Opinion

Inspiring effective climate-change action

In fostering an ecosystem where sustainability flourishes, organisations can collectively amplify their impact, leading to a ripple effect across commercial industries and beyond

Arapidly expanding economy and vast population put India at the forefront of the global climate challenge. Confronted with the unprecedented task of integrating climate change into her growth narrative, with an ambitious goal of reaching net zero by 2070, India is making noteworthy efforts to stride towards a sustainable, low-carbon future, with climate-resilient pathways being forged at national and state levels.

Thus, prioritising tangible steps is a necessity; the responsibility for driving this transformation does not lie with the government or environmental groups alone. Businesses, as powerful growth engines of the economy, have a vital role to play. By interweaving climate change considerations centred around mitigation, adaptation, and advocacy into corporate strategies and developmental frameworks, a sustainable and prosperous future may be secured for India and the world.

Siddharth Sharma

Siddharth Sharma is the chief executive officer of the Tata Trusts.

The fruition of mitigation efforts aimed at curbing heat-trapping greenhouse gases will take decades to show impact. However, by accelerating the transition to renewable energy, arresting deforestation trends, and restoring natural habitats we may start making a positive difference, now.

A prime example of this is Uttarakhand, where 90% of the drinking water comes from small springs. A combination of climatic factors, deforestation, and topography has led to a decline in water availability. To address this, the Himmotthan Pariyojana’s springshed management programme has employed scientific methods to prevent soil and water runoff.

This approach has led to an increase in water infiltration and enhanced water discharge from springs, ensuring a more sustainable water supply. Additionally, there’s an emphasis on enhancing local village expertise in natural water resources management. After revitalising the springs, trained para-hydrogeologists, referred to as ‘water champions’, assume responsibility to ensure the project’s ongoing success.

Another such endeavour is working to ensure ‘Energy Security’ for communities living in remote areas of Manipur. This initiative seeks to revolutionise the lives of marginalised fishing communities through solar energy solutions. Faced with dwindling catches, the locals have repurposed their floating huts into eco-friendly homestays, rejuvenating livelihoods and bolstering local tourism. This effort ensures that these fisherfolk can sustainably thrive in their ancestral habitat, preventing the need for migration while earning a viable income. These initiatives, which prioritise both local community needs and environmental considerations, are charting the course for a more robust and sustainable future.

Efforts to prevent a worse future must be accompanied by measures to address the already baked-in consequences of damages. Adaptation, which aims to help people, animals, and plants thrive amidst the rising climate volatility, is an equally urgent business priority and this involves evolving organisational practices, institutional infrastructures, and technologies in the areas that are most in need.

In a country like India where only 4% of the world’s water resources are available to sustain 18% of the global population, the imperative for water conservation cannot be overstated. Innovative initiatives like building artificial glaciers in four critically water-deficit villages in the high-altitude Leh district are playing a crucial role in expanding dependable areas for irrigation and boosting crop output.

Similarly, a range of strategies that include ensuring the availability of quality fodder, providing proper healthcare for animals, and establishing linkages with milk-based market networks has transformed livestock farming into a profitable venture for farming families living in the hilly regions of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Such initiatives reduce vulnerabilities to climate impacts and safeguard livelihoods and ecosystems, ultimately minimising the need for reactive emergency responses.

Voluntary commitments aimed at emissions reduction and safeguarding the global environment are commendable strides, but the gravity of the crisis demands active collaboration with domestic and international think tanks, business coalitions, and advocacy groups to stay informed on evolving regulations and technologies.

The India Climate Collaborative, founded by some of India’s top corporate and philanthropic leaders, is a unique alliance aimed at strengthening the Indian climate network, crafting a climate narrative tailored to India and fostering impactful solutions. By fostering partnerships around sustainable land management practices, adaptation strategies, and education and awareness, the ICC aims to accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies. Its multi-faceted approach aims to achieve positive change on both a local and a national level, promoting a more resilient, low-carbon, and environmentally conscious India.

A capacity-building session organised by Himmotthan Pariyojana in February 2023 in Uttarakhand’s Tehri Garhwal district as part of a springshed management programme

In the contemporary milieu, businesses play a pivotal role within societal frameworks. They must, as articulated by Ratan Tata, “go beyond the interest of their companies to the communities they serve”, to find “solutions tailored to meet local needs”. This assertion embodies the Tata Group’s intrinsic ethos underpinned by the Tata Climate Change Policy, a strategy adopted in 2009, well before sustainability concerns acquired a global momentum. Central to this is a threefold focus on mitigation, adaptation, and advocacy.

In fostering an ecosystem where sustainability flourishes, organisations can collectively amplify their impact, leading to a ripple effect across commercial industries and beyond. The fusion of climate-conscious social development with corporate strategy is more than just an aspiration. It is an obligatory stride towards a harmonious coexistence with our planet and a legacy of responsible enterprise for generations to come. 

This article is from the Financial Express published on December 26, 2023, across all editions