Mumbai at night (Creative Commons License, Skye Vidur, Wikipedia)

About 780 words, 5 minute reading time. 🙂

Do we really care for the Nationally Determined Commitments (NDC)? Radiative forcing? The Representative Concentration Pathways? Seems not.. That’s for the drama at the Conference of Parties (COP)! What we want is 24×7 shopping, eating and indulgence. Who cares for Carbon!

Ok, then that’s what we get! Cities never sleep. And citizens should stay awake too. It is for a noble cause – bolstering Maharashtra’s economy. The Honorable Minister was quite emphatic that the decision to allow malls and eateries in Mumbai to remain open 24 hours, will generate more revenue and more jobs. He quoted the example of London, which has a £5 billion ‘night economy’. And that’s something we must aim for! But ….er…..Hon’ble Minister….. would it not mean more energy consumption for a few people who want to shop at an unearthly hour? Oh ok…I get it… that’s not important right now. The malls and eateries must make more revenues.

Every watt of energy used, emits Carbon. But in an economy which allows social and environmental costs to be externalized, the electricity tariff turns out to be fictitiously low. Indeed, energy costs in India hardly impact bottom lines of many industries. Shopping malls consume more electricity per person, than individual shops. They use energy in their parking lots, elevators, for cooling, operating their fire and security systems and powering the floor entertainment services. That’s much more use of energy than a shop. Moreover, their footfalls vary in the day. For most part of the day, the footfall is low. The number of people in a mall increases by evening and peaks on weekends. This means that energy consumption per capita, peaks in day time and lowers in the evening and on weekends. But by this new policy, as malls remain open throughout the night, the energy consumed per capita would be the highest, since the number of persons trading off their sleep with shopping, would, admittedly be very small.

So who benefits from a 24×7 open policy for shopping malls and eateries?

  • Electricity companies – These are the private utility providers who operate in Mumbai. They stand to gain from the increased business
  • Retail shops in the malls – These are the giant global and Indian brands. They would love being accessible throughout the day and night
  • Mall owners – Usually large construction houses and Financial Institutions who invest in in infrastructure leasing. The new policy can help attract more retail chains
  • The shoppers– The few people who wish to enjoy the experience. How many would that be? Your guess is as good as mine. But I am guessing it will be a fraction of the evening crowd.
  • The Economy – indeed! Since revenues of electric companies and the retailers grows it adds to the state GDP.
  • The state government – they get the credit for the contribution to the GDP.

Ok, so who pays for these benefits?

  • Society – The increased CO2 emissions affect everyone on the planet. The emissions contribute to the radiative forcing on the planet and everyone bears the costs of the global warming. These are the ‘social costs of Carbon’.  
  • Taxpayers in particular – the police machinery and traffic management necessary for an indulgent nocturnal experience, is funded by the tax collections. All the costs related to the mitigation of climate change, borne by the government, are paid for by the taxpayers. These are the ‘environmental costs of Carbon’.
  • The employees in the malls – a significant chunk of them are migrants who struggle to make ends meet in this large city. Given a choice, I suspect, many of them would like to sleep at night. But being employed in a role which needs no specific education or capabilities means they cannot afford the luxury of refusing nocturnal shifts. Most of the retail workforce is contracted and often tied to debts.
  • The ‘real’ night life – this includes the nocturnal species like bats, moths and other insects. The unnatural photo periods in cities confuses them and there are instances where they have been forced to migrate. There are studies on challenges to urban faunal life, impacts of urbanisation and the changes induced in nocturnal animal behavior.

But then policy makers don’t quite believe in a cost-benefit analysis (CBA). And certainly not a CBA done here by this blogger, without data, without a big research funding and no academic credentials to support him.

Meanwhile, Mumbai continues to enjoy 24×7 electric supply, even when nearly 4 million households do not have any power, but are paying the ‘social costs of carbon’.  

The world is warming. And its because of us. Do we need to increase shopping times or cut energy consumption? Sleep less or rest more? Encourage consumption or reduce frivolous use of resources? Pursue GDP growth or sustainable development?

Unfortunately without data and erudite statistical analysis, this blog turns into just another ‘good read’.