- GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
COVID lessons for Climate Crisis
Context: Once-in-a-century occurrence, the Covid-19 pandemic was a black swan, overwhelming health systems, administrative capacity and community resilience.
The pandemic offers four lessons that could inform how we prepare for the climate crisis
- Political borders cannot stop planetary risks: The origins of the virus may have been in China, but no country is immune. Climate risks are no different.
- Shocks come in waves: Like the pandemic, climate shocks come not at once, but in waves. The probability of climate risks increases with time. A failure of the monsoons in one year compounds when rainfall is below normal for three or four years in a row.
- Some are more vulnerable than others: Daily wage earners, migrant workers, industrial labour and people with co-morbidities have suffered the most during the pandemic. Similar will be vulnerability with any extreme weather events/ Climate Crisis.
- Economic Vulnerability: The more dynamic your economy, the more you have to lose: The need to restore economic activity demands that there is also a readiness to respond to pandemic aftershocks. Ignoring the risks can jeopardise economic recovery. Similarly, the climate crisis will impact the world’s engines of growth badly.
These lessons must translate into action.
- First, create a Climate Risk Commission
- The commission will be a statutory authority to analyse and report on climate risks on a periodic basis.
- Like the finance commission, it must consult with not just climate experts but also state governments, academia, industry, the media and civil society.
- The commission’s report should be tabled and debated in Parliament.
- Prepare for climate shocks with decentralised capacity.
- The national and state disaster management agencies are a start. Similar structures are needed at district levels.
- Decentralised infrastructure, from distributed power sources, distributed water storage, revamped primary health centres (using off-grid power), or nature-based solutions to reduce coastal floods can greatly boost community resilience.
- Assess critical vulnerabilities for hard infrastructure.
- This is not limited to reducing physical losses to power plants, bridges, airports, or telecom infrastructure. India must understand financial risks.
- RBI should demand regular reporting of climate risks in the lending portfolios of banks. SEBI must mandate the same from listed companies.
- There is a need to assess risks to legacy investments in coal, ongoing investments in natural gas, and exposure to supply chain risks for critical minerals needed for low-carbon technologies.
- India needs a restructured economy
- The restructured economy values and monetises the preservation of natural capital, invests in sectors that are both low-carbon and employment-intensive
- It also creates an ecosystem to stimulate innovation (batteries, green hydrogen, carbon sequestration, regenerative agriculture, sustainable freight and transport, among others).
The tragedy of the pandemic will be aggravated if we do not heed its lessons.
Connecting the dots: