Five-country comparison on solar photovoltaic and on-shore wind energy policies and progress.
This article first appeared in Project Syndicate
Water is never far from the news these days. This summer, northern India experienced one of its heaviest monsoon seasons in 80 years, leaving more than 800 people dead and forcing another 100,000 from their homes. Meanwhile, Central Europe faced its worst flooding in decades after heavy rains swelled major rivers like the Elbe and the Danube. In the United States, nearly half the country continues to suffer from drought, while heavy rainfall has broken records in the Northeast, devastated crops in the South, and now is inundating Colorado.
Businesses are starting to wake up to the mounting risks that water – whether in overabundance or scarcity – can pose to their operations and bottom line. At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, experts named water risk as one of the top four risks facing business in the twenty-first century. Similarly, 53% of companies surveyed by the Carbon Disclosure Project reported that water risks are already taking a toll, owing to property damage, higher prices, poor water quality, business interruptions, and supply-chain disruptions.
The costs are mounting. Deutsche Bank Securities estimates that the recent US drought, which affected nearly two-thirds of the country’s lower 48 states, will reduce GDP growth by approximately one percentage point. Climate change, population growth, and other factors are driving up the risks. Twenty percent of global GDP already is produced in water-scarce areas. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in the absence of more sustainable water management, the share could rise to 45% by 2050, placing a significant portion of global economic output at risk.
Powering development with affordable, sustainable electricity
Transportation is quite literally the engine of economic growth in large congested cities throughout the developing world. EMBARQ – the WRI Center for Sustainable Transport – is working to bring cleaner, more efficient transportation systems to these cities. With assistance from EMBARQ and other national and international organizations, India’s Ministry of Urban Development is implementing the country’s first-ever national urban transportation policies. Cities and states that adopt the policies become eligible for financial assistance from a new $11 billion government program, Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, to support sustainable transport projects. The policies are a significant step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving India’s vision of making its cities the most productive and livable in the world.
Communities dependent on natural resources have long faced injustice in both the Philippines and India. Now, thanks to the work of WRI and its national partners in The Access Initiative, victims of pollution and environmental degradation have a better chance in getting redress before special environmental courts and tribunals.
India: The National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA) of India is an administrative court that hears appeals against project approvals where an Environmental impact Assessment was legally required and which had a longstanding reputation for almost always siding with developers against communities. TAI partners challenged several NEAA decisions before the New Delhi High Court and were victorious. Not only did the Court agree with the criticisms leveled against the NEAA, but TAI’s efforts made it clear that the institution needed far reaching reform.
Independently, the Ministry of Forests and Environment introduced a Green Tribunal Bill in the Indian Congress which sought to abolish the NEAA and establish a green tribunal that would hear environmental disputes throughout the country. Concerned that some clauses would limit the scope of environmental dispute resolution, TAI partners successfully developed a critique of the bill and a nationwide campaign for its reform, resulting in ministerial level meetings and the incorporation of most of TAI’s proposed revisions in the final bill, passed in May 2010.
Philippines: In April 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court adopted official “procedures for environmental cases” to be used for civil, criminal and special civil actions brought before the country’s regional, metropolitan and municipal trial courts. This guidance has enabled the Philippines newly established network of environmental courts - the most extensive in any country worldwide - to avoid long-winded and expensive cases. The newly established procedures include provisions to simplify trials, make them speedier, and lower their cost, including by awarding fee waivers for the poor. They also enable courts to monitor and ensure enforcement of judgments.
TAI Philippines, a coalition of NGOs led by the Ateneo de Manila School of Government, drafted the groundbreaking “bench book” for the Philippines’ new environmental courts, supported by WRI which provided finance and training support. In an early demonstration of the effect of these new procedures, plaintiffs in 150 separate villages are filing a collective suit to compel the government to plan water use in the face of climate change.
Ahmedabad launched South Asia’s first complete BRT in October 2009. Janmarg, which means “the people’s way” in Gujarati, focuses the city’s massive growth into sustainable, high-capacity bus corridors. By 2014, Janmarg will serve 90 kilometers and carry 175,000 daily passengers.
Ahmedabad’s success was made possible through the support of several partners, including EMBARQ, whose India staff exposed city officials to best practices of bus rapid transit design and operations during study tours to Mexico City, Mexico; Bogota, Colombia; and Curitiba, Brazil. EMBARQ also conducted an in-depth review of the Janmarg system in August 2009 and provided ongoing advice to the project’s technical leader, CEPT University, to help reinforce critical design concepts.
Indore is one of the fastest growing cities in India, faced with the daunting task of providing a modern and efficient public transit system to its 1.8 million residents. Rising to the challenge, Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd. (AICTSL) established an effective and well-organized transit agency to operate and manage the city’s public transport system. AICTSL is India’s first long-term public-private partnership (PPP), which has enabled the city to expand its transit system to 225 buses and double capacity to 220,000 daily trips. The city also began developing a BRT system, which is expected to be operational by June 2011.
CST-India was instrumental in AICTSL’s success by providing technical support for Indore’s successful request to the Ministry of Urban Development to fund 170 new buses, and preparing and negotiating contracts with private partners. CST-India also helped plan bus routes, develop vehicle specifications, establish AICTSL’s organizational structure, and design and implement a performance monitoring system. In addition, EMBARQ advised on important changes to the BRT system design, including high-platform island stations to ensure level-boarding, making the system more efficient, convenient and accessible for all passengers.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, passed by the Indian Parliament in May 2010, established a court to deal with environmental disputes throughout the country. Though hailed as a progressive mechanism for victims of pollution and environmental degradation to seek redress, the government delayed putting in place the needed infrastructure, staff, and judges for over a year. The deadlock was broken when environmental groups that are part of The Access Initiative in India took the issue to the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor, forcing the government to implement the tribunal.
This turn of events underlines the influence and effectiveness of The Access Initiative (TAI) which is co-led by WRI. Established in 1999, TAI is the largest network of civil society organizations in the world dedicated to ensuring that citizens have the right and ability to influence decisions about the natural resources that sustain their communities. TAI-India has become a visible and influential player in India’s environmental governance arena.
Following the Supreme Court’s intervention, India’s National Green Tribunal started functioning on July 4, 2011, hearing thirty-five cases in the first two weeks. TAI India members won another victory when they brought to the media’s attention a stipulation in the Act requiring petitioners, when filing for environmental damages, to pay one percent of the compensation claimed. Following media coverage, the Minister for Environment and Forests, immediately withdrew the regulation requiring fees, which would have deterred poor people from seeking the tribunal’s help.
Indian citizens will now have unfettered access to an environmental court – an important step in advancing environmental rights in the world’s largest democracy. Although the court now functions in only New Delhi, the government plans to expand its presence to five other locations.