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How India is positioned to achieve UN’s sustainable consumption and production goal

The United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 deals with resource usage. India, the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is committed to reduce its emissions by a fourth and has prepared numerous sustainable consumption and production plans that are put in the mainstream priority.

India’s progress in regard to the SDG is fair enough but not satisfactory.

The average lifestyle material footprint of India according to 2015 statistics is around 8,400 kilogram per capita per year, which when compared to sustainable material footprint of 8,000 kg per capita per year is quite acceptable.

Just like China and Brazil, India’s material footprint per capita has been the same as domestic material consumption per capita over the years.

Resource-exporting nations like Russia saw a decline in resource productivity. India, on the other hand, achieved a relative decoupling with respect to material footprint and domestic material consumption.

The SDG 12.3 focuses on reducing per capita global food waste by 2030. About 50 kg food is wasted per person per year in India, UNEP highlighted in its 2021 report. It seems rather impossible to achieve the goal to halve food waste, with only nine years left, without significantly increasing investment.

Food wastage reduction can have a significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions, hunger, pollution and money-saving during recessions. India, among South Asian countries, has lower level of food wastage compared to its neighbouring countries.

Curbing food loss and wastage can serve to fulfil multiple SDGs at once as well as help bridge the food gap by 2050.

The estimated loss in value of production of horticulture in 2012-13 was about 11 per cent and that of livestock was 3.7 per cent. The losses declined by 2 per cent from 2005-07.

Storage loss has been brought down from 0.22 per cent in 2012-13 to 0.03 per cent in 2019-20 and transit loss from 0.47 per cent to 0.33 per cent during the same time period. Though this is a good sign, it is still a long way from the 12.3 goal.

Management of chemicals and their release in the environment is another important step to achieving sustainability and minimising adverse impact on human health. Estimated waste generated per capita in Canada and the United States, as per Nichols and Smith in their June 2019 analysis, is way above India.

The population of China and India together constitutes 36 per cent of the global population but generates only 27 per cent of the global municipal waste. Whereas, the United States constitutes only four per cent of the global population that produces 12 per cent of the waste.

US falls short compared to other developed countries in the process of recycling wastes, despite its high income and consumption. Plastic policy index of India is well below the national requirement, according to 2018 statistics, but this gap is much lower compared to China.


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