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Climate finance key discussion point at world summit: TERI chief Dhawan

ByJayashree Nandi
Feb 14, 2022 11:41 PM IST

The World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) is an annual summit organised by TERI where sustainable development issues are discussed.

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) on Wednesday, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) director-general, Vibha Dhawan spoke to HT’s Jayashree Nandi on the country’s climate crisis and net zero-emission goals. The WSDS is an annual summit organised by TERI where sustainable development issues are discussed. John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, United States, Amina J. Mohammed, deputy secretary-general, United Nations, Petteri Taalas, secretary-general, World Meteorological Organization are among the speakers at the virtual summit to be held between February 16 to 18. Dhawan said the delivery of climate finance from developed nations to developing nations will be a major point of discussion among country representatives. Edited excerpts:

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) director-general Vibha Dhawan (HT Photo)
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) director-general Vibha Dhawan (HT Photo)

What are your expectations from the summit?

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The summit will be inaugurated by the PM. We have heads of state participating. It’s very encouraging that this is the 21st edition of the WSDS, and some speakers are coming year after year. It’s a neutral platform to discuss problems and as citizens of this planet what needs to be done. These networking opportunities are for the entire globe and those from the developing world. We recognise that we have to act much more than what we are doing. There should be a continuous dialogue, and hence we will launch ‘act for earth’, involving year-round discussions and bringing out policy papers on climate change.

Will there be any discussions on the delivery of climate finance among country representatives?

There will be a discussion on climate finance, both on adaptation and mitigation fronts. It needs to be clear what kind of commitments will be made. Nobody will be signing on a piece of paper, but let’s come out in the open and discuss where the problem lies. Without climate finance, even the United Nations conference of parties on climate change (COP) discussions cannot achieve what they should.

How do you think India can achieve its net-zero emissions goal by 2070?

PM made a very bold announcement in Glasgow (COP26 Summit 2021). He made it based on confidence in his countrymen. Whatever little confusion about the future of renewables, he has now removed that. The moment he said 50% of our energy should be from renewables by 2030, and by 2070 we should transition to net-zero emissions; those doubts have been addressed. What he has said is not based on what we are using today. Our emissions are yet to peak. After peaking, by 2070, we will transition to net-zero emissions. Therefore, there are two important things to note. The PM has brought clarity on the way forward for the country, and now corporates need to understand what they were doing voluntarily perhaps will now be made mandatory to an extent. In years to come, there will be regulations from the government. It is not just the large industrial houses that have to go net-zero, it is perhaps all industries over the time.

Who is going to fund this transition?

For so many years, we know solar panels are good. However, even to put them up on a house, people are going to ask what will be the payback period?

The pockets of small and medium enterprises are not deep. A financing mechanism needs to be worked out. Let these industries pay back. In any case, they are buying electricity. It shouldn’t be a 100% subsidy because again it’s the taxpayer who will be paying for it. You are only giving them a loan, in a way, and recovering money on a year-to-year basis. The other thing that is missing is do we have the capacity to absorb this renewable energy? We need to study these aspects. There are fears about what the cost is going to be in the coming years, which will have implications on the production cost.

How can we move away from coal gradually?

We don’t have any other fossil fuels. We are importing petrol and gas. Therefore, the only other fossil fuel available to us is coal. Let’s look into China and US. Even today, they are using a lot of coal. Their entire industrialisation was based on coal. It is wrong on their part to point fingers at us. At the UN negotiations and other places, a lot of promises are made in terms of financing, but no money has come. There is no clarity on what they are doing. India has the right to develop. We simply cannot say that you have polluted the world but let’s forego that, and India will be clean. The answer is that I also have to develop. A large number of livelihoods is dependent on coal and associated activities. I wouldn’t worry too much about it provided we do the skilling. They need capacity building in generating renewables, repairing them, taking care of hydrogen and engaging them there. We should be able to create more jobs than those that are today associated with coal mining. It was rightly mentioned by our minister (Bhupender Yadav)at COP26 that India will phase down coal. We will reduce the percentage of energy generation from coal, and not only that we will reduce consumption of coal.

Unveiling 'Elections 2024: The Big Picture', a fresh segment in HT's talk show 'The Interview with Kumkum Chadha', where leaders across the political spectrum discuss the upcoming general elections. Watch Now!

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