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Budget 2018 And Climate Change: Big Promises In Davos, No Room In Budget

According to an Economic Survey, farmer incomes can be affected by up to 25% as a result of climate change. With almost a quarter of farm income lost due to climate change, the government not addressing climate change in the budget, or allocating a significant fund for its mitigation, is a hit and miss

The Budget was recently released on 1st Feb by the Finance Minister, which was met with mixed reactions. With grand plans for agriculture and health-care, the budget did miss out on one sector completely, which is environment and climate change mitigation.

Though the budget did address air pollution, setting up a fund to combat air pollution in Delhi, and crop burning in neighbouring states, it is still not enough, and there exists a large finance gap between the allocated funds and how much India would actually require to combat climate change. This is a few days after India ranked 177 out of 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index, and PM Modi speaking about climate change issues and the urgency to address them at Davos, World Economic Forum.

With the government concentrating on the agriculture sector, it must be noted that agricultural income will fall greatly due to climate change, hence it is integral that climate change mitigation is taken seriously, as climate change will affect the livelihood of farmers greatly, who are largely vulnerable to climate change effects. According to an Economic Survey, farmer incomes can be affected by up to 25% as a result of climate change. With almost a quarter of farm income lost due to climate change, the government not addressing climate change in the budget, or allocating a significant fund for its mitigation, is a hit and miss.

"This is a national budget, not a state budget. The budget has been entirely silent on environment. The government appears to have no intention of fighting climate change. In fact, we can even say that its actions [such as extending the old emission norms for thermal plants by five years] indicate a reversal in the promises made on international fora," said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Centre for Science and Environment.

The government has allocated around Rs 2674.4 crores to the environment ministry for 2018-19, however, it isn’t clear how much of it will be allocated for the pollution crisis in Delhi. One thing which is clear is that this amount will not be enough to properly address issues of climate change and sustainable development.

"A special scheme will be implemented to support the efforts of the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the NCT of Delhi to address air pollution and to subsidise machinery required for institutional management of crop residue," said the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley when presenting the budget.

"Machinery required for institutional management of crop residue will be subsidised. Our scientists are also working to develop a viable process to handle stubble," said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the environment minister while referring to the special scheme to address air pollution.

There have been some allocations for other environment and biodiversity-related projects, like Project Tiger (Rs 350 crore), Project Elephant (Rs 30 crore), and for the National Afforestation Program (Rs 160 crore) to increase forest cover.

The budget also didn’t mention renewable energy, despite commitments from the government to add 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. The budgetary allocation of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy rose by a mere 9%, which may not be enough to accelerate the rate at which renewable energy is being deployed in the country.

According to a study last year, India loses around Rs 64125 crores annually due to climate change, hence the budget should have clearly prioritised climate change mitigation. However being an election budget, it was a bit populist and concentrated on agriculture and health-care more. Perhaps more information dispersion regarding climate change costs and effects is the need of the hour, and for India to seriously commit to achieving the SDGs and the Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030. 


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