India’s Three Asks from the Rich World

T K Arun

The Three Ask of India

There are three things India needs from the West at this juncture.

One, massive, urgent carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere, creating net negative emissions to avert climate disaster that ravages the world equally but creates more distress in those parts that lack the financial resources to cushion the impact.

Two, an early, negotiated end to the war in Ukraine.

Three, liberal immigration into the US to bring down inflation in that country and ease distress in the rest of the world.

There are three things India needs from the West at this juncture.

History of CO 2 emissions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report puts the amount of human-created CO 2injected into the atmosphere between 1850 and 2019 at 2,400 Gigatonnes, give or take 240 Gt.

Almost 58% of those emissions took place over 1850-1990, before growth in India or even China seriously took off. Now on, only 500 Gt alone more of CO2 can be emitted, if global warming is to be kept below 1. 5˚C above pre-industrial levels.

The average emissions per year during 2010-19, a decade of iffy growth in most parts of the world, stood at some 41 Gts. A mere decade of robust growth would exhaust the carbon budget available to avoid breaching the 1. 5˚C cap.

The current mantra of reducing emissions and achieving net zero by 2030 or 2050 is not going to avert climate disaster. Emission reduction is tokenism.

A meaningful solution

Net negative emissions would be constructive action. How does one achieve net negative emissions?

● By sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere on a scale larger than fresh emissions.

● Planting trees and genetic engineering of trees to make them grow larger roots, in which to store more carbon, and accelerate photosynthesis etc is one line of CDR. This, however, cannot be done at scale or fast enough.

● Direct Air Capture (DAC) is the way out. The most straightforward method is suck air into chambers where it flows over chemicals that absorb CO 2.

● The chemicals are heated later to release the CO 2. The CO2 can be pushed deep underground to mineralise or used as inputs for productive purposes.

● Burial underground is pure cost.

Finding productive use at low cost is the way to go.

The rich world is primarily responsible for the world’s manmade 2,400 Gt of CO 2. It must, therefore, invest in DAC and associated technologies, and produce net negative emissions. The developing world should see this as an emerging opportunity, but for the rich world, this is elemental climate justice.

Russia-Ukraine War

The West can also help end war in Europe

One key driver of inflation around the world is the price of energy. And that is intimately linked to Western sanctions on Russia, following that country’s invasion of Ukraine

Ending the war is key to removing a major cost-push factor in global inflation. That is why the war calls for a diplomatic, rather than a military, solution.

Sending more sophisticated arms to Ukraine will serve to prolong the war and get more Ukrainians and Russians killed. Of course, it will bleed Russia, which, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin admitted, is America’s key war aim.

Immigration and inflation

But relieving pressure on energy prices will not, by itself, bring inflation down. Nor will higher interest rates, so long as there are two vacancies for every person looking for a job in the US. Unless this labour shortage is wiped out, rising wages will push up prices and rising income will keep shoppers busy, leading to replenishment of stocks and sustained growth.

● Unemployment is just 3. 7% in the US.

● It’s 3. 6% in the UK.

● It’s 2. 9% in Germany.

The US tech industry cannot find enough engineers. Airlines miss groundhandling staff, farms are without enough fruit pickers, and truck fleets are short of drivers. The simplest way to ease worker shortages and wage pressures is to allow in more migrant workers from the rest of the world.

In the absence of easy immigration, the US Fed will keep raising rates. As the US Fed raises interest rates, other countries are under pressure to raise rates to keep the interest rate differential with the US constant, regardless of the state of domestic inflation. This would hurt economic growth.

Let migrants augment the US workforce, reduce wage inflation and ease the pressure on the Fed to raise rates, thereby, letting other countries ease up on rate hikes, too.

The article was first published in The Times of India as Three things India needs from West are good for West too on October 5, 2022

The article was first published in The Sanjaya Report as India’s Three Asks from the Rich World on October 5, 2022

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About the author

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TK Arunis a Senior Journalist and Columnist based in Delhi.