Daily Current Affairs 25.11.2022 (Riots at China’s iPhone assembly plant, Russia’s nuclear icebreakers and militarisation of the Arctic, Unemployment rate dips marginally to 7.2% in July-September: survey, Exporters seek helping hand to ride out global slowdown, Ukraine right-wingers and the crisis of democracy, Disquiet in Northeast, Opening stance, Can poor countries afford to go green?)

Daily Current Affairs 25.11.2022 (Riots at China’s iPhone assembly plant, Russia’s nuclear icebreakers and militarisation of the Arctic, Unemployment rate dips marginally to 7.2% in July-September: survey, Exporters seek helping hand to ride out global slowdown, Ukraine right-wingers and the crisis of democracy, Disquiet in Northeast, Opening stance, Can poor countries afford to go green?)


1. Riots at China’s iPhone assembly plant

What led to the mass protests by workers at the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou in China? How is the local government reacting to the protests? How did Foxconn and Apple respond to the clashes between thousands of police and factory workers? How will it impact iPhone production?

Videos on Chinese social media on November 23 showed hundreds of workers protesting and clashing with police at the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, in central China’s Henan province. The videos showed violent clashes between workers and thousands of hazmat-clad police deployed at the facility, where workers have been, for several weeks, protesting living conditions and delays in pay amid a COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown. The continuing unrest at the plant has turned the spotlight on China’s “zero-COVID” policy and the impact on both workers’ conditions and global supply chains as the world’s second-largest economy continues with stringent COVID-19 measures.

What led to the protests?

Zhengzhou, where Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn established the world’s largest iPhone assembly facility, has been dealing with a wave of COVID-19 cases since September. Reports in October said an outbreak at the Foxconn facility led to workers being locked down in dormitories for several weeks. Dramatic images in late-October showed some workers climbing the walls of the factories to escape the lockdown and walking back to their hometowns along highways, reminiscent of the migrant worker exodus seen during India’s lockdown in March 2020.

With workers leaving, the local government has sought to hire hundreds of replacements, with reports in the Chinese media saying as many as one lakh new workers are being recruited to ensure Apple’s supply chain remains undisrupted. The latest protests appear to have been carried out by some of the new recruits, who have, in videos, complained that they were denied the payments promised. Some have also complained of conditions in the factory and alleged they were not separated from COVID-19 positive cases.

How have the Chinese government, Foxconn andApple responded?

The Chinese government has cracked down forcefully on the protesters, and videos on November 23 showed thousands of riot police, all clad in white hazmat suits, surrounding the facility and clashing with workers. Some clips showed the white-clad security personnel beating up and kicking workers. Videos were being live streamed on Chinese social media websites by some of the protesters, before being taken down.

The response has been in keeping with the harsh enforcement of COVID-19 lockdowns across China. Just this week, there were also clashes between hazmat-clad police and people protesting lockdowns in southern Guangdong province, underlining growing public discontent at the continuing lockdowns as part of the “zero-COVID” policy three years into the pandemic.

Foxconn, in a statement, denied the workers’ claims, saying it had fulfilled contracts and that allegations of workers not being separated from COVID-19 cases were “untrue”.Apple said, in a statement, it had “Apple team members on the ground at our supplier Foxconn’s Zhengzhou facility” and was “reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed.” On November 23, reports said Foxconn would offer a payment for workers to leave, suggesting it wanted the recently arrived replacements, who have been involved in the protests, to leave the facility and to find new hires.

How will the protests impact Apple’s iPhone deliveries?

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Zhengzhou, Apple has expressed concerns that its iPhone 14 shipments will be hit ahead of the key holiday season in the U.S., when orders are likely to surge. Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant employed two lakh workers and was the biggest for Apple anywhere in the world.

Reuters had reported in October that Apple was already bracing for disruptions, even prior to the latest protests. With the departing new workers, the facility will likely take weeks to return to full capacity, although Foxconn said it was looking to offset disruptions by ramping up production in other facilities.

Foxconn produces around 70% of Apple’s iPhones. Reuters reported that while the Taiwanese firm is also looking to up production in India, it is still largely reliant on the Zhengzhou factory for assembly of most of its global output.

2. Russia’s nuclear icebreakers and militarisation of the Arctic

What is the significance of the newly launched icebreakers? Why are countries racing to display power in the Arctic? What is India’s position?

