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New Sustainability Initiatives: India’s way forward

At the close of the year, barely noticed by the world’s press, India’s Environment Minister, Harsh Vardhan, issued a major policy statement setting out the steps which the Modi Government is planning to take next to reduce air pollution in the subcontinent’s major conurbations (as well as taking a swipe at the municipal authorities in Delhi for, in his view, doing too little too late to get with his programme (but more of that in a moment)).

Vardhan outlined a series of reduced vehicle-based pollution targets, with the added imposition of new (restricted) emissions tolerances and thresholds and they will have application in all of India’s major conurbations…including Delhi.

Although these new initiatives are certainly a step in the right direction, there is (as the Minister himself admitted last month in his inaugural speech), still a lot much to be done: “The Government of India is doing its best regarding the matter… Pollution levels did not touch the severe category on 214 days this year, compared to 181 days in 2016, due to the proactive steps taken by the central government but there are certain critical issues like water sprinkling to curtail air pollution. Likewise, landfill sites are not being maintained properly”.

It was then that Vardhan took the opportunity to criticize Delhi’s local government, alleging it was not doing enough to adhere fully with the exising guidelines designed to manage environmental pollution. Naresh Agrawai (representative, not for Delhi but Uttar Pradesh so it wasn’t as though he was personally aggrieved by the comments) responded to these arch comments by inviting the Minister to refrain from criticizing farmers in his region for supposedly causing pollution through burning stubble or husks after harvest: “Farmers are blamed for causing pollution by burning stubble/husk. The government should take steps to deal with the situation, rather than blaming farmers, because vehicle/industrial emissions and others are also the reasons for it.” He suggested that Mr. Vardhan’s Government could better occupy its time by instead imposing heavier taxes on the owners of polluting four-wheel drive cars in India’s big cities.

And so it goes on: with the Modi Government blaming Delhi’s local government and the farming lobby blaming Modi’s Government and the local Delhi government signing up to the Government’s new programme and saying nothing. But at least it has signed up.

Because, of course, beneath all the politics these are deadly serious issues, so it has to be encouraging in these turbulent times to find a consensus emerging across all political classes in India: determined to do something to secure the future of the environment. All of which is also consistent with India’s new role as the world’s leading sustainability superpower and now the key remaining custodian of the precious commitments enshrined in the Paris Climate Accords.

Red Ribbon Asset Management has always placed India at the heart of its portfolio strategies. Not only because it is the most exciting Growth Market on the Planet but also because India is consistently demonstrating a commitment to environmental protection which is consistent with Red Ribbon’s own core philosophies.

So it’s good to note there is no sign of Prime Minister Modi’s Government slowing up or faltering in that commitment. The rest of the world might care to take notice…

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

The article is right to cut to the quick of a process of political manoeuvring that can all too often obscure the importance which the environmental and its proper protection has for all of us, and especially so here at Red Ribbon where the wellbeing of the planet has been at the core of our investment philosophies since the company was founded more than a decade ago.

Yes, we do live in turbulent times where the derogation of the United States from the Paris Climate Accords has made the process of environmental protection more turbulent than it used to be, but we should still recognise that the Indian Government is continuing to take a solid lead in the process in the absence of Washington’s involvement and the latest policy commitments issued by the Modi Government in December are very much to be welcomed. It is, indeed, good to see that it is not letting up in its zeal to have a positive impact on the planet’s future.

Not least because we all stand to gain from that commitment.


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Suchit Punnose

Suchit Punnose / About Author

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