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Climate Change Leadership Is Diffused: Arunabha Ghosh, CEO Of CEEW

It was clear in 2015 that India is going to be an enabler of the Paris Agreements. Paris Agreements showed that there is diffused climate leadership

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In a session called Leadership in the Paris Agreement at the India Economic Summit 2017 organized by World Economic Forum and Confederation of Indian Industry, various dimensions of the global climate politics, and India’s potential leadership in the climate change movement were discussed. The session was moderated by Nikhil Kumar, New Delhi Bureau Chief, CNN International.

“Who will fill the void in terms of leadership now that USA has withdrawn from the Paris Agreements?” asked Kumar, to which Arunabha Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water said, “It was clear in 2015 that India is going to be an enabler of the Paris Agreements. I actually find the narrative that there is a leadership vacuum a bit skewed. Paris Agreements showed that there is diffused climate leadership.”

“The problem of climate change is still a massive one, and we are not even close to solving it. India needs large institutional capital to flow into it. We are never going to solve climate change through traditional development assistance cheques,” added Ghosh.

AHM Mustafa Kamal, Minister for Planning, Ministry of Planning, and Bangladesh said that India has always been a leader, with respect to climate change and the world economy.

“Economically we have to recognize India has always been a leader since 1600, when it was the number 1 country in terms of economy. In order to live in this planet, in a mutual form, and properly, we have to take care of the climate change issues. Climate change wasn’t even an issue 200 years back. Whatever has happened, it has happened in the last 200 years,” added Kamal.

Vineet Mittal, Chairman, Avaada Group, spoke about India’s climate leadership saying, “In G20 meetings I used to attend, the whole discussion used to be around how to attract private sector for sustainability. The current government has made sustainability a profitable business. First was taxation on coal. Then was ambitious targets for solar and wind. By 2030, they created a policy for electric vehicles.”

“Whether we admit it or not, India is on a path to a greener future. This country is taking leadership through role-model. I don’t see any retraction with respect to clean energy initiative as it is becoming the most commercially viable option India is fully committed and it inspires the rest of the world and hopefully USA changes its stance,” added Mittal.

“We have to recognize the fact that India is a poor yet developing country. The renewable program of adding 175 GW of Energy is an ambitious one,” said Ratul Puri, Chairman, Hindustan Powerprojects Pvt Ltd (Hindustan Power).

“I would say for India to say it’s going to add 175 GW of energy is a demonstration of India putting its money where its mouth is. India can go either a carbon intensive path of rapid economic growth, or a less intensive path of rapid economic growth,” added Puri.

When asked by Kumar about the political risk of a changing regime and impending elections of 2017 with respect to climate change, Puri said, “You cannot rule out the political risk if there a regime change. What is in question is not the eventual end point but the curve to get there.”

Ghosh said with respect to the political risk, “We have to be cognizant of political risk in any democracy. We are not going to be running elections in terms of India’s policies with respect to climate policies, but other issues like food security, farmer’s lives, and water security and so on.”

With respect to the changing economic dynamics of sustainability, Ghosh said, “In the last 4-5 years, the employment in coal industry fell from 390,000 to 350,000 people. In renewable energy, we get 330,000 people for every 1 GW of renewable energy.”

There was also discussion on India’s plan to have only electric vehicles by 2030. To build batteries at scale to meet the government’s target of allowing only electric vehicles (EVs) to be sold by 2030, India must prepare a strategy to source critical minerals, all of which it needs to import.

“The cost of the battery is the substantial cost of an electric vehicle,” said Ghosh, adding that if India is to meet its target, its demand for batteries for road transport will be five times the current global demand.

For nearly all of the critical minerals that could be used to manufacture batteries, India is completely dependent on imports.

“If you want to do any kind of next-generation advanced manufacturing, whether it is EVs, whether it is new types of solar panels, whether it’s new types of wind turbines, whether it’s new forms of manufacturing process altogether … all require a completely different thinking around the stuff that goes into making stuff.”

Ghosh said that India must work with other advanced economies to create a global supply chain of critical minerals based on market principles.

“Otherwise, like the wars around oil that we had in the 20th century … we will have … deep political conflict around access to critical minerals around the world.”

“When India decided to launch a national solar mission in 2010, it did not need renewables because significant coal-based capacity was either ready to be commissioned or under construction,” said Puri.

He went on to add, “Yet, India underlined its commitment to climate change mitigation by announcing ambitious and time-bound goals for solar and wind and initiating conducive policies such as viability gap funding. Today, solar tariffs are lower than tariffs of conventional power, and the sector is so profitable that the government has withdrawn import and tax benefits.”

“India has paid a price for it because it has taken out existing generation capacity … For a country like India to take the decision to go and build those 175 gigawatts of renewables shows leadership,” said Puri, adding that “by taking the lead on building the International Solar Alliance, India further shows its commitment to such leadership. India has been similarly successful with its energy efficiency programmes, such as the LED bulbs subsidy programme and the energy-saving credits trading programme for large, polluting industries.”

There is sufficient consensus at the policy level to ensure that future governments, even in case of a regime change, will continue with current climate-change mitigation and adaptation policies, as reflected by the panelists. Gradually, climate change is beginning to resonate in the voters’ consciousness and may soon be an election issue.

“I think the youth in India would demand a cleaner environment … it is becoming a mainstream issue now,” said Mittal, adding that “the renewables sector is not only good for the environment, but it also creates millions of direct and indirect jobs.”


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