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BW Businessworld

‘India Taking Rapid Strides Towards Its Sustainability Goals’

During the panel discussion, it was unanimously agreed that India has the onerous task of achieving those SDGs especially since greenhouse gases emitted by it is the third largest in the world at 7% of global emissions.

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India played a prominent role in the formulation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and much of the country’s National Development Agenda is mirrored in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The progress of the world to meet the SDGs largely depends on India’s progress.  

The SDGs, which are essentially a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. However, with 17 Goals, 169 Targets and 306 National indicators, the SDGs might be difficult to comprehend and defining and measuring success poses a challenge. This was extensively deliberated upon at one of the sessions of an e-summit by BW Businessworld on 5th June, 2021 on World Environment Day (WED). Themed ‘Nurturing the mindset of Sustainability’, the e-session moderated by Jyotsna Sharma, Senior Editor BW Businessworld. During the panel discussion, it was unanimously agreed that India has the onerous task of achieving those SDGs especially since greenhouse gases emitted by it is the third largest in the world at 7% of global emissions. 

While addressing her session, Miniya Chatterji, Founder and CEO of Sustain Labs Paris opined that about three decades ago, the policy stance from India was that the onus is not on developing countries but on developed countries which have caused the.  But now, the discourse that she is hearing from India on international platforms is that India is taking responsibility is we will take measures as well.  

“If you look at India’s commitment to Paris Agreement and the translation into national policies thenceforth, you see a drastic change. The challenger here lies in the implementation of those national policies and that is where the private sector has to join hands. The one big stumbling block is thermal energy (as) we tend to think it is the private sector, which generates 46% of India’s thermal power. What is most important for corporations today is that it is great that they are now aware and making an effort towards responsible business but now set science-based targets rather than pulling out targets from here and there. When asked to shed some light on the sustainable development goals by Ina Inc., she added, “As corporates are moving towards running sustainable organisations, they can also invest in education to have the next generation of consumers in order to generate the talent that would be feeders for these companies.” 

It is to be mentioned that Miniya Chatterji’s organisation Sustain Labs Paris is a sustainability incubator that transforms large organisations into becoming social entrepreneurs and therefore more sustainable. She is also the founding director of the Fellowship for Climate Action, an international program based in India for climate change solutions. She led the establishment of 11 COVID hospitals across India within 6 months, by transforming existing vacant buildings.  

Anumita Roy Chowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), who has been a staunch opponent of diesel engine cars, was also there to air her views on clean energy vehicles. She was of the view that the recovery package doled out in Europe and the constant focus towards electrification despite the ongoing Covid are some of the learning lessons for India. 

“What we need to learn from global markets like Europe is how to leverage the economic recovery process for the new normal now to work post-pandemic and work for electrification. That is one missed opportunity for India today even though we have the PLI scheme hopefully that will work to some extent.  While the scrappage policy was announced, it failed to make this a stimulus package for electrification. More than the policies designed only for the ICE engine, it is the regulations for ICE engines which is going to drive electrification. The combination of a very well-designed incentive policy, strong regulation for ICE engine, and very carefully designed recovery package that works as a fiscal stimulus and economic recovery that is the way to move forward.” 

Without vehemently opposing Roy Chowdhury’s views, Gautam Sen, an Indian journalist, writer and automotive design consultant and expert, maintained that the government should be technology agnostic and electricity-driven cars may not be the final destination for the automotive industry.  

While delineating his thoughts, Sen avers, “There is a lot of noise made (about electric vehicles) and the point is how you get there. It is about time government (should be) setting objectives and broader guidelines and (be also) letting consumers and industry decide what is the choice of technology (ICE or Electric). There is a tendency to believe Electric vehicle is the solution. (By claiming) Battery technology is the only way forward is narrowing our options there. There are about billions of cars and half a million two-wheelers which will not be taken off the roads. We can have a punitive tax rate that can discourage polluting vehicles.”