India’s polluted cities head to the polls


Air quality and GHG emissions have worsened since 2014 . . .

The sixth phase of India’s national elections kicks off Sunday, when residents of the capital, New Delhi, will line up to vote. In 2014, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party under Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept all seven of the area’s seats. This time, voters may have a reason to show the BJP the door: New Delhi and other Indian cities have the unfortunate distinction of being among the world’s most polluted. While India signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, the country’s carbon emissions continue to rise.

Air pollution barely a ballot question . . .

In 2017, air pollution led to a million deaths in India. Air pollution in the capital is particularly serious with the level of atmospheric particulate matter at 12 times the acceptable level. Air pollution is also causing a rapid rise in government spending on health care. The main opposition Indian National Congress party has promised to strengthen the National Clean Air Programme and declare climate change a national emergency if elected. Environmental crises, however, have been overshadowed by national security and the economy as campaign issues.

Solving two crises at once?

Tackling the pollution problem could help India address the lack of well-paying work for its massive youth population. Some estimate that the clean energy sector could create up to one million jobs. And foreign governments could have a hand in this through strategic investments in green technologies in the country and multinational programs designed to address environmental solutions. Canada is one of more than 40 contributors to the UN-mandated Green Climate Fund and through this and other mechanisms, we believe Canada can show that it is paying attention to air pollution in India, even if India’s main political parties are not.