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1.Air pollution increasing India’s burden of disease (Live Mint)

2.Did developing countries miss the trick at Bonn? (Down to Earth)

1.Air pollution increasing India’s burden of disease (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of air pollution. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Delhi’s air is among the foulest is well known it’s close to being declared a hardship assignment for foreign diplomats. What is new is that we now have a much better idea of exactly what this is costing the residents of Delhi in terms of their health and general well-being.

Cost of disease due to pollution

  • It’s an internationally accepted measure called DALY, short for Disability Adjusted Life Years, and it is aimed at explaining what we see around ourselves every day at work, on the street and at home.
  • This measure gives you a good picture of the cost of a disease, or condition or environmental risk not only in terms of death. One DALY, according the World Health Organization (WHO), is one full year of lost healthy living per 1,000 population (in India, per 100,000). It is a measure of the burden of disease carried by a nation, region or sub-region.
  • Recently, the health ministry published a report on the Health of the Nation’s States a study of how the burden of disease has changed in Indian states from 1990 to 2016. The study is the outcome of research by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research institute at the University of Washington in Seattle; the Public Health Foundation of India, a premier public health institution in India with a presence across the country, and the Indian Council of Medical Research, the apex government body for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical and health research.
  • This report defines DALY as “years of healthy life lost to premature death and suffering. DALYs are the sum of years of life lost and years lived with disability”.
  • The importance of this report cannot be over-emphasized. It is a landmark publication in disaggregated health data in India, a country that must make heroic efforts (including by massive increases in government spending) to improve the health of its people if it is to enjoy the full benefits of its slowing but still rapid economic growth.
  • Essentially, the report shows that India is faced with the double whammy of increases in the burden of both lifestyle and infectious diseases. The first is commonly associated with sedentary lifestyles brought about by greater wealth, the second a classic indicator of poverty. Not surprisingly, the first category is dominant in wealthier states and the latter, alongside malnutrition, in poorer states. This, in other words, is India’s health gap.

Nuisance of air pollution

  • However, cutting across both categories is air pollution. The report, correctly, makes a distinction between indoor and outdoor air pollution. Nationally, indoor air pollution, mainly the result of cooking with fossil fuels such as coal and wood, has come down markedly since 1990, but outdoor air pollution has increased.
  • The really worrying part? Taken together, indoor and outdoor air pollution made up more than 10% of the total burden of disease in 2016, second only to child and maternal malnutrition. The main risks from air pollution are cardiovascular and respiratory diseases to which it makes a “substantial contribution”.
  • Broken down, the risk from air pollution was higher in the poorest states these are eight so-called Empowered Action Group (EAG) states that receive special development effort attention from the government of India, namely Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. This means the poor as ever will be disproportionately impacted by air pollution, unlike those who are able to afford air purifiers and good quality pollution masks, while benefiting from the protected environment of sealed and confined spaces such as cars and offices.
  • “The burden due to household air pollution is highest in the EAG states, where its improvement since 1990 has also been the slowest. On the other hand, the burden due to outdoor air pollution is the highest in a mix of northern states, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, and West Bengal,” the report says.
  • The report says risks from outdoor air pollution increased due to a variety of pollutants from five sources power production, industry, vehicles, construction and waste burning. As advocates of green development will point out, these are all outcomes of a path of development that ignores environment-friendly solutions.
  • Air pollution, it says, can be effectively dealt with “only if the efforts of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, ministry of power, ministry of new and renewable energy, ministry of road transport and highways, ministry of housing and urban affairs, ministry of health and family welfare, and a variety of non-governmental partners come together.

Way ahead

  • The policy response has been marked by a complete lack of preparedness, and charges traded between the governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana that are ruled by three rival political parties, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, respectively.
  • There are no signs that these governments are even prepared to work together, in contrast to the consensus (albeit not without its difficulties) that marks efforts to execute a single goods and services tax for the country.
  • Neither, surprisingly, has there been any firm signal from the Union government that there’s an emergency that needs to be dealt with.

Question– What are the problems associated with air pollution? What  is the correlation between it and disease intensity?

