Daily Hot Topic

Topic : Household Consumption and Environmental Impact in India

GS-2 Mains : Economy and Environment

Revision Notes

Climate Change vs Local Issues:

  • Climate change is global, but water scarcity and air pollution are often local/regional.

Importance of Household Footprints:

  • Understanding household environmental impact is crucial for addressing local issues.

Recent Study in India:

  • “Water, air pollution and carbon footprints of conspicuous/luxury consumption in India”
  • Examines CO2, water, and PM2.5 footprints of luxury consumption vs non-luxury.
  • Luxury categories include dining out, vacations, furniture, etc.

Environmental Impact Assessment:

  • Input/output analysis used to track resource use throughout production chains.
  • Captures indirect (“embedded”) environmental impacts of consumption choices.
  • PM2.5, water, and CO2 footprints consider both direct and embedded impacts.

Key Findings:

  • All three footprints increase with economic class.
  • Top 10% have double the average footprint.
  • Biggest surge in footprints occurs between 9th and 10th decile.
  • Air pollution footprint increases the most (68%) in the top decile.
  • CO2 emissions and water footprint increase by 55% and 39% respectively.
  • Top decile consumers are still in a “take-off” stage, but show substantial increases in footprints.
  • Increased luxury consumption is the primary driver of high footprints in the top decile.

Key Contributors to High Footprints:

  • Eating out (restaurants) is a major contributor across all three footprints, especially for the top decile.
  • Fruit and nut consumption drives water footprint increase in the top decile.
  • Luxury goods (jewelry, personal goods) and eating out contribute to CO2 and air pollution footprints.
  • Fuel choices: Firewood use in poorer households vs LPG use in wealthier households shows contrasting impacts.
  • Transition to LPG reduces direct footprint, but affluent lifestyles can lead to higher PM2.5 (and CO2) footprints.

Per Capita CO2 Footprint:

  • Top decile in India has a higher CO2 footprint than the global average and the Paris Agreement target (1.5°C).
  • This highlights the need for policy changes to promote sustainable consumption among affluent households.

Local vs Global Focus:

  • Sustainability efforts often focus on global climate change, neglecting local/regional issues.

Disproportionate Impact:

  • Local environmental issues (water scarcity, air pollution) worsened by luxury consumption disproportionately impact marginalized communities.
  • Affluent sections can afford protective measures, exacerbating existing disparities.

Importance of Multi-Footprint Analysis:

  • Analyzing multiple environmental footprints is crucial for environmental justice and equitable sustainability efforts.



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