What Will It Take to Prioritise Climate Change?

As we move forward to strengthen action on climate change mitigation, here are four critical areas—each worth a separate study, in my opinion—that philanthropies, nonprofits, policymakers, and corporates need to consider

Picture courtesy: Fridays for Future.

By Moutushi Sengupta
NEW DELHI, Aug 26 2020 (IPS)

India ranks third
in terms of absolute levels of carbon emissions after China and the
United States. In a business as usual scenario, by 2030, emission
levels are
to reach more than 4.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide
(GTCO2) equivalent of greenhouse gas—up from 3 GTCO2
today—overtaking the United States as the second-largest emitting

At the same time, India’s per capita energy consumption levels
are about
of the world average and in 2018, central government
data indicated that
17 percent of households
did not have access to

To meet the dual objectives of environmental sustainability and
economic growth, the path of development must focus on being clean
and green. This is more of a necessity than a matter of choice for
the country.

We, at the John D and
Catherine T MacArthur Foundation
, have been working on climate
change in India for the last five years and we have seen this space
evolve considerably. Several international development agencies
have come forward to support policymaking and action aimed at
enabling India to achieve its climate goals.

There has also been a substantial increase in the number of
research institutions working on issues related to climate change
mitigation. Moreover, the role of market-linked interventions has
expanded considerably, as evidenced from the rapid spread of
renewable energy networks
, addressing issues around access and

“…people need to understand climate change as a narrative,
containing their own language and shaped by their own values and
experience. Most climate change language, however, is dry,
technical or too based in the campaign culture…”

We are also seeing citizens becoming more concerned about climate
change and wanting to do more. All this represents significant
positive developments, but the sheer magnitude of the challenge
requires us to do much more.

Before we analyse what can be done, it’s important to call out
for whom this can (and needs to) be done. All the measures we take
in our work on climate change need to first be rooted and built
within the values of equity and social justice.

Our efforts to create a clean and green future can be fully
endorsed only if and when they become a reality for everyone in
India, including those households and marginalised communities that
currently exist on the fringes, or below the boundaries set by
official poverty lines. This will require special attention at the
stages of design and execution of climate change policies and

As we move forward to strengthen action on climate change
mitigation, here are four critical areas—each worth a separate
study, in my opinion—that philanthropies, nonprofits,
policymakers, and corporates need to consider.


1. Engage new champions for climate change

It is critical to bring in new actors to expand and deepen the
climate movement in India. So far, research and knowledge
generation on ways to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change
has remained largely limited to a small group of think tanks
located in and around Delhi—the policymaking centre for

These think tanks have closely engaged with policymakers at the
centre to establish a framework of policies that have pushed India
to invest in renewable sources of energy.

Going forward, the country needs sub-national level actors,
beyond the public infrastructure, to effectively execute the
centre’s renewable energy policies, and where necessary, refine
them to make these policies more contextual.

State-based think tanks, progressive corporate houses, social
opinion-makers including youth leaders, activists, environmental
and social scientists, and research institutions must feature
prominently among potential partners to take this discourse
forward. Identifying and engaging champions in these institutions
and in communities, will provide the much-needed tailwind to
India’s mitigation movement.

In the recent past, we have seen a set of new champions adding
their heft to the movement. Notable examples include Extinction
, the
Fridays for Future movement,
and the People’s Climate Movement where
youth leaders are taking to the streets to shine a light on the


2. Support technology innovations for clean energy

BP Energy Outlook 2019
mentions, “India’s share of total
global primary energy demand is set to roughly double to 11% by
2040 [from 2017 as a base], underpinned by strong population growth
and economic development.â€

To fulfil its growing requirement for energy while meeting its
climate mitigation goals, the country will need to identify and
adopt technology innovations that address both these

Work is underway in research and development centres that the
government has established, including in national institutions such
as the Indian Institute of Technologies, the
National Institute of Solar Energy
, the National Institute of Wind Energy, and
National Institute of Renewable Energy
, to test and develop
technologies that will enable faster adoption of clean energy
and/or reduce energy consumption through higher levels of

As a key member of the global Mission
(MI), India has several successful innovations to
showcase. For example, with support from the MI secretariat, in
2018, Swedish company, Aili Innovation,
with Tata Trusts to develop efficient solar-driven
water pumps for small-scale farmers in India. Replacing diesel
pumps, the solar pump system provides water for irrigation, and
power for lighting and charging of smaller devices such as cell
phones or fans.

Recognising the importance of technological innovations in the
clean energy space, several private incubators have also come
forward to nurture ideas and interventions that rely on
state-of-the-art technologies. Incubators such as Social Alpha, Centre for Innovation Incubation and
, and Villgro have supported early-stage
ideas and interventions that use technology as the key tool for

However, while there are many promising clean energy technology
options available today, most are too expensive to access, lack the
technical reliability needed for widespread deployment, or

Currently, comparatively high costs, inadequate supply chain
support, and insufficient operating experience constrain the
deployment of these technology options at the scale needed for
climate change mitigation. Future funding strategies should focus
on resolving these constraints to enable these technologies to
reach the right audiences.


3. Strengthen support from domestic funders to step in
and expand this movement

Action on climate mitigation by nonprofits in India is currently
largely supported by the international philanthropic community. To
sustain the movement, it is essential that domestic funders come
forward and strengthen the mitigation efforts that are so acutely

They can help by designing and executing interventions—at an
ecosystem-and institution-level—that aim to expand the funding
pool for nonprofit players. Establishment of the India Climate
is an exciting development in this respect.

Over the last few months, the collaborative has managed to
leverage commitment and support from a diverse group of domestic
philanthropists in providing a strong push for action against
climate change.

While philanthropic support has helped support a range of
research organisations, most climate think tanks are still in the
early stages of evolution. If the discourse on climate change
mitigation has to sustain beyond the life of individual projects,
building capacity is critical.

This requires continued support to these institutions to define
their purpose; running audits of existing technical, analytical,
and behavioural skills; identifying gaps; and finding creative


4. Build, share, and promote local

To quote a
2017 study
jointly conducted by Climate Outreach, Climate
Action Network- International, and Climate Action Network-South
Asia, “…people need to understand climate change as a
narrative, containing their own language and shaped by their own
values and experience. Most climate change language, however, is
dry, technical or too based in the campaign culture…â€

There is available evidence to indicate growing levels of
awareness and concern around climate change in India. For instance,

from a recent 12-country-based survey by IPSOS indicate
that there is, “widespread support for government actions to
prioritise climate change in the economic recovery after COVID-19
with 65 percent globally agreeing that this is important.â€

In India, 81 percent of participants from the same study said
that they would support a ‘green’ recovery package, much higher
than the global average of 65 percent. The survey provides
interesting insights on behavioural choices that individuals have
either made or are willing to make, in support of their conviction
that a lot more needs to be done to reduce the adverse impact of
climate change in the future.

Going forward, helping create narratives based on local values,
norms, and customs and where possible, local languages, will prompt
many more to take personal responsibility for change.


We need to act now

The good news is that most likely, the tipping point is yet to
be reached, affording us a tiny window of opportunity to take
decisive action. The not so good news is that the window seems to
be rapidly disappearing. It is no longer a matter of choice on
whether we should attend to global warming or not. The question
forward is how hard and how persistently can we push on the pedal
to achieve our objectives?


Moutushi Sengupta heads the India office of the
John D and Catherine T
MacArthur Foundation


This story was originally
 by India Development Review (IDR)

The post
What Will It Take to Prioritise Climate Change?
appeared first
on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
What Will It Take to Prioritise Climate Change?