With a month to go for the next global conference on Climate Change, a premier Indian industry body has expressed the view that a positive outcome at the upcoming COP27 summit at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, can only be possible if participating countries don’t let political issues come in the way of fast-tracking effective Climate Action worldwide.
Responding to questions raised by R M Consulting related to expectations from COP27 and other issues connected with Climate Change, Director General at CII, Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, said: “The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to soaring global energy prices and increasing food security issues. As a result, there have been new investments made by several countries in fossil fuels.”
“It is evident that Climate Change has fallen in priority for stakeholders across the world. In order for COP27 to be successful, governments and other stakeholders must set aside political issues as a reason for backsliding on climate commitments and Climate Action.”
Mr Banerjee said that the COP26 (held at Glasgow in November 2021) had led to the launch of an ad-hoc program to initiate deliberations on the establishment of a ‘new collective quantified goal (NCQG)’ for Climate Finance from the base of USD 100 billion annually considering the requirements of developing countries (https://unfccc.int/NCQG).
“At COP27, it would be important to establish technical committees, processes, and work programs to establish the new collective goals. COP27 should also seek to deliver resolutions to the long-standing issues of Article 6 along with clarity on long-term, low-interest finance particularly for developing countries,” the CII official pointed out.
“There should be greater focus on loss and damage due to climate impacts and towards this the outcomes of the Glasgow–Sharm el-Sheikh Work Programme on the global goal on adaptation would be crucial.”
Mr Banerjee said that developed nations must fulfil the commitments they had made on the pivotal issue of Climate Finance.
“Industrialized countries are still falling short of their target to provide developing nations USD 100 billion in climate finance…Without robust long-term finance processes being put into place that can address issues of mobilization and scaling up of climate finance, several developing nations (especially the Global South) will not be able to meet their climate commitments,” he said.
“While several global technology cooperation and co-development initiatives and platforms have been initiated (India plays an important role in the Clean Energy Ministerial forum, Mission Innovation platform, is a founding member of the International Solar Alliance), there are still significant challenges in ensuring transfer of climate technologies. Stakeholders need to develop integrated approaches between technology and climate finance related plans and programmes at the national and global levels, in particular the integration of technology needs assessments with other relevant national and sectoral plans and programmes,” Mr Banerjee pointed out.
“Additionally, there is a need to enhance coherence between international institutions in order to reduce the complexity of processes that developing countries have to follow to request financing for climate technologies. Intellectual property licensing issues are also a challenge as it hinders (the) ability of domestic actors (particularly in developing countries) to produce, adapt, (and) innovate on and around climate technologies,” he added.
Incidentally, the matter of developed countries not living up to promises made on Climate Finance had also been mentioned most recently at the pre-COP27 meeting held at Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo). At that forum, H.E. Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President-Designate, said: “We have not yet delivered on the 100 billion dollars’ pledge, which in itself is more a symbol of trust and reassurance than a remedy to actual climate needs” (https://cop27.eg/#/news/79/Egypt's%20COP27%20Presidency%20urges).
Climate Action & Role of Business
Mr Banerjee said that Indian businesses were doing their bit in the fight against Climate Change.
“We must take note and acknowledge that India Inc. is leading the way both globally and nationally for industry-led decarbonization. About 94 Indian businesses have committed to setting emissions reduction targets under the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) to drive the climate action in business decision making. The Indian cement industry remains a global leader in terms of emissions reduction efforts,” he asserted.
The CII official, however, pointed out that there is now also an urgent need to address issues of adaptation and resilience considering the increasing number of extreme climate-related events worldwide. “Another key issue, especially for India, is ensuring that our Net Zero journey takes into account a just transition for all members of society and businesses. As we develop and implement new technologies and switch to alternate sources of energy, we must ensure that energy access, energy security, livelihoods, food, and water security issues are addressed for MSMEs and low-income members of society,” he said. At COP26, India had committed to achieving Net Zero by 2070.
Mr Banerjee said businesses should prioritize the making of robust new infrastructure, strengthen early warning systems, make water resource management resilient, and address local community issues. “These areas should go hand-in- hand with ongoing efforts to decarbonize not only (their) own operations but also those of supply chain partners,” he added.
