De-carbonization of the global economy – what do we need?

The global cement industry is one of the mayor CO2 producers on earth. Since this chemical compound is known to be the cause of the worldwide greenhouse effect, the companies are eager to reduce it in their production. But this is not enough, as many people think. To achieve a strong agreement in the climate talks in Paris in September 2015, the north and the south will have to work closely together to come up with sustainable solutions.

On the last day of the landmark 15th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2015 (DSDS), heads of state, Nobel laureates and thought leaders forged consensus on developing new pathways to find and replicate sustainable solutions for our common future. DSDS, the flagship event of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), opened new gateways to meet the challenges of “Sustainable Development Goals and Dealing with Climate Change”, the theme this year. The DSDS 2015 assumes significance as the post-2015 development agenda is being finalized – the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is expected to adopt the new set of goals in September 2015 and the climate negotiations (Conference of Parties – COP21) will be held in Paris later this year.

Dr. R. K. Pachauri, Director-General, TERI, said: “We need to redefine growth and development. The north and the south will have to work together to come up with sustainable solutions. We cannot achieve sustainable development unless we meet the aspirations of the people.” To move towards a low carbon economy, mankind will need to come up with innovative solutions such as buildings and shopping malls with reduced energy consumption, i.e. by 50 %. “We need clean and affordable transportation systems and to learn from countries that have made cycling as an efficient mode of transport”, Pachauri proceeded. “We need a technological transition to de-carbonize the global economy. We need a strong agreement in Paris, which should be open to scrutiny and monitoring.”

Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director Earth Institute & Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a video message: “Though most governments have said that they have accepted the 2°C limit target, they have yet to implement carbon reduction measures. There is no back-up plan. Climate funds of 100 billion US$ a year is not much, considering the scale of the global economy. We need to harness clean energy sources such as solar, wind, and nuclear energy and bring about a transformation in our energy policies to move towards a low carbon economy. We need research and demonstration of low carbon technologies.”

At a session on “Climate Change: Ethics, Equity and the Poor”, Dr. Rajiv Gupta, Principal Secretary (Water Supply Department), and Principal Secretary (Climate Change Department), of the Government of Gujarat, India, said: “Sustainability is ultimately a moral issue. Our ancient scriptures have always underlined the sustainable use of our natural resources. Climate change has exposed the vulnerability of the poor. The issue of equity is at the core of the climate change debate.” But there are ways to overcome the crisis, he added. For example in Gujarat, the establishment of water infrastructure provides water security to more than 11000 villages. “This was possible only due to the vision of one man – Shri Narendra Modi – who is now the Prime Minister of India. Only a strong political leadership can overcome ‘inconvenient truths’,” added Dr. Gupta.

Dr. Arvid Hallén, Director General, the Research Council of Norway, said: “As we march towards a new climate agreement in Paris, we must reaffirm the issue of ethics and equity. Climate change is about social and economic justice, and we must address these issues” Hallén refered to Piyush Goyal, the Indian Minister of Power & Energy, who had said that developing countries cannot take the sole responsibility for climate change. Rich nations should take the lead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. David M. Malone, UN Under-Secretary-General & Rector, United Nations University (UNU) said: “India is the ultimate laboratory for development. It is also a terrific field to analyze how development processes work. While dealing with climate change, we must remember that we have a responsibility towards the poor.”

In the session, “Is action on climate change imperative and urgent?”, experts said that a change in the energy model is of utmost importance. If actions towards preservation of the environment  are not taken right away, this could have irreparable consequences.

On the last day of the conference, the 11th Sustainable Development Leadership Award was presented to former President of the European Commission (EC) Dr. José Manuel Durão Barroso. The award felicitates global leaders for their contributions in the field of sustainable development, and for encouraging global initiatives that can lead the world towards a sustainable future.

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