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Srinath Sridharan

Independent markets commentator. Media columnist. Board member. Corporate & Startup Advisor / Mentor. CEO coach. Strategic counsel for 25 years, with leading corporates across diverse sectors including automobile, e-commerce, advertising, consumer and financial services. Works with leaders in enabling transformation of organisations which have complexities of rapid-scale-up, talent-culture conflict, generational-change of promoters / key leadership, M&A cultural issues, issues of business scale & size. Understands & ideates on intersection of BFSI, digital, ‘contextual-finance’, consumer, mobility, GEMZ (Gig Economy, Millennials, gen Z), ESG. Well-versed with contours of governance, board-level strategic expectations, regulations & nuances across BFSI & associated stakeholder value-chain, challenges of organisational redesign and related business, culture & communication imperatives.

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The World COPs a PLEA

India has abundant talent in areas which can bring about large-scale changes to a sustainable living world. It needs to build an ecosystem that encourages ideas, ideators and to make stronger Intellectual Property rights to innovators across

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In the just-concluded COP26 summit in Glasgow, nearly 200 nations agreed on a what-ended-up-as contentious climate-change-agreement. It’s worth noting that ahead of the Glasgow talks, the UN had set three criteria for success, and none of them were achieved:

  • pledges to cut carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2030
  • USD 100 billion in financial aid from rich nations to poor
  • ensuring that half of that money went to helping the developing world adapt to the worst effects of climate change.

( COP26 : 26th session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change )

Developing Nations’ “Goal seek”
Most of the participant nations agreed on the target of achieving ‘the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature’ goal. As in every multi-stakeholder debate, few of the civil society groups and few participant countries see the COP26 outcome as a missed opportunity.

India’s strong push to certain clauses evoked surprise at the forum. For a nation that has nearly 1/6th global population, majority of them being younger than 30 years of age and having another 35 years of productive life ahead, India has a lot riding on every word of the agreement. For it is more than just words and to steer its socio-economic progress to be “4I” : inclusive-impactful-innovative-India for its citizens.

As its representative at the summit, Minister Yadav said the developing nations had the right to use the remainder of the so-called global "carbon budget", or the amount of carbon dioxide the world can release before warming crosses the 1.5 degree Celsius goal. He aptly pointed out :  “In such a situation, how can anyone expect that developing countries can make promises about phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies when developing counties have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication ?"

As more observers seem to indicate, China wanted a language on reducing coal usage to be closer to the wordings that it had agreed with the US to in a joint statement few days ago. It is important to note that it was the US and China who first used  the term “phase-down” in their bilateral climate agreement, announced in the middle of COP26. Sadly as the conference came to an end, it was left as if India was the only one pushing for coal ! Call it optics-management and geopolitical influence on global media.

The developed nations have used fossil fuels for their industrial development and associated economic progress. While it is necessary to move away from fossil fuels, developing nations do not have the economic-might to take up non-fossil fuels and associated technological changes at once. They will need financial support in adopting to the newer ways of sustainable economic activities. 

Carbon, China, India, USA
Developing nations as India, China, Brazil have large amounts of carbon-credits remaining as most credit-buyer nations had stopped chasing their emission reduction targets. Carbon markets facilitate the trading of emission reductions. The buyers of carbon credits can use the emission reductions to offset against their emission-reduction targets.

The developing countries wanted their unused carbon-credits to be transitioned to the new market. This had been opposed by developed nations who questioned if  these credits represent actual emission reductions! 

This Glasgow Pact has brought some relief to the developing nations by allowing the existing carbon credits to be used in meeting countries’ first NDC targets. This gives developed countries time until 2025 to buy these credits to meet its own emission reduction targets. 

Every climate action initiative has financial implications. Estimated trillions of dollars are required to fund climate change actions to meet the climate targets; funding this has not been easy as been promised by the developed countries. These countries had not met their promise to mobilise at least $100 billion every year from 2020; and now have shifted the responsibility start-date to 2023. If the goal-post keeps changing, what happens to the goal ?

Indian lead in renewables 

In the next 20 years, India has to add a power system the size of Europe’s to meet the demand for its swelling population, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). 

Coal currently powers 70% of India’s electricity generation. At COP26 session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged that by 2030, India will produce more energy through solar and other renewables than its entire grid now. This opens up a huge set of opportunities in the renewables space and its impact-sectors which has to prepare for it by 2030. 

India can lead 

While climate change seems to be a political and policy issue on the outside, it is deep down that which would impact how businesses function. After all, businesses do contribute to climate change, in minuscule to major portions depending on their sector and scale of operations. 

With so much of technological development, we might realise that plurality of ideological differences and duality of behaviour of certain stakeholders might be irrelevant in the larger scheme of singularity philosophy that we might see in our own lifetime itself !

India has abundant talent in areas which can bring about large-scale changes to a sustainable living world. It needs to build an ecosystem that encourages ideas, ideators and to make stronger Intellectual Property rights to innovators across :

  • AI
  • Agri innovation like Plant-genome research
  • Agritech 
  • Analytics 
  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • Biotech innovation 
  • Blockchain
  • Digital finance
  • Electric vehicles
  • ESG technology
  • Healthcare 
  • Hydrogen generation 
  • Machine Learning
  • Renewable-powered home appliances

These areas would become mainstream application in making quality of life better. These areas of development can make concept of better health, nutrition, green living, clean energy, better governance outcomes to be available as an inclusive agenda for its citizens and to share these with the world.

With improvements and breakthroughs in data governance, we should have Global standards of reporting and frameworks that will drive all to Sustainability-driven thinking. 

India’s Heft

There would be criticism that India stalled or watered down the “phase out” coal to “phase down” coal. But instead of the polite gestures and hiding behind promises that most of the developed nations have done so far, India took a stand, as it should, in a global platform. A stand that it has already factored into its industrial growth policy. 

For years, the developed nations had continued using (or abusing) the goodness of what nature was providing as its resources; and can’t ask others to stop using any of these resources without paying for the differential costs to achieve the same level of developmental gains they had to reach “developed nation” status. 

There sure is a difference between hardened-stance versus ardent-stand !

Well, this ‘Copping a Plea’ at Glasgow was different : Please Listen to Emerging-nations’ Arguments (PLEA) !