The entire world was eagerly following world leaders at the recently concluded COP27 meeting. The developed world, the emerging world and the rest were unable to agree on ‘equitable’ distribution of historical responsibility and future burden shouldering.
What then should India, potential home to the largest human population by 2050, do?
If we wish to be a planet-friendly country by 2050 or 2070, it is high time we start today.
Participating in the global process and being a key voice is essential. But at the same time, instead of waiting for consensus and action to happen, we should orient whatever resources we can towards developing the solutions needed to tackle environmental concerns. India’s NDCs in energy and the strategy surrounding promotion of renewable energy industry is an excellent example of us going ahead with this attitude.
But climate change is not limited to energy alone. Environmental consciousness needs to percolate every aspect of our lives — the food we eat, the water we drink, the energy we use, the clothes we wear, the buildings we live and work in, the way we commute, the materials we use and beyond. It is interesting to note here that the technologies, solutions needed for these, across-the-board, are largely in their nascent R&D stages, globally.
Unlike in the past, when India was playing catchup with benchmarks set elsewhere, climate transition provides us a unique opportunity to potentially set the benchmark. We today, as a nation, have the resource bandwidth and the skilled manpower to aspire to be the best as well. India can punch above its weight if it decides to stand up and fight. Offence will be the best strategy for us a country. We don’t have to fight others, we can collaborate, cooperate, but we need to fight to be the best, and become the best defender of the planet. To this end, first, planet-consciousness has to become a part and parcel of everyday life.
Special focus on climate sciences at all levels of education and research, coupled with knowledge of our own heritage of respecting nature, will go a long way in kindling the spirit of innovation. While the debate on technology access rages on at COP meetings, nothing precludes us from developing and innovating technology for our own, and the world’s benefit.
Second, innovation without uptake is a non-starter. The State, through various policy instruments, has to create a market for uptake wherever possible. Setting norms or standards to encourage environment-friendliness of products, encouraging planet-friendly solutions in public works or public procurementcan create or open markets.
Third, incentivising industry to become net-zero and net-positive across their operational spectrum will be necessary. Results can be achieved with phased programmes, the phased manufacturing programme for electronics for example. Nudging industry to gradually improve, while holding them accountable through transparent reporting mechanisms will help for sure.
Lastly, access to capital for climate transition is a significant bone of contention in global discussions. Here again, if the ever increasing FDI, FII flows and venture investments are any indicator, the market-size of India itself has been a significant pull factor for inward capital flow. As we argue in the start-up world, being penny-wise is the best approach to long-term profitability. In the same vein, one can create strategies for initial, risk-agnostic capital access to be made available through our own limited resources, and when green-shoots appear, the money will and should follow from around the world.
The writer advises corporates, start-ups, industry bodies
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