rom the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Associate Professor Shreekant Gupta shares his opinions on the future after the Kyoto Protocol.
He is passionate about the relationship between economics and the environment. Assoc Prof Shreekant Gupta has contributed widely and significantly to these areas, whether as a researcher or policy maker. He has taught at the universities of Delhi, Maryland and at Jawaharlal Nehru University and was a Fulbright Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Shastri Fellow at Queens University, Canada. His policy experience includes Directorship of the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), New Delhi. He has also worked at the World Bank at Washington DC. His contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has won him recognition along with the IPCC team - he shared in the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 as part of IPCC.
Assoc Prof Gupta has made important contributions in showing the applicability of market-based approaches to environmental economics. As the Kyoto Protocol will end in 2012, Assoc Prof Gupta believes that there should be a new agreement for nations. The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Developed countries that ratify this protocol are committed to reducing their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases (GHGs). To replace the Kyoto Protocol, Assoc Prof Gupta is in favour of a cap-and-trade scheme. This system allocates carbon emission quotas for individual firms within each country and then allows them to buy and sell their permits.
The cost of buying extra permits will create a price incentive for most companies - forcing them to cut down their carbon dioxide release and invest in cleaner fuel technologies. This system could help developing countries like India for example, which would have a bigger total quota (if allocation were made on a per capita basis) to sell to more advanced countries which are running out of quota and yet have the capacity to buy. This is one good way to help distribution of wealth, and at the same time cut down on emissions.
Assoc Prof Gupta is also interested in the relationship between poverty and the environment. One of his chief arguments is that poverty does not cause environment degradation but that environment degradation also causes poverty in areas where the poor depend on natural resource as in biomass based subsistence economies. Thus, he examines how environmental degradation hurts the poor, looking at all the multi-faceted issues of the environment, including the urban environment, industrial pollution, municipal solid waste, transport, hazardous waste, deforestation and land degradation.
Traditionally in India, policies for environmental protection and policies for poverty work separately. However, Assoc Prof Gupta argues that there is a strong link between the two. His paper, Poverty and resource dependence in rural India published in Ecological Economics (28 Aug 2007) studied households in Jhabua, India and found a complex relationship between poverty and resource. Households that collect natural resources such as fuelwood and fodder have a U-shaped relationship with income -- the poorest and richest household depend more on resources than households with medium incomes. This finding shows that common-pool resources are a productive source of income and that improvement in the stocks of these resources can potentially form the basis of poverty reduction.
"In India, a green leader?", an article published in the September 2008 issue of India Se, Assoc Prof Gupta provides a summary on his work on global warming in layman's language. He outlines the dangers of global warming which includes droughts, floods and cyclones and argues that India should take the lead in breaking the global gridlock on collective action on climate change and thus demonstrate India's leadership abilities.
Another area where Assoc Prof Gupta has made important contributions is in problems related to urbanisation in developing countries. As Director of NIUA a national level think tank on urban policy in India, he led an important study on city planning for the capital city of Delhi. He also played a key role in the Indian government's ambitious urban renewal programme, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). This mission focuses on improving urban infrastructure and governance in 63 of India's biggest cities.
One of Assoc Prof Gupta's upcoming projects will examine how environmental degradation impacts women in rural areas. He will look at how shortages in water and firewood affect the amount of time spent by women collecting these resources. For example, if there is a reduction in water in the area, do women spend more time collecting water?
He is also working on a book on environmental policy in India to be published by Edward Elgar next year. The book is a comprehensive review and analysis of the country's environmental problems and policies to address these problems. It focuses on market and policy failures as underlying causes of environmental degradation; for example subsidies with perverse environmental effects.
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