Economic Survey breaks new sustainability ground

Appeared on the Economic Times on 1/30/18

With the Economic Survey 2017-18, climate change and sustainable development graduate from being mere buzzwords to real considerations for policy formulation. For the first time, the Survey has taken a major step towards mainstreaming these issues, moving away from the past practice of addressing climate change and sustainability as concerns of international negotiations.

The Survey has focused on the impact of climate change on agriculture and the importance of ensuring access to sustainable energy. Both energy and agriculture are key sectors, hence the focus. Access to clean energy is central to the sustainable development goals and reducing the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture remains the key sector providing livelihoods to 49% of the workforce. But India’s vulnerabilities to climate change are not limited to the agricultural sector nor should sustainability be the benchmark for the energy sector alone.

Climate change and the need to shift to sustainable production and consumption patterns based on efficient use of resources must inform policy, choices and practice across all sectors of the economy. Climate change will have an adverse impact on farm incomes, which the government hopes to double.

The Survey breaks new ground by recognising both the centrality of sustainability to policymaking and science as a crucial component of policy. Having laid the ground by focusing on two critical sectors, the government must extend the approach to all sectors. The challenge of climate change is real. Surmounting this challenge, while ensuring that growth is fast, sustainable and inclusive requires a holistic approach, rather than sectoral. The Survey’s analysis of climate change implications is a good beginning that must be built upon.

Matthew Wisner