On November 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin virtually presided over the launch and flag raising ceremony of two nuclear-powered icebreakers at St. Petersburg and said such icebreakers were of “strategic importance”. As climate change opens up the Arctic giving access to new routes and resources, there is a race by adjoining countries to build up their militaries and Russia has a clear lead over them.

Why are the Russian icebreakers significant?

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Mr. Putin said both icebreakers were laid down as part of their large-scale, systematic work to re-equip and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet, to strengthen Russia’s status as a “great Arctic power.” The 173.3-metre-long‘Yakutia’, with a displacement of up to 33,540 tonnes,was launched into water andcanbreak throughthree metresof ice.The flag was raised on another vessel Ural, which isexpected to become operational in December, while the Yakutia will joinservice by end-2024,Mr.Putin said.

There are two already similar vessels in service, Arktika and Sibir. Mr. Putin said that a much more powerful 209-metre-long nuclear icebreaker “Rossiya,” displacing up to 71,380 tonnes, would be completed by 2027.

In the last two decades, Russia has reactivated several Soviet era Arctic military bases and upgraded its capabilities.

Mr. Putin talked of the importance of the Northern Sea Route,which cuts down time to reach Asia by up to two weeks compared to the current route via the Suez canal. In line with this, the updated Russian naval doctrine, unveiled in July, envisages “diversifying and stepping up naval activities on the Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya archipelagos and Wrangel Island.”

In the backdrop of the war on Ukraine, on March 3, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the U.S. announced that they would “temporarily pause participation in all meetings of the [Arctic] Council and its subsidiary bodies…”.

Why are countries racing towards the Arctic?

There has been a race among Arctic states and near-Arctic states to augment their capabilities in a bid to be ready to capitalise on the melting Arctic.Russian military modernisation in the Arctic has prompted other Arctic states to join the bandwagon.Unlike Antarctica,the Arctic is not a global commonaccentuating the problem.

For instance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has been conducting regular exercises in the region while partner countries are investing in upgrading military capabilities. At the same time, China, which calls itself to be a near-Arctic state, has also announced ambitious plans for a ‘polar silk route’ to connect to Europe as well building massive icebreakers.

Where does India stand with respect to the Arctic?

Since 2007, India has anArctic research programmewithas many as 13 expeditionsundertaken till date. In March 2022,Indiaunveiled its first Arctic policy titled:‘India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development’.Indiais also one of the 13Observersin the Arctic Council, the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation in the Arctic.

As the earth further heats up, which is more profound at the poles, the race for the Arctic is set to accelerate which makes the Arctic the next geopolitical hotspot with all interests converging on it – environmental, economic, political and military.

3. Unemployment rate dips marginally to 7.2% in July-September: survey

It was 7.6% in the previous quarter and 9.8% in the corresponding period in 2021, according to data from the National Statistical Office; labour force participation rate rises to 47.9% from 46.9%

The unemployment rate in urban areas for persons above the age of 15 eased to 7.2% in July-September from 9.8% a year ago and 7.6% in the previous quarter, according to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) here on Thursday.

The unemployment rate was 6.6% for men and 9.4% for women. The rate was 9.3% and 11.6%, respectively, in July-September 2021. The unemployment ratio is defined as the percentage of persons unemployed among the persons in the labour force.

The worker population ratio (WPR) also witnessed a marginal increase compared with last year’s. The WPR is defined as the percentage of employed persons in the population. The WPR in urban areas for persons aged 15 and above stood at 44.5% in July-September 2022, an increase from 42.3% in the corresponding period in 2021. It was 43.9% in April-June 2022. The WPR among men was 68.6% and among women, 19.7%. It was 66.6% and 17.6%, respectively, in 2021.

The labour force participation rate (LFPR), defined as the percentage of persons in labour force who are working or seeking or available for work in the population, in urban areas for persons aged 15 and above, increased to 47.9% in July-September 2022, from 46.9% in the corresponding period in 2021. It was 47.5% in April-June 2022. The LFPR among men was 73.4% and 21.7% among women. In 2021, it was 73.5% and 19.9%, respectively.

Ashoka University’s Centre for Economic Data and Analysis on Thursday said in a release that over the past two decades, the LFPR of women has been steadily declining, despite an increase in their educational attainment.

“This has serious consequences, both for the lives of Indian women and for the country at large,” it said.

4. Exporters seek helping hand to ride out global slowdown

FIEO urges reintroduction of interest subsidies, tax breaks for overseas marketing in pre-Budget interaction with Finance Minister; group seeks bigger allocations for export promotion schemes

With order books shrinking and credit costs rising, exporters on Thursday urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to reintroduce interest subsidies, grant tax breaks for overseas marketing spends, and expand allocations for the Commerce Ministry’s export promotion schemes in the forthcoming Union Budget.

