In this Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, photo, vehicles wait at a crossing amidst morning smog in New Delhi, India. Authorities in New Delhi are restricting the use of private vehicles on the roads under an "odd-even" scheme based on license plates to control vehicular pollution as the national capital continues to gasp under toxic smog. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Manish Swarup/AP
In this Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, photo, vehicles wait at a crossing amidst morning smog in New Delhi, India. Authorities in New Delhi are restricting the use of private vehicles on the roads under an "odd-even" scheme based on license plates to control vehicular pollution as the national capital continues to gasp under toxic smog. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Now playing
02:16
Smog in parts of India hitting record levels
Now playing
00:00
How Taliban may run Afghanistan after US troops withdraw
Tokyo Olympics 100 days countdown Essig pkg intl hnk vpx_00000000.png
Tokyo Olympics 100 days countdown Essig pkg intl hnk vpx_00000000.png
Now playing
03:14
Growing concerns over Tokyo Olympics Covid-19 safety measures
screengrab japan fukushima daiichi
IAEA
screengrab japan fukushima daiichi
Now playing
02:31
Japan plans to release treated Fukushima water into sea
SUEZ, EGYPT - MARCH 29: The container ship 'Ever Given' is refloated, unblocking the Suez Canal on March 29, 2021 in Suez, Egypt. This morning the container ship came partly unstuck from the shoreline, where it ran aground in the canal last Tuesday, and later resumed its course shortly after 3pm local time. The Suez Canal is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and the blockage had created a backlog of vessels at either end, raising concerns over the impact on global shipping and supply chains. (Photo by Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images)
Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images
SUEZ, EGYPT - MARCH 29: The container ship 'Ever Given' is refloated, unblocking the Suez Canal on March 29, 2021 in Suez, Egypt. This morning the container ship came partly unstuck from the shoreline, where it ran aground in the canal last Tuesday, and later resumed its course shortly after 3pm local time. The Suez Canal is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and the blockage had created a backlog of vessels at either end, raising concerns over the impact on global shipping and supply chains. (Photo by Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:57
Egypt seizes Ever Given ship, asks for $900M in compensation
Taiwan has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic US-China war. The worry about Taiwan comes as China wields new strength from years of military buildup. CNN's David Culver reports.
PLA Air Force/Weibo
Taiwan has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic US-China war. The worry about Taiwan comes as China wields new strength from years of military buildup. CNN's David Culver reports.
Now playing
04:04
Dramatic videos show Chinese naval exercises amid rising tensions over Taiwan
CNN
Now playing
05:40
Unprecedented footage shows front line of Ukrainian conflict with Russia
5995404 02.09.2019 Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference following his meeting with his Russian counterpart Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia. Iliya Pitalev / Sputnik  via AP
Iliya Pitalev/SPTNK/Sputnik via AP
5995404 02.09.2019 Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference following his meeting with his Russian counterpart Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia. Iliya Pitalev / Sputnik via AP
Now playing
04:09
Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging nuclear site, vows revenge
Ash rises into the air as La Soufriere volcano erupts on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, seen from Chateaubelair, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)
Orvil Samuel/AP
Ash rises into the air as La Soufriere volcano erupts on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, seen from Chateaubelair, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)
Now playing
01:08
See the looming clouds of ash over La Soufrière volcano
screengrab Vanuatu villagers mourn philip
Reuters
screengrab Vanuatu villagers mourn philip
Now playing
02:03
Remote tribe worships Prince Philip as god, mourns his death
ITN
Now playing
01:15
Prince Charles speaks following Prince Philip's death
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10: The Honourable Artillery Company fire a gun salute at The Tower of London on April 10, 2021 in London, United Kingdom.  The Death Gun Salute will be fired at 1200 marking the death of His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Across the country and the globe saluting batteries will fire 41 rounds, 1 round at the start of each minute, for 40 minutes. Gun salutes are customarily fired, both on land and at sea, as a sign of respect or welcome. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, said "His Royal Highness has been a great friend, inspiration and role model for the Armed Forces and he will be sorely missed." (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10: The Honourable Artillery Company fire a gun salute at The Tower of London on April 10, 2021 in London, United Kingdom. The Death Gun Salute will be fired at 1200 marking the death of His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Across the country and the globe saluting batteries will fire 41 rounds, 1 round at the start of each minute, for 40 minutes. Gun salutes are customarily fired, both on land and at sea, as a sign of respect or welcome. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, said "His Royal Highness has been a great friend, inspiration and role model for the Armed Forces and he will be sorely missed." (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:03
Prince Philip tributes pour in from around the world
People view flowers left in front of the gate at Buckingham Palace in London, after the announcement of the death of Britain's Prince Philip, Friday, April 9, 2021. Buckingham Palace officials say Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died. He was 99. Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16 to return to Windsor Castle.
Matt Dunham/AP
People view flowers left in front of the gate at Buckingham Palace in London, after the announcement of the death of Britain's Prince Philip, Friday, April 9, 2021. Buckingham Palace officials say Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died. He was 99. Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16 to return to Windsor Castle.
Now playing
01:54
Tributes to Prince Philip pour in from around the world
Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in his role as Captain General, Royal Marines, attends a Parade to mark the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge on the Buckingham Palace Forecourt in central London on August 2, 2017.  
After a lifetime of public service by the side of his wife Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip finally retires on August 2, 2017,at the age of 96. The Duke of Edinburgh attended a parade of Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace, the last of 22,219 solo public engagements since she ascended to the throne in 1952.
 / AFP PHOTO / POOL / HANNAH MCKAY        (Photo credit should read HANNAH MCKAY/AFP/Getty Images)
HANNAH MCKAY/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in his role as Captain General, Royal Marines, attends a Parade to mark the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge on the Buckingham Palace Forecourt in central London on August 2, 2017. After a lifetime of public service by the side of his wife Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip finally retires on August 2, 2017,at the age of 96. The Duke of Edinburgh attended a parade of Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace, the last of 22,219 solo public engagements since she ascended to the throne in 1952. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / HANNAH MCKAY (Photo credit should read HANNAH MCKAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:39
The life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
screengrab myanmar ambassador to UK
CNN
screengrab myanmar ambassador to UK
Now playing
01:02
Video shows Myanmar's ambassador 'locked out' of embassy
King Abdullah II of Jordan and his half brother, former crown prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein
AFP/Getty Images
King Abdullah II of Jordan and his half brother, former crown prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein
Now playing
02:39
Jordan's King breaks silence about family fallout

