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Centerstaging ESG for net-zero emissions energy

Centerstaging ESG for net-zero emissions energy
The world is running out of time to slow climate change and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has sounded the alarm. According to its report, unless immediate, rapid and large-scale action is taken to reduce emissions, the average global temperature will likely exceed the 1.5-degree Celsius mark within 20 years.
Energy will be a critical element of our battle against climate change. The world has to find ways to produce more of it with the least carbon. Further increments and advances in energy production must neither negotiate with the planet nor with the most vulnerable sections of society.
One of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, India has to make rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and build resilient infrastructure in partnership with the private sector.
That is indispensable for its aspirations and that of its people. While the government has set ambitious clean energy targets - 450 GW by 2030, businesses today need to redesign their operations and R&D to support them actively.
To keep up with and anticipate market developments as influenced by extreme weather events, fluctuations in commodity prices, and technology disruptions, firms need to initiate a carbon-neutral transition and have a strong environmental, social, and governance (ESG) focus.
At the centre of the energy transition is the power sector. Power and energy companies must thus be the torchbearers of change, leading by example with a comprehensive ESG framework for sustainability – a wholesome plan encompassing actionable short-, medium- and long-term targets to decarbonize energy.
Firms need to reduce their carbon footprint by shifting completely to clean electricity consumption and reducing waste generation, by cutting pollution throughout the product life cycle, and by reducing their carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in society, facilitating the adoption of cleaner transport, buildings, and industries.
Withal, on the infrastructure side, Energy 2.0 necessitates accelerated efforts toward electric grid modernization, so it can handle and further allow the energy transition. Higher penetration of renewables, the EV revolution, the growth of smart cities, and data centres are all tied around the grid.
We need to build a consensus and create public policies and private yardsticks to push a transition that would not happen otherwise in a lasting way. Stakeholder capitalism will be key to averting a climate disaster. Our climate goals will indeed be out of reach if nothing is done collectively about emissions from existing infrastructure.
The International Energy Agency in its World Energy Outlook from October 2020 said if today’s energy infrastructure continues to operate as it has in the past, it will lock in by itself a temperature rise of 1.65-degree celsius, which the IPCC report shows is not only very real but maybe worse.
One needs also to be reminded that humanity has used up all biological resources that our planet regenerates during the entire year by July 29, 2021, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). We are operating on ecological deficit spending.
A faster energy transition, thus, requires truly green and responsible actions, meaningful partnerships and better allocation of capital. Greenwashing is counterproductive. We all need to put our weight behind India’s clean energy mission to bring social innovation, addressing society’s social and environmental needs through our commitment to innovating for the greater good.
Change requires active engagement with customers, industry, and policymakers, and it demands sustained skill building for breakthroughs in science and engineering. Change requires each one of us to walk the talk in saving the future.
–N Venu is the MD and CEO of Hitachi ABB Power Grids - India and South Asia. Views expressed are personal.
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