Observing that the rupee’s decline against the U.S. dollar had not been as steep as other currencies, the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) president A. Sakthivel indicated that the Indian currency’s relative strength was, however, hurting the competitiveness of exports, which all the more needed support.

“When global demand is declining, it becomes all the more necessary to go for aggressive marketing. However, most Indian companies are cutting marketing spends in view of contraction,” Mr. Sakthivel said, adding this would hurt the prospects of ‘getting whatever little demand there is’ now and even when the global situation improved.

“There is an urgent need to restore the interest equalisation benefit of 5% to manufacturer MSMEs and 3% to all 410 tariff lines,” Mr. Sakthivel said.

5. Editorial-1: Ukraine, right-wingers and the crisis of democracy

It’s been a bad year. Not only did Russia invade Ukraine, but there were also other disasters that included the burning out of the Swedish pole star of social democratic thought. Olof Palme’s since long neglected North-South partnership and non-alignment was scrapped in favour of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-membership. The election campaign was dominated by issues of immigration and crime, with no clear alternative for the victims of social and civic inequalities. The Social Democratic Party gained votes at the expense of possible allies but lost out to the radical rightist Swedish Democrats, who are now dominating the new conservative government’s agenda. Rightists around the world are jubilant. What should leftists and liberal progressives do?

Leading Swedish social democrats want to follow their Danish colleagues who won national elections two months later by accepting the right-wing arguments on refugees and police batons while adding welfare for the “real Danes”. But what is left of social democracy if its core principle of democracy based on equality of all people — and international solidarity to sustain it — is undermined?

Leftist social democrats want to counter the rightist thesis of social security through ethnic nationalism with radical economic and social policies. But as German leftist theorist Wolfgang Streeck argues, democratic decisions towards such policies have been undermined by global neoliberalism. And there are few ideas on how to influence international power relations to gain more national autonomy by strengthening progressives around the world. So, the rightists may sustain their support by asserting that it remains necessary to protect the “original citizens” behind nativist borders.

Basic problems need addressing

Acting by way of NATO to help Ukraine and save liberal democracy is also problematic. Russian imperialism must be contained and the countries nearby, including Sweden, which feel particularly threatened, need to coordinate their defence. Perhaps it is effective to do so within NATO. But in the long term, the situation worsens if the adaptation to the priorities of the military alliance reduces the possibilities of countering the fundamental causes of aggressions such as Ukraine, the U.S.’s interventions, and supporting the struggle for rights and democracy as in Turkey and Kurdistan. This was not considered in the security policy analysis that legitimised Sweden’s NATO application or even dealt with thoroughly within the Social Democratic Party. Hence, it is time the basic problems are addressed, beyond NATO’s provocations and Putin’s tsarist dreams.

It is often said that everything is different after February 24 (the Ukraine invasion), but this is not true. From a historical point of view, the Russian onslaught is not a new evil that can be dealt with separately. It is certainly exceptional to start a large-scale brutal war in Europe, but the reasons and methods are largely the same as for the conservative national aggression worldwide in favour of nativist and identity politics, against democratic freedoms and rights, the rule of law, dissidents, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, women, and immigrants, within and beyond national borders. Most importantly, the right-wing nationalism is in turn largely a reaction to the downsides of the third wave of rights and democracy in the context of neoliberal globalisation. So, the fundamental questions relate to these downsides and how to counter them.

Why liberal democracy has fallen short

The third wave of democracy began among liberals and broadly defined social democrats in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America in the mid-1970s. It spread to Africa and Asia and was reinforced with the fall of the wall in Berlin and the Soviet Union. Soon, however, the advance of neoliberalism, combined with the enduring imperial western interests, and the continued dominance and corruption of elites in the Global South, undermined the capacity of liberal democracy to offer ordinary people influence as well as justice and prosperity. Liberals and mainstream social democrats lost much of their credibility. And the more radical democratic left in trade unions, social movements and civil society groups was usually weak, fragmented and without political representation.

Many people have instead been attracted by left-wing populism (which has often failed) and, above all, by “strong” right-wing nationalist leaders. In socio-economically imploding Russia, for example, Boris Yeltsin’s elitist democratisation was combined with western-backed neo-liberalism and oligarchs who seized public property for their own gain. Dissatisfaction with this allowed Vladimir Putin to criticise the spread of liberalism and NATO. He could offer stability, foster Russian nationalism, win elections and the support of the Church, and strengthen his power through the security service and business partners. In the Global South, outrage over the shortcomings of liberalisation, including corruption, increased too.

