What India needs to focus on in 2022 to spur action on climate change
According to experts, reduce air pollution, strengthen adaptation measures such as state and city action plans and prioritize health by building resilient health infrastructure to mitigate the impact of climate change are expected to be the main areas of concern in 2022.
Governments must ensure that the ban on single-use plastics is implemented by 2022 and cities must implement plans to limit air pollution, a leading cause of premature death and disease. disabilities, added the experts.
Here is a list of priority areas that India needs to focus on in its environmental policies and actions:
New standards, action plans against air pollution
Air pollution ranks second (after malnutrition) among disease risk factors in India, accounting for 10% of the disease burden. Air pollution is also estimated to reduce the average life expectancy of a child born in India by at least 1.5 years; in 2019, he killed 116,000 Indian infants, we reported in October 2020.
Pollution from vehicles and emissions from factories and coal-fired power stations contribute to air pollution all over India all year round.
In 2009, the CPCB notified the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) which mention eight main pollutants: particles (PM 2.5 and PM 10), nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, benzene and ammonia. India will likely set new standards that would take into account more particles finer than PM 2.5.
The revisions of the NAAQS will serve to define the air pollution discussion for the next decade in India, according to a December 2021 report from the Center for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank. Making the standards more ambitious will depend on our understanding of the risk associated with exposure and how it changes over time, the report says.
So far, 95 cities in 23 states and union territories are classified as non-compliant cities, which do not meet NAAQS standards. City-specific action plans should be formulated for non-compliant cities through which the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) is implemented. The NCAP, launched by the Department of the Environment in January 2019, has set a nationwide target of 20-30% reduction in PM 2.5 and PM 10 concentration levels by 2024, with 2017 as the base. for concentration levels.
“NCAP hasn’t really taken off because of the pandemic and the shutdown,” Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the nonprofit Energy and Clean Air Research Center (CREA), told IndiaSpend. “As we pull out of the pandemic, it is important to strengthen NCAP and prioritize reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants.”
One of the main causes of air pollution is emissions from coal-fired power plants; The expansion of coal power will cause 60% more premature deaths in India’s metropolitan cities, according to a report from C40 Cities, a global network of people from 97 cities. Fifty-five percent of India’s coal-generated electricity is within 500 km of five mega-cities – Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata – which will put the health of city dwellers, especially young people, at risk. , the elderly and pregnant women, the report said.
“There will be continued pressure to gradually reduce coal, although India has no clear plan to control the impact of coal on deteriorating air quality,” said Shripad Dharmadhikary, analyst. at the Manthan Adhyayan Kendra research organization.
“The health aspect of air pollution is something that needs to be integrated into environmental policies,” said Shweta Narayan, environmental justice activist and climate and health activist with Health Care Without Harm in India. . “The environmental impact assessment of thermal power plants does not take into account public health and there is growing momentum around the need to undertake a health impact assessment of polluting plants. “
Prioritize resilient health infrastructure
Climate change and the resulting rise in temperatures and altered precipitation create ideal conditions for the transmission of infectious diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, zika, malaria; it can also lead to more deaths, crop failures, mental health issues, pregnancy complications, and heat and humidity morbidity, as we reported earlier in October 2021.
“In terms of building the resilience of the health system, we are not there yet,” Narayan said, adding: “There is periodic intervention during floods or cyclones, but building capable infrastructure. to withstand regular extreme weather events is desperately needed. “
In 2015, India established the National Health Mission which includes the National Action Plan for Climate Change and Human Health with the aim of strengthening health preparedness and response at central, state and community levels. district by establishing early warning systems and health surveillance to prevent and mitigate extreme heat.
States are developing their action plans for climate change and human health which are expected in December 2021. It will be important to see the budget allocations to the State to implement these plans and how they are prioritized in 2022 ”, Narayan said.
Making the plastic ban effective
The country produces more than 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste every day, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). In August 2021, the Ministry of the Environment introduced plastic waste management modification rules to ban single-use plastic which will be implemented in 2022.
The rules state that the manufacture, sale and use of certain single-use products made of plastic, polystyrene and expanded polystyrene such as headphones, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, packaging and film. packaging are prohibited from July 1, 2022, while others such as transport bags must be at least 75 microns thick from September 30, 2021 and 120 microns from December 31, 2022, up from 50 microns currently.
In 2019-2020, India generated around 3.4 million tonnes of plastic waste per year. Although this is the first nationwide phase-out, Indian states have already passed plastic ban resolutions. For example, in 1998 the government of Sikkim passed the country’s first plastic bag ban. Over the past decade, 22 states and EU territories have imposed a full or partial ban on plastic carrier bags.
Earlier in 2011, the Union Ministry notified plastic waste (management and handling rules) 2011 which proposed to ban the use of plastics in sachets to store, package or sell gutkha, tobacco and pan masala. However, CPCB’s 2012-2013 annual report noted that the rules are not “intensely implemented” by states and Union territories and that plastic bags are used indiscriminately.
In a case of the National Green Tribunal (OA 85/2020), the petitioner formed the tribunal against the Pollution Control Board of Tamil Nadu, stating that the manufacture of woven and non-woven plastic carrier bags continued and perpetuated a bad impression in the minds of the public. that these plastic carrier bags were the only alternatives to thin film plastic carrier bags. The bench in a November 2021 session reportedly said that simply issuing notice bans is not enough if the government does not monitor and take effective action to penalize violators who flout standards. ban on plastic.
Implement state and city climate plans
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its periodic reports, has shown the impact of climate change on the world. For example, the monsoons in India have become uncertain; especially during the important kharif planting months of July and August, and this impacted the paddy harvest in several states in India, IndiaSpend reported in October 2021. Cyclones like Tauktae and Gulab, which put end of the summer monsoon in 2021, have increased and are expected to increase further, IndiaSpend reported in May 2021.
There is a consensus to limit warming to 1.5 ° C by 2099 to avoid the worst predictions, but at the same time, the need to adapt to climate change has become more important and urgent. Adapting to climate change includes building critical infrastructure to cope with extreme weather events such as cyclonic storms, droughts and floods.
India has a dedicated National Climate Change Adaptation Fund (NAFCC), launched in 2015. This is a federal grant that was introduced to meet the goals of the National Change Action Plan. (NAPCC) and help state governments implement state action. Climate Change Plans (SAPCC) and the implementation of adaptation projects. National and state action plans provide a framework for action to respond to the effects of climate change and entered into force in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Since then, thirty-two Indian states have initiated the process of drafting the SAPCC. Although there has been a considerable effort to map regional climate vulnerability and policy making on such a large scale, there has been little implementation of these plans, according to experts. Mumbai is the only city in India to have a climate action plan. Delhi plans to submit its national action plan next month, which will focus on action items to be implemented over the next 10 years, according to a press report.
A conceptual framework for monitoring and evaluation has been proposed by states in their respective SAPCCs, but, in practice, monitoring and evaluation of the activities mentioned in the SAPCCs have been almost nonexistent, according to a 2018 report from the Center. for Science and Environment (CSE) on the effectiveness of states’ climate action plans.
“The scope of state action plans is largely limited to state jurisdiction and there must be a clear vision for further decentralization to the district and city levels,” said Vineet Kumar, deputy program director at the CSE.
It is very important to prioritize a comprehensive assessment of state action plans and their effectiveness against extreme weather events, he added.