoxical to think that this section will benefit from a polluting environment and growth model. It is this very section of population that carries bigger risks and lacks resilience to climate crisis. Hence, it is imperative to for India to adopt a nature-friendly, climate resilient and sustainable growth model that will be inclusive and equitable for all sections of society. Moreover, India has traditionally been a clean and responsible society with its rich culture, values and nature friendly practices followed since time immemorial.