By Sapna Gopal
The Western state of Gujarat has launched the world’s first trading programme for particulate air pollution. The pilot, launched on World Environment Day in June this year, replicates a market-based system. The government sets a cap on emissions and allows industries to buy and sell permits in order to stay below the cap. This is similar to a system that successfully reduced acid rain in the United States in the 1990s.
The pilot programme was put in place in the city of Surat, a densely populated industrial belt where textile and dye mills contribute to air pollution. As the first market-based approach to regulating pollution emissions in India, it is expected to reduce air pollution at a low cost to both the government and the industry, as well as pave way for replicating similar trading schemes to reduce all kinds of unwanted emissions.
According to an official release by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, the emissions trading programme builds on another early innovation by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, the use of continuous emissions monitoring systems to track industrial emissions in real-time. About 350 industries around Surat have installed continuous emissions monitoring systems and now transmit real-time, high-quality data on emissions. The new scheme will complement this technology-supported approach to monitoring.
The Gujarat Pollution Control Board is carrying out the emissions trading programme with the help of a team of researchers, including Michael Greenstone and Anant Sudarshan from EPIC, Rohini Pande from the Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School, Nicholas Ryan from the Economic Growth Center at Yale University and others from The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. The researchers are evaluating the programme’s benefits and costs in relation to the status quo, using a randomised controlled trial.