Exploring Green ways to navigate the Climate Crisis
– By Aditi Kale
We are facing a new paradigm where every environmental action taken and not taken today will have immediate as well as far-reaching consequences on our progress, health and safety. Thus there is an imperative for making systemic changes so that environmental actions become wide-spread, profitable and acceptable.
The last session of the PIC conference on Energy, Environment and Economic Growth (Jan’ 21) focused on discussing the pathway and solutions to achieve an Integrated Environmental-Economic Policy. That is, identifying the important actions needed for simultaneously meeting India’s triple challenge of ensuring economic, social and environmental well-being.
With Climate Change and its escalating impacts, we are facing a new paradigm where every environmental action taken and not taken today will have immediate as well as far-reaching consequences on our progress, health and safety. Thus there is an imperative for making systemic changes so that environmental actions become wide-spread, profitable and acceptable. The insightful session talks clearly highlighted the need for a Green Economic Transition in India.
Things become easier when one gets the basics right. And the following 10 things, ranging from attitude, governance to behaviour, will play an important role in realizing the global Economic Aspirations, Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Ambitions.
- Considering Environment and Economy as two sides of the same coin
The misinformation about Green Economy among businesses and governments leads to wrong decisions. Environmental actions don’t always reduce profits. We cannot discount sustainability while aiming for economic growth. We need to move away from the present costing system and ensure it will include all environmental costs. Governments need to push sustainability without fearing that the GDP would get affected and use economic indicators that consider both — planetary health and human development.
2. Decentralizing governance and empowering local communities
Centralized governance is environmentally and energy-wise expensive. India is a geographically and socially diverse country. Larger the system and more complex the network, larger is the energy use required to maintain it and it also becomes less and less green. And according to laws of Physics, more the energy use, more will be the Entropy (simply put randomness or uncertainties which can lead to varied mild to extreme outcomes). Thus, Green Economy cannot be realized with a centralized governance structure.
3. Leading committed and coordinated drive to go Net Carbon Neutral
The wide spectrum of desired actions in order to adopt and disseminate the appropriate low carbon technologies need — leadership with a vision, efficiency in overcoming policy and regulatory issues and obstacles, overcoming economic constraints like availability of green finance and tendency by leaders to plan for short-term profitability, better knowledge and understanding among citizens, and finally, a collective will to change. This sort of resolution and planning is in a very bad state in our country right now and needs to improve greatly.
4. Understanding that Technology is neither the constraint nor the only solution
In general, technology for addressing the Climate Crisis is available. But using the technologies may have constraints like appropriateness to address specific issues, maintenance and accessibility, skilled human resource, profitability for the user, and balancing the economics which is subject to factors like technology adoption challenges and the increasing costs of the cash economy. However, other systemic changes like energy conservation, material and resource efficiency, circular economy, ecological restoration, etc. are equally important for economic and environmental stability.
5. Democratizing and strengthening Environmental decision-making
We need to integrate material well-being, non-material quality of life, equity, justice, sustainability, resilience, and democracy as the pillars in planning and development. We need to strengthen the Right to Information (RTI), Forest Rights Act, Environmental and Forest Clearance processes, etc. And especially strengthen and make Pollution Control Boards more accountable. We also need to initiate Water Rights process and distribution for all. We must have mechanisms to monitor and manage our direct and embedded footprints.
6. Decentralizing and democratizing knowledge and higher research
Understanding problems requires a more global perspective but the solutions need to be more local. Hence, we need locally-rooted solutions based on globally relevant science. The Green economy-related knowledge should be made available right from primary to higher education. This can be achieved by integrating research and local case studies in syllabi and empowering teachers to accomplish it. We also need to democratize knowledge through freely accessible digital resources, to help humanity to invest their talent, skills and ambition in achieving Sustainability and Climate Action.
7. Understanding that Environmental Justice is very much a current issue
Environmentalism is often associated with Future-thinking but it actually includes many dimensions. Even pollution, perceived as a future threat, is a current problem. Because the pollution caused by the polluter is costing the humans or ecosystems in the surroundings in terms of health, wealth and well-being in the present. This also applies to historical responsibility, often neglected in international Climate Change discussions. Environmental justice is not just about how humans are responsible for protecting next generations or addressing perceived future problems — because these problems are very much harming our current health, quality of life and environment too.
8. Business models must focus on rewarding good sustainable practices
We need to promote a system that will promote the environment and at the same time encourage non-polluting technological interventions. Governments should subsidize green alternatives to speed up the process and make them more attractive. Economic models must reward sustainable practices and penalize for any harm caused to the environment. Local empowerment needs to be focused upon to achieve sustainablity. To sum up, our development models should be based on the maxim that — Our environment is the mother of life, not the economy.
9. Going back to the Gandhian economy for a Green economy
We need to think differently, given the problem we are facing. We created these problems ourselves, as society became larger and larger, never thinking about the situation we are in now. Going beyond self, our daily moral and ethical decisions should be made by thinking about how it is affecting the rest of the world. Gandhian economy focuses on community building, social well-being and local empowerment with a view to satisfying human needs rather than the human greed. It is a sustainable localised living rather than an economy.
10. Containing human greed will be the real challenge
The GDP rise through the decades shows that Economic Growth has been observed and will continue to increase in most countries. But that has not solved pressing issues like hunger, poverty, justice and quality of life. The real challenge before humanity is containing human greed and lust for power. We need to understand and explore — what is the economic activity per hectare that will be caring and respectful to the planet? We need to ensure Ecological Integrity and a habitable planet.
Ecological Integrity is a concept that reinstates humans in nature while respecting the latter. It has been useful in finding clear answers in cases of conflicts between economic human interests which tend to be immediate and ecological concerns which are generally long term.
The common understanding that intertwines the narratives is that there are no go-back-to-old answers or easy answers to the new problems we are facing. Hence, we need to use novel ways, explore technologies and change mindsets and societies for a truly Green Transition. The 10 things given here provide a vision and means for human society to be more environmentally and economically responsible and thrive together with nature. And we need to realize them NOW because as the influential thinker and writer Peter Drucker puts it — “The best way to predict future is to create it.” …Or Live It :)
Aditi is a Science Writer and Researcher who works with CCP. She has an academic background in biodiversity and is interested in Ecology, Evolution and Climate Change.
PS — Pune International Centre organized an Online National Conference on 22–23 January 2021! It was a first of its kind initiative to open up a discussion on Climate Economics in India and promote the effort to synergize Economy and Environment. Visit our Website to know more.