Editor’s Note: Siddharth Singh is the author of “The Great Smog of India,” a book on India’s air pollution crisis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN) —  

When India’s Supreme Court ordered in November 2000 that polluting industries in Delhi’s residential areas be relocated outside of the city, the workers from those industries came out onto the streets in protest – fearful that they were about to lose their livelihoods.

The protests, which eventually turned violent, foreshadowed a battle that continues to play out across India today, as economic growth is pitted against environmental protections.

That’s because in modern India, polluting sectors continue to be important pillars of the economy.

For example, coal generates nearly three quarters of India’s total power.

The industry employs hundreds of thousands in thermal power plants, coal mines and supply chains across the country. Many argue that any attempt to transition away from coal would result in a widespread loss of jobs, along with an inexpensive and stable source of energy.

Similarly, much of India’s commercial transport is run on diesel. The idea of replacing diesel trucks and cars with cleaner electric powered vehicles is considered too expensive – especially for business owners who operate entire fleets.

The case is true for India’s manufacturing industry as well, as a transition from coal to natural gas would increase their operating costs, while pollution control technologies add to their fixed capital costs. Business owners fear becoming less competitive in an increasingly global market.

01:14 - Source: CNN
New Delhi air pollution reached 'unbearable' levels in 2019

One of the largest contributors to air pollution in India, especially in the north of the country, is the agricultural sector. Every year, between October and November, thousands of farmers in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh states burn harvest residue as they prepare fields for the new crop. The practice, known as stubble burning, leads to a smoky haze forming in much of northern India.

Haze from stubble burning

The government has tried to encourage the use of green technology, such as so-called “Happy Seeder” machines that can sow seeds without having to first remove the agricultural residue. However, this has proven to be expensive, especially for small and marginal farmers.

Compared to spending on fuel and rental charges for these machines, simply setting the residue on fire will always prove to be cheaper.

Apart from causing more than a million deaths annually and imposing increased healthcare costs on the state, air pollution also leads to the loss of productivity as more people take sick days due to lung and cardio vascular illnesses. A study by the World Bank and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated air pollution in India led to $55 billion in foregone labor in 2013.

Undoubtedly, the Indian economy remains locked into a way of doing things that results in significant harm to the environment.

But no matter bad the damage, the belief persists that any attempt to change the existing economic model would be bad for business, employment and growth.

This, however, need not be the case.

Creating jobs from cleaner energy

If the long-term cost of environmental derogation is considered and, if markets are created for clean technologies, a strong economic case could be made for a reduction in emissions.

With the creation of appropriate incentives and markets, cleaner solutions may find mass adoption. In fact, India already has experience with this. Take the case of LED bulbs. Encouraged by a government program that incentivized adoption, 360 million LED bulbs have been distributed or purchased in India since 2015.

This has led to an estimated 38 million tonnes of CO2 avoided and $2.5 billion saved every year compared to the use of an equivalent number of incandescent bulbs, according to India’s Ministry of Power.

Similarly, an innovative energy efficiency program for the most energy intensive Indian industries (including iron and steel, cement and textiles) called “Perform, Achieve, Trade” (PAT) has also led to energy, cost and emission reductions without impacting production or competitiveness adversely.

To target particulate matter emissions from industries specifically, there is another ongoing pilot program for a particulate matter emission trading scheme in the state of Gujarat. The idea is to create market-based incentives to encourage the reduction of pollutants from these industries.

The transition towards cleaner technologies will also generate investments and jobs. India’s successful renewable energy program that encouraged the expansion of solar and wind power capacity has triggered $42 billion in investments since 2014 and generated thousands of jobs, according to the Indian government. And by 2017, around 430,000 jobs had been created in India’s renewables sector, excluding large hydropower.

But opportunities lie in new markets.

With technology alone failing to address agricultural stubble burning, there are now growing calls for the creation of a market for this residue that would incentivize farmers to extract and sell it rather than to burn it. This residue can be used in various applications, including at power plants where it can be burned relatively cleanly.

To assuage concerns of air pollution action negatively affecting the economy, it will therefore be important to reframe the argument to highlight the costs of air pollution, combined with the economic benefits of transitioning to cleaner technologies.

This will create the necessary political acceptability for a faster transformation. With the creation of appropriate ecosystems and markets, coupled with strictly enforced air quality regulations, India can address air pollution – and build a sustainable and lasting economy that benefits future generations.