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CPI report: Denmark least corrupt country, India ranks at 76

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New Delhi/Mumbai: The rankings of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2015 are out. The report upped India from 85th to 76th position. However, this good news is just an unfavourable one in disguise since there were 168 countries in 2015 survey as compared to 174 in 2014.

This means that India’s score for 2015 in CPI remains unchanged. Despite major changes in both the Central and State governments, mainly due to public hue and cry against governmental frauds and bribery, corruption remains unchanged in the public sector.

CPI measures noted levels of worldwide public sector corruption. It is conducted on the basis of an expert opinion from around the world and measures on a scale of 0-100; higher the score point, lower the corruption in that country.

Observing the rankings of Southeast Asian countries, Bhutan ranked at 27 is seen scoring better than India at 65 points. Other neighboring countries, including China at rank 83 and Bangladesh at 139, have shown no signs of improvement. Scores of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal have increased marginally over the past year.

The CPI report blames shortfall of bold promises by leaders of India and Sri Lanka as one of the main reasons for prevalent corruption there. About governments in Bangladesh and Cambodia, the report claims downfall of civil society by them resulted in the worsening of corruption.

Srirak Plipat, director for Asia Pacific, Transparency International, in an email briefing to reporters said, “India has been flooded with anti-corruption promises especially in the last few years – from the general election in May 2014 to the recent Delhi election in February 2015. The CPI scores, staying firm well below 50 at 38 out of 100 for both 2014 and 2015, show that there has been no improvement. The rhetoric has yet to become action. This year’s CPI sends a message to people of India, as much as to the government. It invites people of India to question their governments and hold them to account for their election promises. If leadership is about delivery in an imperfect environment, this leadership is questionable, to say the least. The Modi government has set a new trend in Asia Pacific: fast and big in anti-corruption promises, while slow and small in delivery.”

The report further declares the failure of China’s prosecutorial approach as the reason behind the absence of a substantial remedy to their situation; while Pakistan’s failure to tackle corruption lies in giving the wind to their ongoing vicious conflicts.

Looking at CPI’s global stature, Denmark, acquiring 91 points, stands as the least corrupt country for the second year in a row now. The position retained is the result of many factors such as high levels of press freedom and integrity among people in power, a full disclosure of nation’s budget information and money flow to the public, revealed a press release by Transparency International. It further told that judiciaries don’t differentiate between rich and poor, and are truly independent of other parts of the government.

Next in line are Finland and Sweden with scores of 90 and 89 points respectively.

North Korea and Somalia are at the bottom with just eight points each. The release adds that Brazil fell 5 points and dropped 7 positions to a rank of 76, becoming the biggest decliner. The big decliners in the past four years include Libya, Australia, Brazil, Spain and Turkey.

Lack of punishment for corruption, public institution’s indifferent behaviour towards citizens’ needs and widespread bribery are the major factors resulting in a poor CPI score.

Other big shifts in the CPI ranking include entry of Netherlands in top five clean countries. Switzerland tumbled to the 7th position from 5th in 2014. Other big improvers include Greece, Senegal and UK.

In the end, the report estimated that around 68 percent of countries face acute corruption problem, globally. Moreover, half of the G20 are among them. (Inputs from Agencies) (picture courtesy: spring96.org)

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China- Top Contributor in Global Warming

China is the leader in coal and clean energy and is the top emitter of greenhouse gases

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Climate China Coal
In this photo, smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant that produces carbon black, an ingredient in steel manufacturing, in Hejin in central China. VOA

As world leaders gather in Spain to discuss how to slow the warming of the planet, a spotlight falls on China — the top emitter of greenhouse gases.

China burns about half the coal used globally each year. Between 2000 and 2018, its annual carbon emissions nearly tripled, and it now accounts for about 30% of the world’s total. Yet it’s also the leading market for solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles, and it manufactures about two-thirds of solar cells installed worldwide.

“We are witnessing many contradictions in China’s energy development,” said Kevin Tu, a Beijing-based fellow with the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “It’s the largest coal market and the largest clean energy market in the world.”

That apparent paradox is possible because of the sheer scale of China’s energy demands.

But as China’s economy slows to the lowest level in a quarter century — around 6% growth, according to government statistics — policymakers are doubling down on support for coal and other heavy industries, the traditional backbones of China’s energy system and economy. At the same time, the country is reducing subsidies for renewable energy.

China solar panel
A solar panel installation is seen in Ruicheng County in central China. VOA

At the annual United Nations climate summit, this year in Madrid, government representatives will put the finishing touches on implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set a goal to limit future warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Nations may decide for themselves how to achieve it.

China had previously committed to shifting its energy mix to 20% renewables, including nuclear and hydroelectric energy. Climate experts generally agree that the initial targets pledged in Paris will not be enough to reach the goal, and next year nations are required to articulate more ambitious targets.

Hopes that China would offer to do much more are fading.

Recent media reports and satellite images suggest that China is building or planning to complete new coal power plants with total capacity of 148 gigawatts — nearly equal to the entire coal-power capacity of the European Union within the next few years, according to an analysis by Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

Separately, investment in China’s renewable energy dropped almost 40 percent in the first half of 2019 compared with the same period last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research organization. The government slashed subsidies for solar energy.