 

2.Did developing countries miss the trick at Bonn? (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the strategy adopted by developing countries in Bonn and its shortcomings. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • As UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn is drawing towards an end within scheduled timeline, a rarity during annual global negotiations in the recent times, the question hangs: did the developing countries miss a trick by going into an overdrive over pre-2020 climate action debate? Did developed countries actually win a ‘bout’ by surrendering a ‘round’?
  • Developing countries block, including the BASIC group to which India is part of, claimed a “big win” by bringing the spotlight back on pre-2020 agenda and pushed developed countries to agree on a roadmap to implement the commitments made by them in Doha five years back! After a negotiation that continued over a week and concluded just before the high-level segment with the political leaders was set to roll, a draft proposed by the President of COP22 who was coordinating the negotiation on behalf of the President of COP23 president—was agreed upon by both developed and developing countries.

Push for pre-2020 agenda may not be enough

  • Broadly, the draft proposed that developed countries would be requested to ratify Doha amendment of Kyoto protocol as soon as possible and submit a report by May 1, 2018, stating their current achievement and enhanced action prior to 2020. There would be a stocktake on pre-2020 implementation and heightened ambition on emission cut in next two COPs and discussions on climate finance.
  • In 2012, the Parties had agreed in Doha that under extended Kyoto Protocol, countries would undertake aggregate emission cuts that would be at least 18 per cent below 1990 levels. They also agreed that developed countries would reconsider their emission reduction commitments by the end of 2014, with a view to increasing their ambition level. Nothing happened since then, till the issue was raked up in Bonn.
  • While one cannot deny the importance of this “political win” for developing countries, on ground it looks hollow in terms of achieving real emission cut and keeping the world livable for coming generations. Even the intimation “on time” means that developed countries under Kyoto would have at most 18 months to meet their commitments, which seems improbable, particularly in context of their track record in Kyoto Protocol. Not to talk about big boys of burgeoning emission the US, Japan, Russia and Canada who are in any way out of contention, being out of Kyoto.

Doha Amendment ratification more symbolic than effective

  • Hence, this ratification will be nothing but a mere paper-play unless the commitment under Doha commitment is tagged with the post-2020 commitments under respective ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’. The agreed draft has mentioned that pre-2020 agenda will be “an element” in the facilitative dialogue in 2018 and stops there! Though a section of developing countries and civil society hope that pre-2020 commitments may be tagged to Paris Agreement and expect another round of detailed debate over that during COP24 in Poland, the fact remains that representatives of developed countries, including European Union delegation’s lead negotiator Elina Bardram confirmed that there has been “no discussion” on linking pre-2020 with Paris climate deal. 

More important agendas left on the lurch

  • While going on an overdrive to gain this “win”, the developing countries have perhaps  lost precious time and initiative to push other key agendas; and as a result, no substantive progress could be made on long-term finance, loss and damage, transparency, adaptation finance and likewise. Former Bangladesh minister and present chairman of parliamentary committee on environment and forest Hasan Mahmud termed the negotiation “unsatisfactory” till Thursday (November 16) afternoon and not much has moved after that. “Look, discussion on climate-triggered migration, an issue being part of Paris Agreement, was all but missing in Bonn,” said Mahmud during a conversation.
  • Ambassador Antonio Marcondes, a senior Brazil negotiator accompanied by environment ministers and delegation heads from China, India, Brazil and South Africa conceded publicly to a question put forward by this correspondent that “it was regrettable as one vital week within two weeks of conference has been lost in the process (of discussing pre-2020)” and blamed developed countries for “standing in other side of the aisle”. “Are they (developed nations) playing a game?”; “At least we are not playing,” retorted Marcondes, perhaps knowing within that they might have been taken for a ride.

Way ahead

  • The debate, arguably, has also allowed the US to reclaim some of the lost ground on climate negotiation. The US, which was completely isolated by other developed countries during G20, took chance of the debate to forge some kind of solidarity with other developed countries on a common issue and subsequently, even took a key position in negotiation on other agendas like climate finance.
  • There is no doubt that United States would have been more isolated if pre-2020 debate had not taken such proportions. One can understand from their body language. They were not really that active and generally held back in the initial discussions; but as the COP progressed they have become much more active and vocal.
  • Developed countries, including the US, sucked developing countries into a debate, which actually means nothing for the latter in real terms. On the other hand, developed countries could push back the goalpost further.

Question– What should be the strategy of developing countries to reform the climate change negotiations?