Sustainability Forum: As India faces unprecedented climate impacts, experts push for better mitigation and adaptation approaches

Sustainability Forum: As India faces unprecedented climate impacts, experts push for better mitigation and adaptation approaches
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“Only One Earth!”
This theme united the world 50 years ago at Stockholm for the world’s first conference on the environment. Even today, the message remains relevant, emphasising that Earth is our only home for millions of species, and humanity must not destroy the ecosystem beyond repair. The theme advocates policy reforms that promote cleaner, greener, and more sustainable living methods in harmony with nature.
In light of this, Business Insider India’s Sustainability Insider is carrying out a month-long awareness campaign in June 2022 on the theme “Only One Earth: Sustaining People, Planet and Prosperity”. The theme for the month encapsulates the need to transform our lifestyles and businesses to achieve sustainability and live in harmony with nature.
As part of the campaign, we conducted a panel discussion on the impacts of climate change in India and how we can mitigate and adapt to these changes. The discussion, titled 'Unpacking the climate cataclysm in India', included Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) authors and leading climate researchers from India.

Urgent need for climate action

The climate crisis can trigger frequent, extreme weather events, disrupt agricultural output, and limit water and resource availability. Its impacts can kill or displace millions of people and result in economic losses measured in the trillions. And India is at the forefront of climate change’s socio-economic impacts!
As per the estimates from global research, we must halve annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century. There are some options, but widespread decarbonisation is very challenging, especially due to the current need for economic revival.
Therefore, adaptation becomes key for countries like India. Fortunately, India is one of 80 per cent of the world's countries committed to Net-Zero and the investment required to make this happen will be substantial! It entails minimising GHG emissions in the next few decades, which have expanded fourfold in the previous 20 years.
Listen to the full conversation here:

Key takeaways from the panel discussion


Dr Anjal Prakash, a research director at the Bharti Institute of Public Policy at the Indian School of Business and the lead author of the chapter on cities and mountains in IPCC's AR6 WG2 report, says “ Water security can be understood with a three-pronged approach, 1) demand and supply gap; 2) climate-related risks and 3) pollution. If we can solve these three problems, we can ensure better water security.”
On Indian cities and their vulnerability, he remarked, Twice the current population of the USA would be living in Indian cities over the next 15 to 20 years. But our cities are not gearing towards managing climate risks, except for a few knee-jerk solutions.”
Professor Subimal Ghosh from the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Bombay, conducts extensive research in hydroclimatology, regional climate modelling and water resources systems. He is also the Convener of the Interdisciplinary Program in Climate Studies at IIT Bombay.
He gave a detailed explanation of the major impacts of climate change on the Indian monsoon saying, "India’s monsoon rainfall in the four months contributes to 80% of the total annual rainfall. So it's very important since our economy is mostly driven by agriculture. It is a very complicated phenomenon with very low predictability. Over the last 50 years, we had a decreasing trend in monsoon, which deviated in the last 10 years."
On possible solutions, he said, “The most important part is that we have to improve is climate adaptation strategies and our climate services and solutions. We must understand that the India Meteorological Department and Ministry of Water have improved the weather forecast, extended-range predictions, the climate simulations.”
Ashwini Hengre, senior manager, World Resource Institute in India, is a climate policy researcher and economist with over a decade of experience in climate change mitigation. A significant part of her work involves modelling policies for meeting India's climate goals. She elaborates on India’s position and the broader debates around climate justice.
" So essentially, the historical emissions from industrialisation and developed countries have led us to today. We are already a degree warmer than we should have been, and we need to limit this warming to 1.5 degrees. But countries like India have so much development ahead of them and need to lift people out of poverty and provide them with basic access to services. They cannot be expected to share this burden of reducing emissions equally.”
Swati D'souza works at the intersection of climate policy and energy, and her research focuses on the challenges of fossil fuel transition in emerging economies. When asked about the future of coal in India and its role in just transition, she explains:
“The challenge that we have when we look at moving away from coal is what is going to be the substitute right now. Coal functioned as a base load power for the Indian electricity grid in the West for many decades. What we saw was a transition from coal to gas. But gas is expensive in India even from an energy security concern. As we've seen over the last two years, the prices of gas have been extremely volatile.”
She continued, " Coal is no longer the cheapest source of electricity in the way it used to be in India. But at the same time, it is also a domestic resource, and coal still continues to dominate that perception that needs to undergo a change."
This conversation is part of June 2022’s month-long awareness campaign on the theme “ Only One Earth: Sustaining People, Planet and Prosperity ” by Business Insider India’s Sustainability Insider .