SFC Perspectives on Adaptation and Resilience, Climate Policy, Energy Transitions, and Environmental Governance and Policy


SFC Perspectives are intended to stimulate discussion by providing an overview of key issues and avenues for action to inform India’s sustainable development trajectory.

Read our Perspectives on:

1. Adaptation and Resilience: Building systems that allow India to adapt to climate impacts (by Aditya Valiathan Pillai and Tamanna Dalal)
2. Perspectives on Climate Policy: Embedding a development-centric, climate-ready approach to policymaking (by Aman Srivastava, Easwaran J Narassimhan and Navroz K Dubash)
3. Enabling the Energy Transition: Technology, politics & institutions in India’s energy system (by Ashwini K Swain, Sarada Prasanna Das, Suravee Nayak, Catherine Ayallore and Navroz K Dubash)
4. Perspectives on Environmental Governance and Policy: Systemic transformations to limit the health burden of air pollution (by Bhargav Krishna, Shibani Ghosh, Arunesh Karkun and Annanya Mahajan)

Perspectives on Environmental Governance and Policy: Systemic transformations to limit the health burden of air pollution


Air pollution is the largest risk factor for ill health in India, ahead of high blood pressure, tobacco smoking, and poor diets, contributing to ~1.7 million deaths in 2019. Home to several of the most polluted cities in the world, India has witnessed a doubling of death rates from air pollution between 1990 and 2019. The associated economic burden of this high air pollution was pegged at 1.36% of GDP or ~INR 2 lakh crores in 20191. By any metric, air pollution is a national emergency, and while some important first steps have been taken over the last few years, there is a long way to go before India achieves acceptable air quality levels.

At the Sustainable Futures Collaborative (SFC), we view reducing air pollution not only as a technical challenge, but also as a structural one that requires re-thinking our approach and the institutions that are tasked with addressing it. Systematically addressing air pollution requires a long-term, strategic, goal oriented, health-protecting framework that also integrates short-term implementable technical solutions, all executed by a capable state. Reshaping India’s air pollution policy framework to that end, we believe, will require (1) making health the basis for crafting mitigation priorities, (2) strengthening regulatory institutions in the
ecosystem, (3) executing nested, coordinated, data-driven planning and action from local to airshed levels, and (4) focusing on root causes, not symptoms.

India is at a pivotal moment in its quest to reduce the harms of air pollution and this reshaping of the policy framework is an opportunity to build state capacity and ameliorate health harms while integrating air pollution concerns more deeply into the country’s development goals.

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Media, Politics and Environment: Analyzing Experiences from Europe and Asia


Environmental protection has not equally established itself as a permanent fixture in the political systems of all countries: to date, governments and entire societies have responded to environmental challenges in a variety of ways, and concrete environmental policy is still a highly national matter. Moreover, the perception of environmental problems varies considerably on a global scale. The reasons normally cited for these differences largely stem from the environmental policy debates themselves, e.g. poverty, ignorance, capital interests, etc. In contrast, this book shows that concrete environmental policy emerges from a complex interplay of mass media and political conflicts: first, the mass media provide the framework for national environmental policy through agenda-setting, framing and scandalization; second, the mass media thereby change values in the political and social discourse, e.g. by altering the perception of global commons and expanding the possibilities of interest articulation; and third, this can lead to political decision-making processes in which legal and other measures for environmental protection are enforced. The book systematically compares industrialized countries such as Germany and Japan with several rapidly emerging countries in South and Southeast Asia.

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State’s Commitment to Environmental Governance in India: Struggle Between Developmental Pressure and Sustainability Challenges


Over the last 50 years since environmentalism first exploded onto the world political agenda, the environment has been one of the most controversial and rapidly growing areas of public policy. The green movements in North and local grass-root movements in the South countries have elevated the debate for environmental policymaking and governance. Countries in both North and South have enacted several policies and regulations for environmental protection. However, these policies have been criticized due to their superficial protective coverage, absence of concrete measures and poor execution.

Taking these contexts in the background, this chapter has tried to examine the concept and practice of environmental governance in India. It has provided a historical overview of the environmental governance and also highlighted the challenges and opportunities in the different spheres of environmental decision making by taking some examples. Methodologically, the paper would be based on a path-dependent analysis of the environmental governance in India. This chapter argues that balance in the environment-development trade-off is necessary to meet growth objectives and the enforcement measures do not necessarily obstruct the growth. Further, more public engagement as well as creative politics are required for better environmental decision making.

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What Is Polluting Delhi’s Air? A Review from 1990 to 2022


Delhi’s annual average PM2.5 concentration in 2021–22 was 100 μg/m3—20 times more than the WHO guideline of 5 μg/m3. This is an improvement compared to the limited information available for the pre-CNG-conversion era (~30%), immediately before and after 2010 CWG (~28%), and the mid-2010s (~20%). These changes are a result of continuous technical and economic interventions interlaced with judicial engagement in various sectors. Still, Delhi is ranked the most polluted capital city in the world. Delhi’s air quality is a major social and political concern in India, often with questions regarding its severity and primary sources, and despite several studies on the topic, there is limited consensus on source contributions. This paper offers insight by reviewing the influence of Delhi’s urban growth since 1990 on pollution levels and sources and the evolution of technical, institutional, and legal measures to control emissions in the National Capital Region of Delhi.

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