Environment

As Modi Bats Against Climate Change in Davos, Study Puts India Among Worst Performers on Pollution

The prime minister may be justified in his criticism of developed countries’ non-cooperative approach in the fight against climate change. However, India’s own efforts on environment protection leave a lot to be desired.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Davos. Credit: Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Davos. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: India ranks 177 in terms of its environment protection efforts, far lower than China – which is at 120 – according to a new 180-country study released at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Thursday.

The country has plummeted 36 places in the last two years, according to a biennial report produced by Yale University and Columbia University along with the WEF. The study primarily attributes India’s low ranking (177/180) due to a poor showing in the environment health policy category and the number of deaths due to air pollution and low air quality.

Earlier this week, at the plenary session of the WEF, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the moral high ground on the issue of climate change. While delivering the forum’s inaugural speech,  Modi made a strong pitch on climate change, calling it the “first challenge” facing civilisation. He identified climate change, global terrorism and protectionism as the three toughest challenges before the world today.

The prime minister, however, also used his speech to criticise Western countries over what he saw as their non-committal attitude in the fight against global warming.

Modi questioned the developed world’s commitment to supply requisite technology and finances to developing countries, which is seen as critical for achieving success in the fight against climate change.

“Everyone is talking about reducing CO2 emissions but what is being done about it; very few countries are backing up with action on what they promised… where are the resources to help the developing countries?” Modi questioned, adding that very few have come forward to help.

The 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) – prepared jointly by Yale University and Columbia University in partnership with the WEF – ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across ten issue categories, covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality.

These metrics provide a gauge at a national scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals.

The EPI thus offers a scorecard that highlights leaders and laggards in environmental performance, gives insight on best practices and provides guidance for countries that aspire to be leaders in sustainability. Only Congo, Bangladesh and Burundi – all of them ‘least developed countries’ – come lower than India on the environment protection ranking. Even Nepal comes ahead of India.

Switzerland ranks first on the list, followed by France and Denmark, who hold second and third positions, respectively.


Also read: From Field to Fuel, There is an Easy Solution to India’s Air Pollution Problem


Modi may be justified in his criticism of developed countries’ non-cooperative approach in the fight against climate change, however, India’s own efforts on environment protection leave a lot to be desired.

For example, in 2015, the Ministry of Environment & Forests had strengthened emission norms for coal-fired power plants given the sector’s contribution to the deteriorating air quality in the country, which is seen as a public health hazard.

Power plants were given two years time to comply with revised emission norms. However, the government has been sitting on the issue – the power ministry made no effort to push power companies to prepare for compliance with new guidelines that were to become effective from December 8, 2017.

The result was that the deadline was missed. The highest number of air pollution related deaths were reported in India in 2015, according to a report by the Lancet Commission on pollution and health.

Now the power ministry is planning to extend this deadline by another five years. Moreover, there is no effort by the ministry to frontload emission reduction commitment under the extended compliance roadmap.

Liked the story? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.