Consequently, for example, the leader in India and “strong leaders” such as Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines were able to win elections and acquire absolute power, as did Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. In South Africa, the African National Congress’s project was destroyed, and the pro-democrats of the Arab Spring were left to their fate, Syria became an inferno and the refugee flows increased, generating rightist reactions as far north as Scandinavia. In a similar way, the West bet on compromises with the military in Myanmar, which could then crush the democracy movement. In the U.S., Donald Trump also took over and his successors live on, as do Brexit and neo-nationalism in Europe.

Meanwhile, the attempts to spread democracy by military means, as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, have failed. The mainstream democracy support takes on a routinised life of its own. Sweden, for one, has even reduced aid to the pro-democracy forces that must be strengthened to solve the problems of plunder and unequal development, and has made special concessions to the Turkish autocracy to get into NATO. The hopeful cases such as Chile, Colombia, Brazil, and India’s Kerala are few and short of support. Many people and leaders are critical of the sanctions policies for Ukraine that hits them harder than Russia. Moreover, the invitation of Asian allies against Russia and China to the NATO meeting in Madrid epitomises the rise of a new worldwide Cold War along with rearmament, nuclear threats, proxy wars and support for authoritarian allies at the expense of human rights, democracy, welfare, and the climate.

Building on a countermovement

Therefore, while non-aligned countries in the South may hopefully be able to initiate peace negotiations, we should all do everything to combine the defence against Russia’s aggression by countering its root causes: that the third democratic wave has, step by step, nourished an authoritarian reaction because it failed to link neoliberal globalisation with sustainable development and welfare. Consequently, the principles of liberal democracy can only be defended and deepened as part of a broad, social, democratically-oriented countermovement that combines support for pro-democrats with reforms for sustainable development that are based on productive and participatory welfare reforms. There are positive examples, but expansion calls for studies of what is possible and an exchange of experience. This would be a new historic task for concerned scholars, self-critical liberals, environmental and left-wing activists, and social democrats who do not back down to rightist national moods to win elections.

6. Editorial-2: Disquiet in Northeast

Boundary disputes between States should be resolved quickly

On November 22, five villagers from Meghalaya and an Assam forest guard were killed and two others were seriously injured in a firing incident along the boundary between the two States. The Assam government said the incident happened after its forest guards tried to intercept a truck smuggling illegal timber. When the truck was stopped, the forest personnel were gheraoed by unknown miscreants who resorted to violence, according to Assam, which maintains that the staff resorted to firing to save their lives. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said on Twitter that the Assam police and Assam forest guards entered Meghalaya and “resorted to unprovoked firing”. Versions differ and both States have instituted separate inquiries, but the mistrust and underlying conflicts in the northeast that lead to such incidents are deeper. Assam and Meghalaya have a five-decade old boundary dispute. Meghalaya, carved out of Assam as an autonomous region in 1970, became a full-fledged State in 1972. In March, Assam and Meghalaya resolved the boundary dispute at six out of total 12 such locations along their 884.9 km boundary, and the next round of talks was to take place soon. Though the latest flare-up did not arise out of this dispute, it happened along a disputed border stretch.

Assam has boundary disputes at various points in time with the States carved out of it — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Last year, the police forces of Assam and Mizoram clashed, killing five on the Assam side. Dozens of people have died in conflicts along State borders in the northeast over the years. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had asked Assam to take the lead in resolving the lingering disputes, which have their origins in the colonial cartography that overlooked the life patterns of local communities. Traditional hunting, grazing and farming grounds of communities got divided by modern administrative boundaries at many places. When new States were formed, such concerns acquired a more serious nature, and the Naga demand for a unified homeland that is now spread beyond the State of Nagaland is instructive. It is unfortunate and tragic that States that are part of the Indian Union are involved in violent clashes with one another. The BJP is in government in much of the northeast and has the leverage to aim for a comprehensive resolution of all outstanding disputes in the region. Communities will have to be taken into confidence, and boundaries adjusted. In any case, these man-made lines should not be allowed to restrict the movement of people in pursuit of a livelihood.

