Tuesday, December 25, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Launch of Sustainably SMART Pune 2030 report

Dear All, 

Collage of some of the pics from the event

Firstly I thank all the people who made it to our event, held on the 20th December, 2018 at the Kalmadi High School, Shakuntala Jagannath Shetty Auditorium on behalf of Samuchit Enviro Tech, INECC and LAYA. We really missed the presence of Ajita Tiwari, Nafisa Goga D'Souza and Dominic D'Souza from INECC and LAYA during the event. I am sure there were many others who wanted to grace our event but couldn't make it, however for all of you I would like to narrate the event😃

Pune International Centre (PIC) with their initiative on Climate Collective Pune (CCP) were our collaborators and helped us in organizing the entire event. We are grateful to Prof. Amitav Mallik and Aditi Kale for being available to us throughout the event planning and implementation phase.  

Prof. Amitav Mallik, trustee of PIC and core member of CCP opened the session. CCP is a network of experts from varied backgrounds like Urban planning, Groundwater, Renewable Energy, Green Building, Environment Education and experts working with the Area Sabhas and Mohalla committes etc. The goal of this network is to make Pune a Carbon Neutral city by 2030. It is noteworthy that this vision is very much in line with our vision of making Pune a Sustainably SMART city by 2030 and he expressed his belief in achieving the goal collectively for the common good.

Word Cloud showing citizens vision of Pune city. 
All our events are people oriented, hence engaging people has always been our main activity. Myron Mendes our communications expert helped us involve our audience in the event through an activity. We used mentimeter, an online interactive software that helps to execute live opinion polls. Through this app, we asked people to type a word describing their vision for Pune city. The audience had to open the menti.com website on their smartphones, and enter the code flashing on the screen to allow them to participate in the poll. We gave the audience a time of 5 minutes to enter as many responses as they could, and while people were voting, a word cloud based on their responses was being generated on the screen. In just five minutes we could receive more than 500 responses, and the word cloud clearly reflected the vision of Pune by the Puneites. Word cloud is an interesting form of graphic, the more people enter a word, it gets bigger. Our word cloud reflected that we as Puneites want our city to be Sustainable, Clean and Green! 

On the Dais from left to right Dr Priyadarshini K, Myron M, Gurudas N,
Amitav M  and Pournima A
After this activity, we released our report on Sustainably SMART Pune 2030 by the hands of Dr Gurudas Nulkar our guest speaker and others on the dias. 

Radar chart showing current status & our vision for 2030
Dr Priyadarshini Karve, the Project incharge of this study and a straightforward speaker presented summary of the report. She explained how the 3 year study kickstarted when she saw problems with the SMART city mission (SCM). SCM has a flawed financial and management structure with technology as its end goal. Its design makes it incompetent to meet the Global goals i.e. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) esp. SDG 11 which deals with making cities and communities sustainable. Through the SMART city mission, the city is being reshaped for the future without taking into consideration the basic issues that we are facing locally and globally. Hence the study proposes an approach that is Sustainably SMART where minimizing the socio-economic inequity, local environmental impacts and climate change impacts. These three boundaries encompass problems faced by urban spaces locally and globally. Here, technology does play a role but only as a tool. Our approach is very well in line with the Global goals as well esp. SDG 11. The role of citizens is crucial in making a city Sustainably SMART and is thus the objective of the study as well. 

Chart from Dr Gurudas presentation
Dr Gurudas Nulkar an expert in Environmental Sustainability and a great speaker, then addressed the audience as to why and how can citizens act in order to make the city sustainable. He gave a brief background on ecological footprint and an approach for making cities livable. The most interesting part of his talk was about the transition from awareness to behavioral change. This transition is very crucial but often very difficult to attain. There are many barriers that are stronger than the benefits. Each one of us is enough aware of the problems, however in order to defeat them firstly, we need to identify these barriers, we should then talk about them, discuss them and find solutions to reduce the barriers in the path of behavioural change and increase or create barriers in the path of 'business as usual'. This two pronged strategy will help make that behavioural shift decisively, and we can create a sustainable society. 

Taking note of this speech, Myron Mendes had another activity for our audience, where they had to give individual pledges on what they will do to make Pune sustainably SMART on 'handprints' - hand shaped papers - and take a selfie at our selfie corner. He concluded the event by a vote of thanks to all. 

Collage of selfies at the event

Selfie collage by the Green Soldiers-a waste management group

We are going to organize another event for citizens' involvement in sustainably SMART Pune 2030 around the end of January 2019. Stay tuned if you want to be part of it!