Combating the humungous challenge posed by Climate Change will require a “whole-of-society” approach so that no stakeholder group – be that of ordinary citizens, or micro, small and medium enterprises – feels that their voice has not been heard while framing a suitable response to the Climate crisis. So feels Dr Mukund Rajan, Chairman of the Environment, Social and Governance (ESG)-focused platform ECube Investment Advisors.
Climate Action is one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The world’s top leaders are slated to meet once more later this year at the 27th UN Climate Change Conference, more popularly known as COP27, that would be held in Egypt to take fresh stock of the Climate situation in the backdrop of significant geopolitical developments that have taken place since the conclusion of the COP26 organized in Glasgow last year. India is not immune to the ill-effects of Climate Change, with its agriculture sector (on which most of its citizens are dependent) being one of the domains perceived to be high at risk.
In an interaction with R M Consulting on the issue of Climate action and the role that different Indian states can play in helping the world’s soon-to-be-most populous nation realize its stated ambition of reaching Net Zero (https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/net-zero-coalition) status by 2070, Dr Rajan – a former Brand Custodian of the Tata Group – said: “(On Climate Change), I think it will require an all-embracing approach.”
“Often in government, we hear this phrase ‘a whole-of-government’ approach in resolving a problem. On Climate Change, we will not only need a ‘whole-of-government’ approach; we will need a ‘whole-of-society’ approach. Otherwise, there is going to be significant sections that will feel left out of the process, that will feel they have not been consulted, that will feel they have not been adequately informed, (or) that will feel they have not been adequately prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead of us.”
Dr Rajan said a ‘whole-of-society’ mechanism should entail, among others, an active involvement of various pillars of the government (including the bureaucracy), and the education system (schools, colleges, etc.). Even the Panchayati Raj system (https://www.panchayat.gov.in/en/web/guest/home) should be put to good effect to carry out conversations on Climate Change and how things can be improved so that every villager feels that he/she has had a say in the process.
“If sea-level rise is expected to impact parts of Gujarat, for instance, you would expect the state government to start having these conversations with the local communities in the areas that are most likely to be subject to sea-level rise and encroachment of the sea into land.”
Dr Rajan said that political parties should also play a key role on the Climate Action front. “The role of our political parties becomes quite critical because, in many ways, they are the ones who ultimately purport to represent the will of the people and end up with control of the policy-making organs of the state. And, therefore, we need to judge every political party through its manifestos on their commitment, in turn, in resolving all these issues (related to Climate Change).”
Deeper Engagement with small and medium industry
Given the pivotal role that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play in society, Dr Rajan pointed out it is imperative that authorities at both the federal and state levels step up their engagement with this segment on the Climate issue.
Dr Rajan said that SMEs typically tended to be poorly informed about some of the challenges related to Climate Change as well as the science behind these challenges, and the new technologies that are emerging to resolve these. Their inability to access adequate finance compounded the difficulty faced by these enterprises to make the course corrections necessary to tackle the problems posed by Climate Change.
“This is where (both the)state government and the Central government become very important because they need to have those conversations and understand what are the specific issues that components of industry face,” Dr Rajan said. These discussions need to result in the working out of a collaborative approach that benefits all.
Elaborating on the role that industry can play in the fight against Climate Change, Dr Rajan said that there is much that industry can do. “I think, unfortunately, in many of our experience, industry tends to move faster when there is a sort of regulation and potential penalties hanging over their heads rather than simply because the challenge is coming up. Certainly, some of the forward-looking enterprises led by visionary leaders have tended to be ahead of the curve but a large part of industry tends to wait for the regulation to come before they respond,” Dr Rajan pointed out.
Dr Rajan said that given this backdrop, the role of the government at the state levels also became very important in public interest. “State governments will have to play a role in ensuring that they are bringing in local industry into the conversation on what needs to be done both on adaptation and mitigation, and that the local communities understand that industry is responding to the challenge and living up to its corporate social responsibility.”
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