Jairam Ramesh, MP, Andhra Pradesh and former Minister of Environment and Forests, reinforced the need for compliance at the ‘Economic Growth and Environmental Protection through Evidence-Based Policy’ event hosted by Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC) at the University of Chicago Delhi Center.

India’s government faces a daunting challenge: how to meet the constitutional right of citizens to a clean environment without compromising economic growth. To drive the creation of new environmental policy to meet both goals, leading regulators, industrialists, environmental lawyers and researchers today met at the University of Chicago Delhi Center at Baba Kharak Singh Marg.

Central Pollution Control Board figures indicate that the respirable particulate matter concentration across 180 monitored Indian cities was six times what the World Health Organization considers safe and twice India’s own national standards. India now has the highest rate of death caused by chronic respiratory diseases anywhere in the world. The need of the hour must therefore be innovation in the use of both technology and regulation. It is also essential that we enhance the use of evidence based policy making in environment. Regulatory reform including market based regulation may hold the potential to solve our environmental challenges, while retaining vibrant economic growth.

These ideas formed the basis for discussions during a conference on ‘Economic Growth and Environmental Protection through Evidence-Based Policy’, hosted by Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC) at the University of Chicago, in association with the Evidence for Policy Design at Harvard University.

In her opening remarks, Harvard Professor of Public Policy, Rohini Pande highlighted the role of research evidence in Indian policy. Research suggests that particulate air pollution in India may result in life expectancy reductions of over 3 years. At the same time, evidence from the United States suggests that market based regulation can successfully be used to combat air pollution, in settings where command and control style approaches have failed.

Jairam Ramesh, MP, Andhra Pradesh and former Minister of Environment and Forests, reinforced the need for compliance. “A Substantial chunk of projects fall into the ‘yes but’ category,” he said, referring to conditions placed on an environmental clearance. But, he said, “compliance is the real issue. We need to have penalties for non-compliances. If there are 36 conditions, each of them should be monitored to ensure compliance.” He also stated the need to explore regulatory options beyond the current command and control system. “We need to have regulations that don’t require regulators… It’s important to explore non bureaucratic ways for giving permits.”

Other sessions focused on Data Driven innovations. Panellists D. Saha (Central Pollution Control Board); V.M. Motghare (Maharashtra Pollution Control Board); and others, introduced their work on regulatory innovations. Two key ideas state pollution control boards have experimented with include (i) the use of continuous emissions monitoring to radically transform how industrial emissions are monitored (ii) the use of so called ‘third-way’ regulation built around transparency and public disclosure of data.
Dr V.P. Joy (Joint Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat); Seema Arora, (CII); Anant Sudarshan, (EPIC); shared their views of the future direction of environmental regulation. In an indication of how seriously industry views the need for regulatory reform, CII has taken the step of producing a detailed white paper on innovative new regulation.

This policy dialogue initiative was the first in a series co-hosted by EPIC’s new India office, housed in the University of Chicago Center in Delhi. EPIC India aims to become a leading research center and a ‘think and do’ tank for energy, environment and water policy in India.
Support for the event: IFMR LEAD, The British Department for International Development’s Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence Program (BCURE), and Harvard University’s Sustainability Science Program.

Note to editors:
One of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, the University of Chicago has driven new ways of thinking since our 1890 founding. Today, UChicago is an intellectual destination that draws inspired scholars to our Chicago and international campuses, keeping the University at the nexus of ideas that challenge and change the world.

The UChicago Center in Delhi is a home for research and education for University of Chicago faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates working in India and throughout South Asia, as well as conferences, workshops, and collaborations with students and researchers representing a wide array of international institutions. The Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC) is an interdisciplinary research and training institute focused on the economic and social consequences of energy policies.

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