Event ReportsPublished on Oct 06, 2021
The Road to Glasgow: Greening the recovery

On October 4, 2021, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), in collaboration with the Nehru Centre, London, hosted the first panel discussion on the overarching theme, “The Road to Glasgow”, a three-part series on the UK–India partnership in the run up to COP26. The theme of the session was ‘Greening the Recovery’, and explored recovery efforts by governments in the post-COVID world and how reviving the economy could be intertwined with a green future.

The session opened with a welcome address by Amish Tripathi, Director of the Nehru Centre, and was moderated by Mihir Swarup Sharma, Director of Centre for Economy and Growth Programme, ORF. It featured Jitesh Gadhia, House of Lords, UK; Jayant Sinha, Member of Parliament, Govt. of India; Shloka Nath, Head of Sustainability and Policy and Advocacy, Tata Trusts; and Terri Chapman, Programme Manager, ORF America as panellists.

As countries begin to direct their efforts towards recovering from the devastating impacts of the pandemic, climate change continues to be a serious threat that will have to be taken into consideration in the recovery process. Mihir Sharma pointed out that the new structures being put in place by countries also have to ensure a swift and effective transition to a greener economy. Here, global cooperation, particularly between India and the UK, plays an integral role.

Jayant Sinha explained that for India, “net zero is net positive”, which challenges the idea that adoption of green technology will be at the cost of economic and social development. He argued that India’s green transition would not only create jobs, but also dramatically improve the quality of life of people. With the country’s young workforce, improving infrastructure, and significant investments in sustainable reforms, this is a very optimal time for a green transformation.

When asked about the possibilities of international cooperation ahead of COP26, especially between the UK and India, Lord Gadhia mentioned that climate features heavily in the UK and India bilateral access and our governments have the potential to elevate this relationship to a comprehensive and strategic partnership.

Shloka Nath spoke extensively about the tendency of discussions on green recovery to be short term, and India’s need to focus its ventures on long-term solutions. The Indian government, she explained, must continue to support the policies and fiscal interventions that would de-risk investments in sectors like renewable energy.India has a vibrant green energy market which has the potential to offer favourable returns to those seeking investible opportunities. Many viable Indian projects fail to attract the necessary capital due to the inability of small-project owners to prepare appropriate proposals. She pointed out that there needs to be a narrative change, with more policy stability and rethinking of energy subsidies. She also agreed that global partnerships were imperative to build a green future.

For Terri Chapman, the pandemic has created an opportunity for change and a renewed demand for improvement, whether it be healthier cities, more robust social protections, a more equitable society and alternatives to fossil fuel dependency. The UK–India partnership can see growth in three important areas: Education, human capital development, and smart and green manufacturing. Financial collaborations would help India’s transition to a greener economy, and a strategic partnership would also diversify supply chains for the UK. Therefore, the two countries must develop synergies and build on their complementarities to realise the shared vision of a more sustainable economy.

With regard to London being a hub for financial innovation and India’s potential < style="text-decoration: line-through">of for harnessing this innovative spirit, Jayant Sinha emphasised the need for collaboration to achieve the scale of investment required to push for a significant change. Special attention should be placed on the investment environment India creates, perhaps by declaring an ambitious decarbonisation goal, so as to drive investment and policy predictability and to accelerate action.

Lord Gadhia spoke of tangible examples of financing the green transformation, like Green Growth Equity Fund and CDC (Development Finance Institution), that have contributed greatly to India’s journey in working towards a green future.

Shloka Nath discussed the imperative for a new social contract between the state, the citizen, and the enterprise that would prioritise job growth, sustainability, and equitability. The larger picture, which looks beyond just mitigation and seeks adaptation, needs community-driven, nature-based solutions that can drive measurable impact.

There has to be a greater focus on sustainable, equitable, and just recovery, opines Terry Chapman. She goes on to say that, climate and sustainable development goals on a global scale cannot be achieved if the burden is simply shifted to other countries, particularly those with fewer resources to address them. She gives the example of Norway, a country which invests heavily in renewables and is touted for its success in sustainable practices but is also a huge exporter of oil, thereby, transferring the negative consequences of its sustainable development to countries elsewhere.

Green transformation cannot be achieved unilaterally and for it to succeed, we need to advocate for greater global support and cooperation. A lot has already been achieved, which is a cause for celebration, and future frontiers need to be strengthened, both multilaterally and bilaterally.

This event report has been written by Noyontara Gupta, research intern at ORF

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