- When it comes to pollution, and specifically air quality, not nearly enough attention has been paid to data collection and analysis, especially in emerging economies like India and China, where air quality deterioration is obvious and severe. Though broad figures are being collected, there is not enough granular data to provide a clear picture of the specific factors affecting air quality.
Inclusive Green Growth Index (IGGI)
- At the international level, the Asian Development Bank hopes that its Inclusive Green Growth Index (IGGI) will help close this gap.
- The IGGI aims to assess countries’ performance not only according to economic and social parameters, but also on the basis of their environmental record. More detailed than similar efforts made in the past, the IGGI uses 28 indicators, including clean water access and air pollution levels.
- The ADB’s data show that, in Asia, the highest performers on environmental sustainability include Singapore, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Laos. At the bottom of the list lie Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia. While factors like natural resources and geography undoubtedly contribute to countries’ performance, such comparisons can be useful to spur purposeful action, with specific data points offering insights into where each country could stand to improve.
China’s impressive work:
- At the national level, China’s government has been doing impressive work to improve its pollution data in order to guide its environmental strategy, which includes, among other things, the world’s largest carbon-pricing system, covering seven provinces.
- For example, high-frequency data collected through Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems provide crucial information regarding the sources of air pollutants, enabling the government to create effective incentives for firms to curb emissions.
- That is what happened in India, when new cooking stoves were introduced in order to cut indoor pollution, a major cause of health problems among the country’s poor.
- The project should have worked: laboratory tests confirmed that the stoves produced less pollution.
- Initially, smoke inhalation did decline. But that effect quickly disappeared, because households failed to maintain the stoves and used them irregularly, inappropriately, and increasingly infrequently. Four years later, there was no overall change in health outcomes or greenhouse-gas emissions.
- The only way we can hope to overcome the momentous environmental challenges the world faces—emphasized, for example, in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report—is to use every tool we can.
- That means collecting data and using what we learn to design the right rules and incentives, without ignoring human behaviour and psychology. It will not be easy. But, given what is at stake, that is all the more reason to try.