Note: Our report is accessible to all, email me at pournima@samuchit.com for the softcopy of the report. The report is available in English as well as Marathi!

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

My City My Responsibility - For Citizens of Pune

Dear All, 

By now I am sure all of you are aware about our event to be held on this Thursday (20th December) at Dr Kalmadi High School, Karvenagar, Shakuntala Jagannath Shetty Auditorium. We will be publishing our three year study report on making Pune a Sustainably SMART city by 2030.

 Sustainably SMART is an alternative to the SMART City concept, and focuses on transforming a city into an inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable settlement. You will find out more about this in the event!

There will be a talk by Dr Gurudas Nulkar and presentation of our study by Dr Priyadarshini Karve. This project has been completed through a collaboration between Samuchit Enviro TechLAYA and the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC). 

There will be some novel interactive activities for all during the function and YES tea and snacks as well. So JOIN US to explore what is your vision of Pune, and whether it is sustainably SMART!

Logistical Note: Auditorium can be accessed from gate no.1 and is on the sixth floor. There are only two lifts, so kindly cooperate in order to start the event well in time.

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Experience at the Sabarmati Riverfront

Dear All, 
Expanse of the Sabarmati River from the upper level promenade

Me and Aditi at the riverfront
In my earlier blogs I mentioned about the Local Conference of Youth on Climate Action that I attended in Ahmedabad and how I was looking forward to see the Sabarmati Riverfront
Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is planning a riverfront for Pune's Mula-Mutha river on the same lines as Sabaramati riverfront and so I was curious to see the same.  

Aditi Kale who was my companion from Pune to this Conference was also excited to see the Sabaramati river and so accompanied me. We had a long day at the conference and a get together with our fellow participants. Still we decided to wake up early the next day (our last day at the conference) and experience the morning view of the river. I had witnessed the night view of the riverfront with all the lighting effects and it looked beautiful! This made me more curious to see what all features are developed and how does the river look like at day time.  

Upper level Promenade
So finally, we reached there, the riverfront has two levels or promenade as they say on the Sabarmati riverfront development master plan. The upper level has manicured lawns, tree plantations, amphi theatre kind of arrangement for people to sit or undertake events, jogging tracks etc basically an open space along the riverside. The lower level of the riverfront had a continuous walkway parallel to the river basically to provide access to the river, there are ghats also at some places. 90 percent of this area was covered by concrete lined by a series of trees on one side. The other side i.e the waters edge has a continuous concrete seating with railing, where one could sit and feel the river. We sat there and could see how dirty the river was. There were different types of wastes floating, methane bubbles erupting as a result of loads of organic waste or sewage let into the river and also oil spill. Yes! oil from the boats that are used for recreational purposes as well as for water based mode of transport, had added another pollutant in the river. 
Lower level Promenade 
The expanse of the river is wide and looks great from above, but when we go near to the river, we can see, it is really in a bad state. But the worst part is people are happily walking and jogging on the promenade, meditating, studying and we could see kids playing and cycling without realizing the health impacts of this river on their daily lives. However, when I asked the security guard about his opinion on the riverfront, he made an obvious statement that 'Log toh bahut aate hain par nadi kitni gandi hai'. It is such a basic thing that the river should be CLEAN

River is the only source of water and people of Ahmedabad who face tremendous water issues, should rise and strive for ensuring that the state of their river is healthy. But the aesthetically good looking promenades have created a blindfold on their minds it seems. Nobody bothers to see river water quality and how to ensure it is improved, how pollutants inflow in the river should be restricted and most importantly how river can be kept flowing. Moreover, it seems that these aspects have been completely ignored or not given any preference in the name of aesthetics by the developers! 

When we met our fellow participants and discussed it with them, they completely agreed with us. Not only that I would like to mention about Heli Shah one of the youngest participant in the conference was shocked to know that the aesthetically good looking river is ecologically almost dead. Considering the water problems that the city faces, this state of river is just not accepted. Heli was literally in tears after knowing the sad state of Sabarmati. We need to have compassion for our rivers and all other natural resources and strive to ensure that these are conserved in a sustainable manner.  Again, I would stress that we are not against development, but it is also crucial to understand that our rivers are our natural heritage. They should be conserved and restored instead of developed. 

Concern about Pune's riverfront development led us at Samuchit to undertake a study on designing an alternate riverfront strategy in collaboration with Jeevitnadi and Ecological Society. Vishaka Tawani an architecture student is working on making the plan for this strategy by taking a representative stretch, I have written about this study in my previous blogs as well. Now that our riverfront strategy is finalized I would like to share our alternative suggestions in my upcoming blogs!
Teen Darwaza our meeting point 

is a beautiful city, with good food and fun loving people. We had a variety of tasty foodstuffs at the famous Manik Chowk Food Market situated in the core part of the city. Gujarat is famous for its tasty Vegetarian food and soft drinks especially the variety of Soda that you get in the city is simply crazy!