7. Editorial-3: Opening stance

India-Australia trade pact’s ratification is good, but staying competitive is critical

In what would be India’s first major free trade deal with a developed economy in over a decade, the first phase of a pact sealed with Australia in April this year is likely to be operationalised soon, paving easier market access for Indian services and goods. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s administration that assumed office a little over a month after his predecessor and now Leader of Opposition Scott Morrison signed the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) with India, has steered its ratification through Parliament. So, the India-Australia partnership enjoys wide, bipartisan support in Canberra — that Australia has been particularly upset with what it called the ‘weaponisation of trade’ by China, has surely helped galvanise sentiment about India being a more trustworthy partner. While the two countries are already part of recently formed global cliques such as the four-nation Quad, the trilateral Supply Chain Resilience Initiative and the Indo-Pacific Economic Forum (IPEF), the bilateral trade deal is a strong positive signal about India’s credentials to a world shuffling its feet away from dodgy supply chains towards a ‘China plus one’ strategy. Trading partners, some of whom are negotiating similar deals with India, will also be watching the contours of the next phase of talks between the two countries to firm up a more comprehensive treaty.

India expects bilateral trade to rise to about $50 billion from the current level of $31 billion in five years, with Indian exports driving half this surge, creating a million new jobs in labour-intensive sectors. Zero duty benefits on 98.3% of Australian tariff lines, from the day the agreement comes into force, will be extended to all Indian products within five years. Australia, in turn, will get zero duty benefits for 90% of its exports (in value terms) to India. With raw materials such as coal, metals and wool dominating its shipments, that means cheaper inputs for Indian firms. Annual visa quotas for Indian chefs and yoga trainers, and a post-study work visa regime for Indian students will bolster ties, as would the approval of a double taxation avoidance agreement by Australia, which is expected to save millions of dollars a year for Indian IT firms. As India pushes to close trade deals with the U.K., the EU and Canada, the wine import clauses with Australia that envisage an industry-level partnership, could also serve as a template for other spirits. It is critical to remember that trade deals open new doors, but do not automatically mean higher exports or better trade balances, as India’s past pacts with ASEAN and Japan have shown. There is no shortcut or alternative to fixing India’s overall global competitiveness.

8. Editorial-4: Can poor countries afford to go green?

The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) concluded on November 20 in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt. Nearly 200 countries pledged to set up a ‘loss and damage fund’ to help vulnerable countries affected by climate change. Developing countries have welcomed this development, which has been a long-time demand. Developed nations, however, are not satisfied with the level of commitment that poor countries have shown towards cutting down greenhouse gas emissions and phasing out fossil fuels. In a discussion moderated by Prashanth Perumal J., Navroz Dubash and Tejal Kanitkar discuss issues surrounding the cost of going green. Edited excerpts:

What is the likely economic cost of climate change? How can poor countries weigh the cost of climate change against the economic cost of cutting down on fossil fuel use?

Navroz K. Dubash: It is well established that the cost of climate change impact is considerable to economies. As temperatures rise, the cost of not addressing climate change is likely to rise. There’s enough science to suggest that this cost is high. The question of weighing the relative costs of trying to mitigate climate change against the cost of climate change impact is more complex. We must not think about mitigation as a distinct thing, but instead think about the kinds of transitions that are required to bring about mitigation. For example, there is a shift towards lower emission energy systems around the world; that’s a technological shift and the cost of those technologies has decreased to the point where they are now more or less cost competitive with coal-fired power plants. It makes economic sense to invest in these technologies. But the transition is difficult and is going to be costly. I think that’s how we should frame this, not whether but how we have to get there, and also how those costs are borne.

Tejal Kanitkar: First, are the costs of the fight against climate change high? Yes. The fight is long and includes not just mitigation costs. Often the focus is solely on estimates for the cost of mitigation. Many of these estimates are speculative, and we can err on either side. For example, even 15 years ago, we could not have anticipated the sharp drop in solar prices that we’re seeing today. However, what makes the fight against climate change much harder is that for developing countries, much of our infrastructure is yet to be built. How possible is it to build this with just renewable energy technologies? There is a discourse around the opportunity offered by renewable energy that downplays the serious trade-offs that exist in moving away from known technology too soon.

Is it fair to expect developing countries to reach the per capita income levels of developed countries with the use of renewable energy?

