Yvo de Boer, Global Chairman-Climate Change and Sustainability Services, KPMG International, and Former Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, UK, is known to ask tough and uncomfortable questions. Present at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS), organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Boer reflected that the pile of question marks doesn´t seem to be getting smaller. Boer shares his views with Garima Pant on the sustainability equation in India at the sidelines of the DSDS summit. Excerpts:
What are the major changes that have to take place in the manner in which energy is produced and consumed in India, keeping in mind environmental factors like green gas emission as well as adherence to international protocol?
One of the major factors that is slowing economic growth in India is the massive bill associated from importing fossil fuels from abroad. So I would say aggressively move on to renewable to reduce that import bill and that will be good for climate as well. Secondly I would say very aggressively drive energy efficiency because a lot money can be saved, a lot of air quality can be improved and a lot of emissions can be reduced by being more efficient. Thirdly I would say seek to look at issues in a much more holistic way like looking at issues around climate, energy, food and water as a nexus, as integrated issues, as opposed to looking at them individually. And this approach is common to countries and is also reflected in the structure of most governments in the sense that there is a ministry of economy, a ministry of environment, a ministry of health and they are all looking at issues from a sectoral perspective as opposed to in an integrated way.
You have repeatedly said that the government needs to put in place the policy direction and then the private sector needs to provide the solutions. In that perspective, where do you see India and the businesses in the country?
I see India in many perspectives. There are Indian companies which are leading in innovation in the energy, automotive sector, in the production of cooking stoves, in decentralised solar energy provision. So there are lots of leaders in the Indian industry, but there are a lot of laggards in the Indian industry too. There are areas in which the government is very clearly making efforts to introduce policies, to green the economy, to stimulate innovation. But there are other areas where the policies are not yet in place. In that sense, in lots of different places, that actually makes India no different than any other country. And unfortunately, if you were to ask me to name a country that has successfully developed a sustainable economic growth model, I will not be able to give you the name of a country.
What is the need of the hour to help India grow further in the path to sustainable growth?
The most basic need is poverty eradication. We talk about climate change but there are 400 million people in India who don´t even have access to modern energies. So asking these 400 million people who don´t have access to modern energy to reduce their emission is a bit of a joke. So clearly, India is faced with this massive dilemma of on the one hand trying to get people out of poverty and on the other hand greening the economic growth. That´s a very difficult challenge. The best way forward is to stimulate innovation, second is to price natural capital properly to the extent possible. There are lots of places in this country where water is still basically free and wasted as a consequence. I think addressing wastefulness and working towards efficiency is quintessential. Also, this is a great country of innovators, so to drive and stimulate innovation is essential.
Do you see any kind of resistance towards sustainable development especially from the business community? Though we see a dialogue happening, thoughts and practices being shared, in reality, where is the action happening?
I don´t think there is resistance towards sustainable development from the business community, but I do see a resistance from the business community to higher prices. And I see a resistance to the higher prices if the prices are not developing in a balanced way for everybody. Probably the main thing that paralyses international negotiations is that everyone is pointing at everyone else to do something first, which goes to show that we will only really be successful if we can find a way of moving together. And there is hope as more and more people are becoming environmentally aware. What´s also encouraging is that we are seeing innovation in a lot places coming out of the private sector. And that there is closer cooperation between non-governmental organisations think tanks and the private sector to drive innovations and we see more collaborations happening. So those are definitely the positive signals but they are not enough.
What is the fundamental difference in the approach to be adopted by developed and emerging economies? And how can that be bridged?
I don´t think there is a fundamentally different approach. But I do think that countries have fundamentally different interests. One of the things that make the international effort to address climate change so difficult is the fact that interests are so widely different among different countries, but also widely different interests exists within the population of the country, considering the different income levels.
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