India Sustainable Growth Conference: A recap

  • Blog Post Date 05 June, 2024
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India is at the forefront of the global challenge of sustainable growth – adaptation to climate change and mitigation of its adverse effects must take place simultaneously with efforts to alleviate poverty and improve development indicators. The India Sustainable Growth Conference, hosted at LSE in May, brought together researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to share ideas on how to tackle the challenges confronting India in this regard.

The first session features Prof. E. Somanathan (Indian Statistical Institute) who presents an overview of climate damages, based on inferences from the past. According to various estimates for India, a 1o Celsius increase in average temperature leads to a decline in GDP (gross domestic product) in the range of 1.7% to 3.2%. Taking a disaggregated view, it is evident that the negative impact is larger in the poorer states and districts.

He then puts forth microdata showing that excessive heat causes reduced productivity among manufacturing-sector workers. Informal workers that earn their livelihoods outdoor and lack climate protection in their dwellings as well, are the worst affected – with heat-related decline in workdays and poorer health bringing down earnings for at least one month in the year. 

In terms of possible climate damages in the future, he highlights forecasts around the melting of glaciers and how this will impact agriculture, and flooding in Eastern India and Bangladesh due to rising sea levels. He suggests that adaptation would need to prioritise growth, understand the mechanisms of climate impacts, and be heterogeneous in approach.

Prof. Somanathan concludes with a less-studied idea called ‘Solar Radiation Modification’, wherein sulphate aerosols are injected into the stratosphere to cool the planet – discussing feasibility, acceptance and desirability of such a stop-gap adaptation measure.

The next session is a panel discussion chaired by the IGC's Research Director Tim Dobermann. The discussion begins with IGC’s Executive Director Jonathan Leape emphasising the importance of interaction between researchers and policymakers to arrive at optimal policy solutions, and the creation of ecosystems where various stakeholders can engage with one another. E. Somanathan shares some examples of such cogeneration from his work and that of other researchers with state governments across India.

On similar lines, Prof. Michael Greenstone (University of Chicago) talks about his work with EPIC (The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago) on pollution pricing in Gujarat. which was informed by responding to the areas which policymakers were interested in, and was successfully adopted and scaled across the state. In particular, he notes that co-generation of ideas requires researchers to have presence on the ground. 

Shweta Banerjee (BRAC) also describes how her organisation engages government and non-government actors to scale programmes and translate insights into action. Balaji Srinivasan (EPIC Asia Advisory Group) adds that for such collaborations to be effective, there needs to be consistent support by academic institutions for researchers and policymakers. He also underlines the importance of holistic education in the spheres of climate and energy.

Finally, Robin Burgess (IGC and LSE) shares his view that, going forward, there needs to be a common purpose to unite and excite stakeholders working on issues of climate policy. Funding and institutional structures needs to come together in countries with the potential for idea-generation, and countries needs to learn from one another. He also notes that there is a need for humility while trying different channels of sustainable development and attempting to balance climate change mitigation with more immediate growth and development priorities.

The full recording, including audience Q&A, is available on the IGC website.

This is the first of two videos from the India Sustainable Growth Conference. The second one, on creating a sustainable growth strategy for India, is available here.

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