It is time for humans to behave or perish as the climate emergency and prevailing pandemic has hit us hard — hard enough to explore and adopt sustainable measures on a war footing
“Real generosity towards the future consists in giving all to what is present.” I read these motivational lines a long time ago, but the essence has stayed with me. There is no Planet B. If there’s any legacy worth passing down to future generations, then it has to be a safe haven for all — with equitable and inclusive growth opportunities and resources for each of its inhabitants.
In today’s world, the modern man can be defined as quintessentially materialistic — and there is no shame in it as it is a natural part of being human and often also benefits the society economically. However, what must not be forgotten is that for any of our geopolitical and economic ambitions to be realised, it is important that a social and scientific balance is maintained — a balance between the three essential parts of a sustainable world: people, planet and profits.
This heightened human activity for some defined economic interests has undoubtedly improved our standard and ease of living, but it has also caused dire effects on the climate including changes in the air we breathe, atmospheric layers, oceans spreads, ice covers, and forest covers on land. There are unusual trends being witnessed all around, including increasing heatwaves, heavy rainfall spells, longer warm seasons, and shorter cold seasons, among others. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming since 1850-1900, and the global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming over the next 20 years.
It’s now or never
Global warming has really taken effect in the world over the last century and the Code-Red warning is a jarring alarm to awaken us to the rapid climate change, which is widespread, intensifying and indeed a reality. We are at the tipping point for climate action, wherein we need to swiftly assess where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare to dissipate any unprecedented Global survival emergencies.
The environment is no one’s property to destroy — it is everyone’s responsibility to protect, The Climate Change Conference (COP26) meet in Glasgow echoed this sentiment fervently. It was heartening to note that every nation was ready to contribute to control global warming and protect the environment. However, while other nations announced their plans to cut emissions to net zero by 2050, India is aiming to achieve this target by 2070. Clearly, there are a lot of steps to be taken and we do not have even a single moment to lose.
The sense behind sustainability and eco-viability
Until a few years ago, sustainability wasn’t considered to be business or the economy’s core. It was rather seen as a formal, reactive exercise that helped save money. With the increased focus on stakeholder value rather than shareholder, business leaders are becoming more and more environmentally concerned. They have realised that integrating a climate conscious, proactive approach could lead to better revenues in the future with solutions offering risk reduction, reengineering, less energy consumption, and cost reductions.
The big bet: Investing in climate finance
To achieve these steep, ambitious, and extremely viable commitments, India needs to drive focused initiatives with apt financial support. Every small step intended towards a long-term goal matters, which is why we need to have sturdy investments to manage this transition towards a green sustainable future — energy-efficient and low on emissions.
Tech-way is the only way
The target is set and the path selected — the transition from traditional to circular, sustainable economy calls for continuous unlearning and relearning. Best practices that are backed up with new-age technologies, will help in getting that edge to find and adopt new solutions to combat the climate crisis in simple ways. A classic case in point are the manufacturers of sustainable denims — made with organic cotton and eco-friendly production methods that are less wasteful and are still quite trendy.
An eye on alternatives
Increased urbanisation and consumption are factors that have put pressure on natural resources. Studies reveal that humans consume 73 percent more natural resources than the earth produces in a year. This imbalance is a potential crisis waiting to unfold. So, we must be open to investments across renewable energy, energy efficiency, and new energies like green hydrogen and alternatives like biofuels to strike a balance. Interestingly, India currently ranks fourth worldwide in installed renewable energy capacity and also has successfully produced energy from non-fossil fuel sources by more than 25 percent in the past seven years, thereby reaching 40 percent of the country’s energy mix.
No-carb(on) diet — the healthy way for us!
Energy sources are just one aspect of the sustainability mandate. Other aspects include massive decarbonisation efforts from industries like transportation and manufacturing. Railways need to take this quite seriously due to high reliance on diesel and coal fired electricity. Scaling up use of green hydrogen and mandating its use in industries like petroleum refineries and fertiliser will add a great value to our sustainability endeavours. Hence, adopting a climate action plan that provides a roadmap to become carbon neutral and successively net-zero is now imperative.
It is noteworthy to see that India has taken some decisive steps towards climate action and protection. However, we still have a long road to cover. Envisioning a sustainable profitable business requires a clear understanding of the issues that are plaguing our forward march as a progressive, evolving economy. With a dedicated plan and implementation of robust eco-friendly strategies like access to green capital, technology, and renewable and alternative resources, we can accelerate the global journey towards a sustainable future and also help India achieve the net zero emission goal by 2070 or perhaps even earlier.
— The author, CP Gurnani, is Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tech Mahindra. Views expressed herein are personal.