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Class and Climate Change in Post-Reform India

Michael, Kavya, Vamsi Vakulabharanam. 2014. Class and Climate Change in Post-Reform India. Earth System Governance Working Paper, No.31.


A revised version of this paper has been published as:

Michael, K., & Vakulabharanam, V. (2015). Class and climate change in post-reform India. Climate and Development, 1–10.

Debates on access and entitlement to global atmospheric commons are mostly dominated by the issue of inequalities among countries. Typically, these debates ignore inequalities among groups within countries. In this paper, we address the question of carbon space sharing in India by focusing on the distribution of emissions across different Indian social groups after India implemented economic reforms in 1991. Our results question the positionality of some dominant approaches that see affluence as the key to sustainability. We establish using household consumption surveys that the elites in India are major polluters both in an absolute sense as well as in per capita terms, while the working groups are the least polluters. We find that there is a spectacular jump in the inter class component of emissions inequality from a mere 2.5% of the aggregate inequality in 1994 to about 28.9% in 2010. This finding needs careful policy attention.

Keywords: Emissions, Inequality, Class, Energy, Climate Change.

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