What Can India Teach The World about Sustainability?

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by Jithin Joshey Kulatharayil
KnowESG - India in ESG
India in ESG

We live in a world where the number of people is exploding while the amount of resources is shrinking. Every day we face new problems, such as a lack of pollinators that affects food security, a lack of clean air and water, land degradation, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. 

Millions of people and animals have already died because of disasters caused by climate change, like floods in Pakistan and wildfires in Australia. Who knows what awaits other countries in the future? So, the only way out of the most serious problem we're facing right now is for everyone to work together to make the world more sustainable and encourage people to live sustainably.

As global warming speeds up, solutions also need to ramp up. Everyone must take action on their own, and together where possible, to reach this goal.

India’s Approach Toward Sustainability

A country known for its many different cultures and diversity will soon have more people than China by 2023.

India is among the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and owing to its size, the country has to deal with sustainability issues at different levels of government. 

However, its per capita emissions are some of the lowest in the world, and the world's fifth largest economy doesn't take climate change and sustainability lightly. Many of India's plans for development have gotten or are still getting praise from people who care about the climate around the world.

Sustainability values have always been at the heart of India’s vision. The yogic principle of aparigraha has, in particular, rooted in India's approach toward sustainability. It is the idea that a person should only own what they need at a certain time in their lives. It is a type of self-control that avoids the kind of coveting and greed that destroys or harms people, other living things, or nature in general. One can connect this idea to today’s degrowth movement.

India’s Commitment to Climate Goals

The country zeroes in on sustainability and climate commitments in its recently released budget for 2022-2023, the highlights of which are as follow:

  • Take non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 GW

  • Achieve 50% of energy requirements from renewable energy

  • Minimise total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes

  • Reduce economy’s carbon intensity by 45%

  • Achieve net zero targets by 2070

But the question is, can India really reach these goals, given how the world economy is doing right now?

The Indian government is, however, confident about the fact that it is on the right pathway to sustainability. The country’s higher scores in the Global Innovations Index rankings (page 93) further accelerate its confidence in this endeavour.

Indian Government’s Major Climate Initiatives

A solar power development project in association with France. It was started in 2015 as a group of 'sunshine countries' to make better use of solar energy. The alliance's goal is to reduce dependence on non-renewable sources of energy like fossil fuels. Its headquarters are in Gurugram, Haryana State.

Based on the idea of building and expanding inter-regional energy grids so that people worldwide can share solar energy, and as such could be an attractive solution to many global problems in the energy sector.

The programme focusses on keeping India and its cities and villages clean by giving every home a toilet. Universal sanitation coverage is a critical starting point for other sustainability initiatives to be realised. 

Learn more about regional climate initiatives from India here.

India’s Climate Tech

In the coming years, investors will focus their money in the Asian markets, particularly in India, Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam, owing to their highly competitive markets and economic growth.

Climate change is a threat that can't be avoided, so many Indian cities are already working to improve their infrastructure. Delhi is choked almost every day due to air pollution from public and private transportation. To find a solution to this problem, the country has started thinking from a technological perspective, and that, too, kicked off from the right place. If you drive around the metropolis, the second largest city in the world in terms of population by some indices, you will see electric charging stations for electric two- and three-wheelers booming everywhere. Climate initiatives in India have already begun.

Business giants in India, including Reliance, Wipro, and UltraTech Cement Ltd., are continuously embracing and backing sustainability and embedding it into their business policies. Private investors are also willing to put money into technologies that aim to mitigate the effects of climate change; about $2 billion of the nearly $27 billion invested worldwide so far this year has gone to Indian businesses.

But from another angle, if we look at climate funds, it seems like they are not enough. Only a few billionaires are contributing to the amount of money pouring into the Indian market to help these firms steer emissions targets. Moreover, the politics and red tape in the country are pulling back sustainable growth and development, and most of the climate-related regulations in India are only in the draft stage. 

India and COP27

India is one of the countries that has been asking the developed nations to pay for the environmental damage they have caused for a long time. It also played a big role in getting the loss and damage fund approved during the last hours of COP27 in Egypt. This shows how important its role is in fighting climate change, and the rest of the world is paying close attention to how India moves the fight against climate change forward.

If you look at its aspirations, it is commendable that the country submitted its Long-Term Low Emissions Growth Strategy as a roadmap to low-carbon transition in key economic sectors within one year of committing to achieving net zero emissions by 2070 at Glasgow. The country embarked on several new initiatives in renewable energy, e-mobility, ethanol-blend fuels, and green hydrogen as an alternate energy source and updated its Nationally Determined Contributions in August 2022.

The International Solar Alliance and Coalition of Disaster Resilience Infrastructure, initiated by India, boost international synergy. This demonstrates India’s ethos of collective action for the global good.

The country's efforts to protect the environment are based on the "Lifestyle for Environment" plan that Indian Prime Minister Modi announced at COP26 last year.

So, a country with this much diversity striving towards a sustainable pathway reflects the collective efforts of its people and different levels of government. If India is doing it within its capacity as a developing nation, then it has to be appreciated. It can definitely improve its ability to lead the world if the current problems are found and fixed. In fact, many international companies, governments, NGOs, and businesses want to work with India to fight climate change. They are excited to invest in India's infrastructure projects sustainably and see it as a very competitive market.

Keep up with ESG ideas and opinions here.

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