By Praful Bidwai
12/8/2007 Nothing exposes the bankruptcy of "GDP-ism", or obsession with gross domestic product growth, better than India's and Pakistan's performance just where it matters -- human development. The latest United Nations Human Development Report shows India has in one year slipped by two notches in the Human Development Index to the pitiable rank of 128 among 177 countries. And Pakistan has fallen by one rank to 136.
India and Pakistan remain firmly within the bottom one-third of the world's nations in human welfare. India's Human Poverty Index rank has fallen from 55 (among 102 developing countries) to 62 (of 108 countries) -- despite becoming the world's second fastest-growing economy.
Lopsided elite-oriented growth has ensured that Indian and Pakistani HDI values remain below the developing (Southern) world's average. This abysmal performance has little to do with low income. Tajikistan, with a per capita income 62 percent lower than India's, has a higher HDI rank (122).
Poor people in big Southern countries like China (HDI rank 81), Brazil (70), Mexico (52) and Indonesia (107), and even in smaller Cuba (51), Malaysia (63), Thailand (78), Sri Lanka (99), Nicaragua (110), Uzbekistan (113), South Africa (121), Namibia (125) have better life-chances than India's poor. The poor of Laos (130) and Bhutan (133) are better off than Pakistan's poor. Among all 100 million-plus-population countries, only Nigeria and Bangladesh are worse off than India/Pakistan.
We're dealing here with massive (mal) distribution of growth, and deliberate neglect of the underprivileged. We're condemning a majority to suffer life-long disadvantage. This warrants a thorough review of our growth models.This year's HDR should make us sit up for another reason. It's devoted to climate change, which is the single greatest menace to humanity after mass-destruction weapons. Global warming isn't an apocalypse waiting to happen. It's a tangible reality for millions of the world's poorest people.
Between 2000 and 2004, there were an average of 326 "climate shocks" or disasters a year. These annually affected some 260 million people, more than double the number in the first half of the 1980s. People in the South are 79 times more likely to suffer droughts, floods and storms.For instance, monsoon floods and storms this year displaced 14 million people in India, 7 million in Bangladesh and 3 million in China. In sub-Saharan Africa, 10 million were affected by drought and 2 million by flooding. Drought in the Horn of Africa threatened the lives of 14 million.
As the world drifts towards a "tipping point"-- beyond which corrective action becomes impossible --, it'll leave hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity and livelihood losses. Tragically, the poor, who are least responsible for the ecological debt humanity is running up, are forced to bear the biggest human costs of global warming. This is doubly unjust.
Unless arrested, climate change will lead to a breakdown of agricultural systems, with 600 million more people facing malnutrition, an additional 1.8 billion facing water stress, and over 330 million people in coastal areas confronted with displacement.Asia is likely to be worst affected. Already, glaciers on the Tibetan plateau, which feed seven of its greatest rivers, including the Ganga, the Indus, the Yang-Tze and the Mekong, are receding at unprecedented rates. This will lead first to floods, and then to droughts.
Climate change is not only depressing crop yields, lowering food security and increasing human distress. It is also forcing vulnerable people to adopt harmful coping strategies such as cutting back on food intake, withdrawing children from school, and reducing spending on health. New research shows that children born in Ethiopia in drought years are 36 percent more likely to grow up being stunted than those born in normal times.
These trends menace the long-term health of entire societies. The HDR, then, establishes a strong connection between global warming and human development while highlighting the catastrophic likely effects of a temperature rise of more than 2°C over the pre-Industrial Revolution period.
The HDR also sharply criticises United States and European Union policies on global warming, and argues that they cannot avert dangerous climate change. The OECD countries are failing to meet even the modest targets for cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Kyoto Protocol: a mere 5.2 percent reduction over 1990 by 2008-2012. So meagre are these targets that it will take 30 Kyotos to stabilise the global climate.
The worst culprits are the US and Australia which haven't ratified the Protocol and recklessly increased emissions. (Mercifully, Australia's new Labour government is likely to change this, and major US states like California and New York are voluntarily cutting emissions.)
The EU has on average achieved emission cuts of only 2 percent instead of its 8 percent commitment under Kyoto.
The report calls for a "twin-track" approach to combat global warming, which combines stringent mitigation with international cooperation on adaptation to climate change. Besides regulatory standards, it demands carbon taxation, development of low-carbon energy technologies, and reductions in the profligate consumption of fossil fuels. It estimates that the cost of stabilising emissions can be limited to 1.6 percent of global GDP by 2030 -- less than two-thirds of current world military spending.
It proposes that the developed countries should cut their emissions from 1990 by at least 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. The Southern countries should also cut their emissions by 20 percent by 2050, starting 2020. It proposes that the South must be supported through finance and transfer of low-carbon technologies, and recommends $86 billion a year, or 0.2 percent of the rich countries' GDP for "climate-proofing" the South's infrastructure.
The Indian and Pakistani governments bristle at the suggestion that they should accept emission cuts because historically, the North's industrial activities are responsible for global warming. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's maximum offer is to keep India's per capita GHG emissions less than those of the North. India's entire effort at the climate conference in Bali in Indonesia has been devoted to averting GHG capping/cutting targets. It has teamed up with China and Pakistan in this endeavour.
This won't do. China and India, and to an extent, Pakistan, are imitating the North in profligate energy use and luxury consumption even as they profit from the irrational and iniquitous carbon trading system. Chinese and Indian emissions are rising three to four times faster than the world average. China will soon replace the US as the world's largest emitter. India has overtaken Japan to become the world's fourth biggest emitter.
It's despicable that our governments should hide behind the poor to defend elite interests. Citing per capita emissions makes no sense in our deeply unequal societies where the rich enjoy northern levels of consumption while the majority lives as frugally as ever. To acquire global credibility and respect, China, India and Pakistan must show moral clarity, a universal vision, and leadership. At Bali, they must facilitate the signing of a successor convention to Kyoto, and offer to cap and reduce their emissions along with all major emitters.
Global warming calls for new, radical remedies. If the world is to cut overall consumption while improving standards of living for the poor, it cannot use current development models and methods, or the prevalent rules governing trade, technology, investment, and finance
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