Over the last two decades, India has achieved significant economic growth. However, balancing the need to increase access to energy while fulfilling policies that address environmental concerns continues to be a challenge. Political leadership has a vital role in successfully realizing ground-breaking public policies that provide lasting environmental benefits. The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) launched EPIC India in 2014 to promote an understanding of energy and environmental challenges in India. Drawing on expertise from the University of Chicago’s renowned economists and leading policy experts, EPIC India’s work has led to large-scale implementation on ground in different Indian states over the last seven years.
To enable knowledge exchange between EPIC experts and India’s policymakers, EPIC India conducted its first Legislators Program in 2017. The Program, spread over a few days, invited a cross-party delegation of Indian Legislators to engage with experts at the University of Chicago. The program offered a platform to the legislators to engage directly with experts who have extensively researched India’s environment and energy challenges. A very positive response from the first cohort led to another delegation in 2018 followed by the third edition in 2022.
In the past, the participants of the Program have engaged, among others, with Dr Raghuram Rajan, the Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the Booth School of Business; Mary Nichols, Chair of California Air Resources Board (CARB); Prof. Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Director of EPIC among others.
The first edition of this program in 2017 saw participation from Riti Pathak, Rakesh Singh and Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal of Bharatiya Janata Party; Kalikesh N. Singh Deo and Dr. Prabhas Kumar Singh of Biju Janata Dal; Vincent Pala of Indian National Congress, Vandana Chavan of Nationalist Congress Party and Vivek Gupta of All India Trinamool Congress. In 2018, the delegation of MPs included Harshvardhan Singh Dungarpur from Bharatiya Janata Party; Deepender Singh Hooda and Kumari Shelja from Indian National Congress; Kalikesh N. Singh Deo from Biju Janta Dal; Dr. Narendra Damodar Jadhav, nominated Member of Parliament from Rajya Sabha; and Konda Vishweshwar Reddy from Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
After the first two editions, the program resumed in 2022, and the multiparty delegation comprising Dr. Amar Patnaik of Biju Janata Dal, Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena, C M Ramesh, Brijender Singh, Shivkumar Udasi, Rahul Kaswan and Dr. Heena Gavit of Bharatiya Janata Party along with Kotagiri Sridhar of YSR Congress Party and Ritesh Pandey of Bahujan Samaj Party visited the University of Chicago.
The participating legislators have initiated discourse around environmental and energy regulations founded on their learnings from the Program in the Indian Parliament. Shrimati Vandana Chavan has quoted EPIC’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) when she presented the need for amendment in India’s Air Act. Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal, Lok Sabha Member from Bhartiya Janata Party, and a past delegate, appreciated EPIC’s Emission Trading Scheme in Gujarat and highlighted the need for market-based regulations in India.