Last week in Beijing, China’s vice minister of ecology and environment told reporters that non-fossil-fuel sources already account for 14.3% of the country’s energy mix. He did not indicate that China would embrace more stringent targets soon.

“We are still faced with challenges of developing our economy, improving people’s livelihood,” Zhao Yingmin said.

China is alternately cast as the world’s worst climate villain or its potential clean-energy savior, but both superlatives are somewhat misplaced.

As a fast-growing economy, it was always inevitable that China’s energy demands would climb steeply. The only question was whether the country could power a sufficiently large portion of its economy with renewables to curb emissions growth.

Many observers took hope from a brief dip in China’s carbon emissions between 2014 and 2016, as well as Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s statement in 2017 that China had “taken a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change.”

Renewed focus on coal

Today the country’s renewed focus on coal comes as a disappointment.

China Pollution
The pollution in China is at extreme levels. VOA

“Now there’s a sense that rather than being a leader, China is the one that is out of step,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki. He notes that several developed countries — including Germany, South Korea and the United States — are rapidly reducing their reliance on coal power.

Fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline and natural gas release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat and changing the climate. Coal is the biggest culprit.

Last year, coal consumption in the United States hit the lowest level in nearly 40 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

One place to consider the rise, pause and rise again of China’s coal sector is Shanxi province — a vast mountainous region in central China.

Shanxi is the heart of China’s traditional coal country, dotted with large mines, but also the site of some of the country’s largest solar and wind-power projects, according to state media.

During most of the past 30 years of rapid economic growth, the coal business boomed in Shanxi and nearby provinces. As China’s cities and industries expanded, coal supplied much of that power, and China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s top carbon emitter in 2006.

But after climbing sharply for two decades, China’s emissions stalled around 2013 and then declined slightly in 2015 and 2016, according to Global Carbon Budget, which tracks emissions worldwide. This dip came as Chinese leaders declared a “war on pollution” and suspended the construction of dozens of planned coal power plants, including some in Shanxi.

At the same time, the government required many existing coal operators to install new equipment in smokestacks to remove sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and other hazardous substances. About 80% of coal plants now have scrubbers, said Alvin Lin, Beijing-based China climate and energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit.

Climate change China
This coal processing plant in China produces toxic air pollutants. VOA

As a result, the air quality in many Chinese cities, including Beijing, improved significantly between 2013 and 2017. Residents long accustomed to wearing face masks and running home air-filter machines enjoyed a reprieve of more “blue sky days,” as low-pollution days are known in China.

Annual levels of PM 2.5 — a tiny but dangerous pollutant — dropped by roughly a third across China between 2013 and 2017, from 61.8 to 42 micrograms per cubic meter, according to scientists at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and other institutions. They made the report in November in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal.

“That’s a big improvement, although in terms of safe air quality, we’re still not there yet,” Lin said. China’s pollution levels are still well above standards set by the World Health Organization.

While these retrofitted coal plants emit fewer pollutants that harm human health, the scrubbers do not reduce greenhouse gases. “The new plants are good for air quality, but you still have all that carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere,” Lin said.

Carbon emissions rising

In the past three years, China’s carbon emissions have begun to rise again, according to Global Carbon Budget.

That trend was evident in the first half of 2019, when China’s carbon emissions from fossil fuels and concrete production rose 4%, compared with the same period last year, according to Myllyvirta’s preliminary analysis of Chinese government data.

The coming winter in Beijing may see a return of prolonged smog, as authorities loosen environmental controls on heavy industry — in part to compensate for other slowing sectors in the economy. Cement and steel production remain both energy intensive and heavily polluting.

Permits for new coal plants proliferated after regulatory authority was briefly devolved from Beijing to provincial governments, which see construction projects and coal operations as boosts to local economies and tax bases, said Ted Nace, executive director of Global Energy Monitor.

“It’s as though a boa constructor swallowed a giraffe, and now we’re watching that bulge move through the system,” said Nace. In China, it takes about three years to build a coal plant.

In November, Premier Li Keqiang gave a speech to policymakers emphasizing the importance of domestic coal to energy security.

But because China’s coal-power expansion is growing faster than energy demand, overcapacity “is a serious concern now,” said Columbia University’s Tu.

And once new infrastructure is built, it’s hard to ignore.

People in China
The highest red alert was issued for heavy smog in several cities in China. VOA

“It will be politically difficult to tear down a brand-new coal plant that’s employing people and supporting a mining operation. It will make it more difficult for China to transition away from coal,” Nace said.

Reliance on China

The world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius. All scenarios envisioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for holding planetary warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius involve steep worldwide reductions in coal-power generation.

In that effort, other countries rely on China to manufacture most of the solar panels installed worldwide, according to an analysis in the journal Science co-authored by Jonas Nahm, an energy expert at Johns Hopkins University.

“If we have any chance to meet climate targets, we have to do a lot by 2030 — and we won’t be able to do it without China’s clean-energy supply chain,” Nahm said.

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China’s manufacturing helped bring down the cost of solar panels by 80% between 2008 and 2013. Prices for wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries also dropped significantly, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“China has a really mixed record. On the one hand, it’s seen rapidly rising emissions over the past two decades,” Nahm said. “On the other hand, it’s shown it’s able to innovate around manufacturing — and make new energy technologies available at scale, faster and cheaper.” (VOA)