Pournima Agarkar.

Colin McQuistan Posts from COP24: Climate Friendly Technologies - Improving adaptive capacity of women and building resilience

COP24 in Poland is the latest episode of the global negotiations aimed at tackling climate change. In the city of Katowice the world’s key climate scientists and negotiators are gathered to agree the rulebook for the Paris Agreement. 

Yes, although the Paris Agreement was signed into force in the COP in 2015 the rules for the implementation of the agreement remain to be agreed and Katowice is the last chance for the global community to agree these details prior to the agreement entering into force in 2020. So the Katowice COP is a key moment in our collective journey to reverse the growing threat of climate change.

But the negotiations have been plagued by numerous challenges. Not only around the different perspectives and priorities of the negotiators and the countries they are here to represent, but also the complexity of the negotiations. The climate agreement is not only attempting to develop a common set of rules for a global agreement, but a global agreement that covers, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage, requiring knowledge of forestry, energy, transport, health, disaster risk reduction, etc. The one thing that the negotiators are clear on is the urgency of the issue, with the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5oC making it clear that we have less than 12 years to implement the actions necessary to limit global warming to less the 1.5oC and the recognition that for every degree of warming above this the consequences will escalate considerably. 

But who will be most affected? At the outset it certainly won’t be the people of the developed world. The people who will be most and first affected, the people on the frontline of climate change are the poorest and marginalised, those with the least capacity to respond to the challenge, but also those least responsible for the problem in the first place.

However one of the biggest challenges facing the negotiators is what does climate action look like and how to capture this in the rules so that they are practical?  Against this backdrop the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC), organised a side event to bring community centric practitioners together to share their experience of direct climate action, in the hope that these practical examples could inspire the negotiators to understand the context in which the rules need to fit.

The INECC event was entitled “Climate Friendly Technologies: Improving adaptive capacity of women and building resilience”. The event brought specialists from two social enterprises - LAYA Green ventures Ltd, and Samuchit Enviro Tech - and the international NGO Practical Action to present their ideas on locally relevant climate friendly technologies, highlighting technologies that have been proven to be beneficial for the needs of vulnerable communities and emphasising examples of the gender dimension and their benefit for women. Dr. Saleemul Haq, International Center for Climate Change and Development commented on the presentations. 

Panelists at INECC Side Event: (L to R) Ajita Tiwari Padhi, Priyadarshini Karve, Saleemul Haq, Siddharth D'Souza, Colin McQuistan

Ajita Tiwari Padhi from INECC introduced the session, highlighting why it is important to ensure that technology considers gender dimensions and the challenges this presents. Priyadarshini Karve from Samuchit Enviro Tech began the session giving examples of why it is important to involve end users especially women in the design of technologies. Priya highlighted the case for fuel efficient stoves. Fuel efficiency is not only important to reduce emissions from burning fuel wood for cooking, but also slow down degradation of forest resources. But the problem is that fuel efficient stoves are designed by engineers and scientists not by women who need to use them for cooking. Thus the design criteria are energy efficiency with little or no consideration of whether the stove cooks the food conveniently.  For example some communities may have diets with a lot of frying requiring high heat for short periods of time, whereas other diets may prioritise boiling requiring moderate heat but for much longer periods of time. By involving women in the design and especially the testing of the stoves such issues can be addresses and the stoves would actually get used in the field. 
Unfortunately, Dr. Priya is one of very few women researchers working on fuel efficiency in India. The majority of the stove designers are men. All are working to design fuel efficient stoves for the many millions of poor women using fuel wood and other biomass sources for home cooking, but sadly all to often the resulting designs may be great from a GHG mitigation perspective but fail to meet the individual requirements of the women who make up the majority of food providers in homes in India.
 Gender sensitive technology development approach being piloted by Samuchit Enviro Tech

The next presenter was Siddharth Dsouza of Laya Green Ventures, who presented a wealth of ideas of how simple technology not only meets the needs of poor people, but also how this technology can provide multiple benefits such as reducing drudgery for women in the home, the all too often unrecognised ‘care’ economy. Many simple technologies if designed and rolled out with women’s empowered participation provides additional co-benefits.  
Siddharth highlighted how the shift from kerosene lamps to alternative forms of lighting, including solar and mini hydro could deliver numerous benefits. Kerosene lamps are unhealthy creating an indoor fog of smoke which can cause health problems. So by switching from Kerosene to electric lights can reduce these health problems. An additional benefit is that electric lighting is more stable and brighter and allows people to read and especially children to study after the sun sets. So the switch delivers additional benefits in respect to reducing eye strain and increasing educational attainment.  
Existing and replacement technologies being piloted by Laya Green Ventures

