Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed for a 5 trillion dollar economy by 2024. To attain this target, our GDP needs to grow steadily over the next few years. Experts say it is possible however the biggest challenge is to attain this type of ambitious growth in an environment-friendly way in our present era of climate crisis.
Recent researches of Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment of London School of Economics, have asserted that continued economic growth is feasible provided the intellectual economy is expanded through innovation, technology development for cleaner and greener environment and systems.
World Bank Report also says a low-emission, resource-efficient greening of the economy should be possible at a very low cost in terms of the GDP growth. World Bank economists argued for an environmentally sustainable future growth, India needs to value its natural resources and ecosystems for superior policy framing and decision-making.
Coming to present India, we are witnessing the devastating natural disasters at a higher frequency, fatal heat waves, the worst water crisis and water stress since our independence, are residing in the world's worst-performing cities in terms of air quality, etc.
The agricultural sector that employs more than 50% of the Indians, struggles with the huge increment of input costs in terms of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, decreasing farm profitability, resulting in farmers' suicide, food and nutritional crisis among rural communities, increasing rural unemployment, etc.
From the recent cutting edge research work and a few Indian examples, some strategies maybe implemented and a few successful developmental cases may be replicated to attain the desired green growth with significant job creation.
They are as follows.
- Creating Green Jobs: A study titled 'Green Jobs: Towards decent work in a sustainable low-carbon world', from United Nations Environmental Program in collaboration with Cornell University Global Labor identified few sectors which maybe focused on as future growth engines that can generate green environment friendly jobs. Some of the sectors are renewable energy, recycling, green buildings, sustainable forestry management, agroforestry, small scale sustainable farming, organic farming, mass vehicle industry like the bicycle industry, etc.
- Community Development: For the last 25 years of Indian developmental story, we focused on two pillars, government and market. But at present, this sort of development resulted in more income inequality and jobless growth. Dr. Raghuram Rajan, former RBI governor and Chief Economic Advisor to Government of India in his recently published book The Third Pillar argued for community development as a tool for economic development and job creation in a more equitable and environment-friendly way.
- Traditional Knowledge: Before the industrial revolution, India used to have 24% of global income with his enriched traditional knowledge in farming, handloom and handicrafts, etc. India's huge biodiversity enriched us significantly in wealth creation on those days, global experts who are working on climate crisis now argue traditional knowledge, traditional lifestyle and the art of living of indigenous people are very important factors to combat climate challenges and create opportunities for green growth and jobs.
Deccan Development Trust of Telangana, Timbaktu Collective of Andhra Pradesh, Amar Khamar of West Bengal (organic farming, agroforestry), Khamir of Gujarat, Upasana Studio of Auroville (Handloom & Handicraft), Kudumbashree (Microfinance, Micro Enterprises, Farming) and many more.
Government and businesses may focus on creating and developing these sorts of organisations to create growth and job opportunities while taking care of the natural environment.
Taxing the highly polluting or environmentally degrading businesses initially may support these green community organisations to grow. Presently experts like 2018 Nobel Prize winning economist William Nordhaus and many more argue that environmental/carbon taxes could potentially be used to yield positive net environmental and health benefits with minimal economic costs.
After the liberalisation of the economy in 1991, despite economic growth, India has not done well in terms of protecting the natural environment. A recent survey among 178 countries, India ranked 155 in terms of overall environmental quality.
A new World Bank report finds that environmental degradation costs India $80 billion per year or 5.7% of its economy. So, our 5 trillion dollar dream must take the path of caring for our mother nature and her all flora and fauna.
Our father of the nation Gandhiji once said, "The path is the goal". He never compromised on his path to attain the goals. Getting inspiration from his thoughts and actions, let the nation chose the sustainable path to attain our big dreams.
(Dr Goutam Saha is Associate Professor, teaches &Researches Sustainable Entrepreneurship in NIFT, Bhubaneswar, Prof. S.N. Misra teaches Economics)