Climate Change & India

I attended a briefing organised by the London School of Economics (LSE) with Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Interngovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Director General of TERI that was hosted by Lord Stern, who authored the Stern Review for the British Government.

What I found quite refreshing was the admission by Pachauri about India’s failure to communicate what it’s doing viz climate change & global warming. As a comms professional who’s actually seen some of the great work being done all over India, I can’t comprehend why the Indian Government don’t invest more in projecting what the world needs to know about India.

As an example, he showed a video clip for a civil society campaign that his institute have spearheaded called ‘light a billion lives’ that seeks to promote the use of solar lamps as a means of bringing light into 400million Indian homes. I was astounded to learn that 1.6bn people live in darkness, of which approx 25% live in India.

Dr Pachauri didn’t strike me as someone who sucks up to Indian politico’s but I was astounded to hear from him about how Rajiv Gandhi was one of the first political leaders to understand the challenge caused by global warming and his subsequent desire to establish a ‘planet protection fund’, which each country would channel 0.1% of its GDP into to tackle climate change. He went as far as  suggesting that had Rajiv Gandhi not be assasinated, then perhaps India would be leading the international debate.

Moving on to what India is doing, here are some examples:

  1. As a country with finite resources, and a large underclass – India recycles like no other country. You need to visit India to understand the manner in which discarded items that one refers to as waste, provides a livelihood for others. You can truly see innovation at the grass-roots.
  2. On forests, it seems that India’s been cutting down it’s forests, but in actuality, several Indian states have increased forest cover. Public vigilence has also increased and you can often find groups demonstrating against any evil designs by multinationals or such organisations in rural locations.
  3. Gujarat & Rajasthan are leading the way in harnessing private sector participation in creating wind farms, solar parks etc.

From a macro-policy perspective, the following was offered by Dr Pachauri as examples of what the Indian Government needs to do:

  • Improve public transportation infrastructure. (I’m not sure as to what Dr P would make of Ratan Tata’s dream of increasing car usage by selling his micro car – the Nano).
  • Like the UK, perhaps introduce ONE department that oversees all aspects of climate change policy. At present, policy areas are fragmented as several government departments coordinate policies specificaly for their particular interest.
  • Encourage private sector involvement that would result in commerical sense being injected into discussions, the aim being that some of these ideas become commercially viable – and therefore ripe for investment.

The other speakers at the briefing were: Ms. Minouche Shafik, Permanent Secretary (Private Sector & Infrastructure) at the World Bank; Urjit Patel, President of Business Development at Reliance Industries; Naina Lal Kidwai, Head of India for HSBC.

In his conclusion, Pachauri emphasised “the need to end confrontation between developed and developing nations; and called for a need for more partnerships and further innovation to meet the challenge of providing sustainable livelihoods” – no wonder he won a Nobel!.

With people like Tulsi Tanti and Baba Kalyani who’re running large businesses promoting wind and solar energy, I’m surprised that this debate hasn’t really sparked a discussion with India’s CEOs in the same way as their English counterparts have been engaged in. It’s one of the areas I cover in my forthcoming book on Indian entrepreneurs going global.