Editorial 1: Keeping tabs on carbon with an accounting system


  • The ‘climate polycrisis’ — a term made popular by Adam Tooze — refers to the interconnected and compounding crises related to climate change that are affecting the planet not just in a few sectors but across several sectors and domains.
  • It encompasses the physical impacts of climate change (rising temperatures, sea level rise, and extreme weather events) and the social, economic, and political challenges that arise from these impacts.

In India

  • Here, one can see the interconnections between seemingly different sectors such as energy, infrastructure, health, migration and food production that are being impacted by climate change.
  • Recognising the complexity and interconnectedness of the climate polycrisis, it is crucial in developing a holistic approach that takes into account the diverse perspectives and priorities of different stakeholders, while ensuring resilience, equity, and justice.
  • We need a deep transformation — one that lays the foundation of a new economy that is sensitive to the planet. Just as digital infrastructure enables new startups and public services, we need to imagine ‘carbon infrastructure’ that creates opportunities for a flourishing future carbon regime that takes the flows of carbon into account in the formulation of policy at every level: household, panchayat, district, State and country.

Measurement as the first step

  • The first step is measurement, for whatever cannot be measured cannot be accounted for. We need to measure carbon emissions from that of individual citizens to that of the nation as a whole, including all that is in the flow.
  • Once we have a measurement system in place, we can build an accounting system that helps us balance our carbon books. Existing carbon accounting methodologies such as those championed by Karthik Ramanna at Oxford are already capable of tracking carbon balance sheets at the corporate level.

A national carbon accounting (NCA) system

  • It is both an evolutionary and a revolutionary generalisation of these ideas. It will bring the entire nation, starting from individuals and households, under one carbon accounting framework.
  • Imagine a world in which we file carbon tax returns alongside our income tax returns, or maybe only the carbon tax returns. Take a moment to consider the revolution in public finance that will be triggered when carbon is recognised, captured, valued, accounted for and taxed.

Carbon accounting

  • ‘Money accounting’ is an integrated system, all the way from the spending of individuals to the Reserve Bank of India that helps us keep track of the circulation of money within the system. The keeping of accounts makes money visible and makes public finance possible.
  • In contrast, the stocks and flows of carbon are not tracked at a granular level anywhere in the world. As a result, there is no possibility for a progressive carbon tax that penalises large buyers of petrol more than the average consumer.
  • progressive carbon tax requires us to keep track of the inflows and outflows of carbon, i.e., national carbon accounting. Carbon accounting is a way for companies to keep track of the carbon they are producing, removing, storing and offsetting. It helps companies keep carbon books alongside their financial books.
  • An NCA will bring the concept of carbon books to the nation and will make it mandatory for businesses and individuals to declare/report their carbon inflows and outflows. It will make the circulation of carbon visible, and just as with financial accounting, other goods and services can be ‘financed’ using carbon surpluses, especially if there is convertibility between the carbon accounts and the rupee accounts.

A carbon GDP

  • Once we have an NCA, we will be able to set targets, make predictions about future emission reductions and track our progress against those goals. We can speculate about a future national carbon budget that helps us reimagine the entire economy, including new technologies and new forms of collective action. Instead of the single goal of increasing economic GDP in money terms, as we already do, there will be a parallel goal of a carbon GDP which countries will try to reduce.

Way forward

  • As a polysolution An NCA will not only help India meet its commitment to becoming net zero by 2070 but also help it and other countries (if adopted globally) create new livelihoods and new forms of organising its economy and society. Everyone understands GDP growth and, more recently, alternative measures such as Gross National Happiness (GNH).
  • By making transparent the carbon footprint of human activities, we open up the possibilities of a new form of public discourse and an alignment between development and ecological sustainability. In short, an NCA is a polysolution to the climate polycrisis.

Editorial 2: Women’s quota, panchayats to Parliament


  • The landmark Women’s Reservation Bill — now the Constitution (106th Amendment) Act — that reserves one third of the total seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for women, contingent on the conduct of delimitation and census, received presidential assent recently.
  • As the first law passed in the new Parliament building during a special session, it portends a new chapter in India’s democratic journey. It comes on the 30th anniversary of the constitutional reforms of 1992  (73rd amendment act) that reserved one third of seats in panchayats and municipalities for women.

Lessons from past reforms:

  • Parliament, 30 years ago, enacted the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments that sought to make panchayats and municipalities “institutions of self government”.
  • It mandated the following:
  1. a minimum of one third of seats and office of chairpersons in panchayats and municipalities to be reserved for women.
  2. reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Schedules Tribes (STs) based on their percentage population and enabled States to reserve seats for Backward Classes (OBCs).
  • This has created a system with over 3 million elected panchayat representatives, out of which almost half are women. The expansion and diversification of the representative base of Indian democracy is the most successful element of these constitutional reforms.
  • While the Union government’s 2009 constitutional amendment to increase women’s reservation in local governments from 33% to 50% failed, many States have enacted laws that reserve 50% seats for women and also instituted reservations of seats for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
  • Hence, presently in panchayats and municipalities, there is, at one level, vertical reservation of seats for SCs, STs, and OBCs and a horizontal category of reservation for women that applies across all categories — general, SC, ST, and OBC.

Intersectional disadvantages:

  • Such a mix of vertical and horizontal reservations recognises the aggravated disadvantage people face due to their location in the intersection of their caste and gender identities.
  •  The present women’s reservation law, as well as its previous avatar passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2008, adopts a similar model of intersectional reservation for women. However, unlike the case of the 73rd and 74th amendments, the present law does not enable reservation for OBC women.

Impact of reservations:

  • Beyond representation, has women’s reservation in local governments yielded substantive benefits?
  1. A 2004 paper by Esther Duflo and Raghabendra Chattopadhyay on panchayats in West Bengal and Rajasthan found that women leaders invest more in public goods and ensure increased women’s participation in panchayat meetings.
  2. Another study in 2011 across 11 States by Ms. Duflo and others reaffirmed the finding that women-led panchayats made higher investments in public services like drinking water, education, and roads.


  1. However, a 2010 paper by Pranab Bardhan et al found that women’s reservations worsened the targeting of welfare programmes for SC/ST households and provided no improvement for female headed households.
  2. A 2020 paper by Alexander Lee and Varun Ramachandra examining reservations in Delhi found that constituencies reserved for women are less likely to elect OBC women and more likely to elect upper caste women.

Uncertain future:

  • Evidently, the impact of women’s reservation is not straightforward. The design of women’s reservations in Parliament and State Assemblies should have ideally been informed by its 30 year experience in panchayats and municipalities. Since the role that women play in local governments is different from their role in Parliament, the impact of reservation may play out differently.
  • However, something as vital as a constitutional amendment for women’s reservation should have been introduced after widespread discussion and analysis of its experience, instead of being introduced surreptitiously through a“supplementary list” in a hastily organised Parliament session.

Delimitation and census:

  • Unlike the 2008 version, the present women’s reservation law has tied its implementation with the conduct of delimitation and census, neither of which have a definite date. The constitutional freeze for delimitation, that has been in place since 1976, will end in 2026.
  • If the reallocation of seats between States is purely based on population, the southern States’ share in the Parliament will drastically reduce. So, the next delimitation exercise is likely to open up the fault lines of India’s delicate federal relations.


  • Hence, coupling women’s reservations with a politically fraught delimitation exercise makes its implementation contentious. Hopefully, the near unanimity in the passing of the Bill signals that there will be some consensus on implementing women’s reservation in the near future.