TK: Even the basic minimum, in terms of universal well-being, would require much higher levels of energy. Much of our infrastructure is yet to be built. We need roads, housing, hospitals, schools, industries, etc. Is this all possible with renewable energy? No, it is difficult. We need other sources of energy, which are equally fraught with other concerns. The developing world does not have the luxury of using fossil fuels in an unconstrained manner, which the developed world has had. Climate change is real; we are going to face the impact. So, we have to pursue more deliberate, purposeful and optimal utilisation of fossil fuels that will allow us to bootstrap ourselves to a low carbon future. This is not going to be easy, but it is necessary; the developing world is much more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We need to utilise our fair share of carbon to build resilience and create the means to transition to a non-fossil fuel future. It is important, however, that our efforts are not utilised by developed countries to free ride on us, and that the benefits of our efforts must accrue back to us.

NKD: We don’t have the luxury of unconstrained fossil fuel use or high carbon energy trajectories. If we all chose a high carbon path to development, the impacts of climate change would make development itself much less tenable and would undermine the benefits we seek from development. Does this mean that we are obligated to a maximally low carbon path? No. This is where your belief regarding the renewable energy opportunities available becomes very relevant. If you think that there aren’t many opportunities, you won’t deviate much from a high-carbon path. If you think there are opportunities, you might deviate quite a lot. The solution really lies in focusing on finding common ground between economic development and climate mitigation efforts.

We need to search for opportunities in the renewable energy space and sustainable urbanisation. Let me give examples. We have to build our cities around public transport and to some extent around walking and biking, to achieve lower emissions. Studies have shown that if you internalise the health costs of coal-fired power plants, about half of coal-fired power plants today are not economically viable. There are lots of reasons aside from climate change to accelerate this transition.

TK: These are developmental objectives that we must meet and there are likely to be some overlaps. Public transportation is a given. But if we frame the entire economy-wide transition in this way, we might end up in a situation where we only look for developmental options that have mitigation co-benefits also. That would be dangerous because we have examples of serious trade-offs in agriculture, for example. Recommending restrictions on providing irrigation to farmers because it would mean more energy, more emissions, etc. is a problem because irrigation leads to increased productivity, which improves the resilience of farmers. So, we must be careful that the idea of mitigation does not overshadow development.

NKD: I don’t think anybody is claiming that mitigation should be the dominant objective of development policy. The question is, can you approach this as a multiple objective problem where you are looking at development as encompassing many things including growth, distribution, air pollution, local environment benefits and a low carbon future? Is it legitimate to include mitigation outcomes or a lower carbon objective as one among several things that you seek to manage your policy around? I argue that it is. I agree we need to look at both opportunities and trade-offs. Look at those opportunities in a clear and objective way, with mitigation being one among a slew of different objectives. It can be weighted less, but we should have our eye open to it.

Given the carbon footprint of many green technologies, can they actually help cut down greenhouse gas emissions? And are there solutions to the climate crisis that address the root of the climate issue, which is that it is a global commons problem?

TK: Analysis of the life cycle emissions of renewable energy sources has shown that they are less compared to fossil fuels. But there are other factors such as battery materials, raw materials mining, etc. whose impact we will know only later as the use of green energy increases. This is the nature of technology, and we will have to innovate to address these issues. There are arguments that favour restricting demand, going back to traditional ways of doing things, etc. I think while sustainable consumption must inform our choices, glorification of the traditional ways of doing things ignores the hardship this means for large sections, particularly women.

Yes, the carbon space must be thought of as an example of the global commons. Its fair distribution must be the starting point of the way in which we think about the utilisation of these commons. Policies for imposing caps on emissions must be designed with this understanding. But no high-income or even upper middle-income countries have been able to achieve high levels of human development without overshooting their fair share of the carbon space. So, just being within our carbon space is going to be a challenge for India.

NKD: Fossil fuel use should go to where it has the greatest welfare gains. A tonne of fossil fuel use gives you much greater welfare gains in poor countries where the use is lower. Poorer countries should also try to limit emissions not just for global reasons, but because they will have all these other associated development benefits. Let’s not forget that limiting emissions is likely to be convergent with the goal of India becoming a more competitive economy in the future. India in the past made the mistake of focusing on deployment, and not manufacturing, of renewable energy. We now think more in terms of becoming competitive producers in these new low carbon technology spaces, which is good. It is a good approach to claim a large carbon space if we need it, but try as hard as possible not to utilise that claim.

Regarding the global commons, the climate crisis is a global collective action problem. As a political problem, it requires countries to agree to cap their emissions many decades into the future. Political systems work on three, five or seven-year cycles. So, we have a gap between the scientific and political understanding of the problem. At the end of the day, this is going to be dominated by the political understanding. I don’t think we will have a political agreement on the allocation of carbon budgets. What we will have is political agreement on the means of support to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future. That’s what India needs to focus on.

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