The final speaker Colin McQuistan from the International NGO Practical Action talked about the drivers for the development and innovation of technology and the roles that the various international frameworks play. For example there is a technology work stream under the climate change convention, but equally there are technology dimensions to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-30) under the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) as well as technology consideration in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is important to ensure that these international frameworks are coherent, coordinated, but most importantly do this in a way that delivers technology that meets to real needs on the ground.
In an attempt to do this Colin has been developing a framework to assess the knowledge, policy, finance and user input in the design and selection of technology that is already mobilised and the technology that needs to be mobilised to reduce risk.  In many poor communities the lack of available technology exacerbates their risk.  For example a poor community could shift their risk profile through access to technology that reduces this risk, for example an early warning system that provide early warning of a potential catastrophic flood event.

Reporting Framework for Technology to contribute to climate justice

So where is technology in the climate negotiations? Are the negotiators listening to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable in the design and roll out of technologies to respond to climate change? Technology is one of the three key means of implementation along with finance and capacity building. However, the negotiations tend to focus on the finance issue, as without adequate finance the technology and capacity will be limited.  This is why it is vital to ensure that the commitment “support, including financial support, shall be provided to developing country Parties for the implementation of the Article 10 of the Paris Agreement" are honoured and retained in the Paris Rulebook here in Katowice.
How can developed country parties expect developing countries to both rapidly cut GHG emissions and adapt to the serious impacts of global warming, if they actively deny developing countries the fair opportunities and support to utilise the most appropriate and transformative technologies to leapfrog from carbon intensive to inclusive and sustainable green growth?  This is why we are at the Katowice COP, to try and ensure a fair and equitable outcome for the Paris Rulebook, making sure that commitments are implemented to deliver technology to the poorest and most vulnerable, those least responsible for global warming in the first place.
For further information please contact:

Ajita Tiwari Padhi Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)

Priyadarshini Karve Samuchit Enviro Tech

Siddharth D'Souza Laya Green Ventures

Colin McQuistan Practical Action

Blog Post by: Colin McQuistan, Practical Action

Saturday, December 8, 2018

INECC Talks by Ajita Tiwari: No Rulebook without Equity

The 24th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP 24) is the most important CoP after CoP 22 at Paris. This is taking place from December 2-14, 2018, at Katowice, Poland. Katowice has a daunting mandate - to finalise the Rule Book for implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The irony of a coal city hosting the Climate Talks

The host city for CoP 24 is Katowice, a small city with a population of over 3,00,000. This city falls in the central region of Silesia which is the industrial belt due to rich natural and mineral deposits. Katowice too sits on a lucrative coal deposit and gets 80 percent of its energy from coal. The influence of the coal lobby seems quite significant from the fact that three polish coal companies have sponsored this CoP. So while on one hand, we continue to ask ourselves why ‘green talks’ in a ‘dirty’ city, the choice of the venue is even more intriguing as busloads of delegates like us travel over an hour and more each day, either way to reach the spaceship shaped conference venue!

In this context, it is important to highlight what the Polish president Andrzej Duda had to say at the press conference on the opening day of the conference. He said “we have coal deposits that will last 200 years,”. “It would be hard to expect us to give up on it totally.” This perspective begs the question as how this aligns with the by-line of this CoP which is“Changing Together- for a Just Energy Transition’. The President’s statement sends quite a confusing message to the outside world, who would get the idea that it is okay to burn coal and build more coal fired plants while also take climate actions. Statements like these, clearly refute the urgency and warning highlighted in the latest IPCC special report on 1.5 deg which calls for unprecedented transitions and demands carbon dioxide emissions to decrease by 45 % from 2010 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero by 2050.

Postcard from an Exhibit Booth no 112 at CoP 24 , week 1

Rulebook must include equity

While we try hard to make sense of Poland’s narrative, an interview with a Swedish radio this morning, forced me to look at India’s narrative at the CoP, especially from the lens of equity.

Considering that we were representing the civil society organisations (CSOs) the Swedish Radio interviewer, Ms. Magnolia Schiktter was interested in understanding the position of Indian CSOs and their expectation at the CoP on equity for a story that they were compiling. I took this opportunity to articulate what Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) desires from this CoP and what it wants the Indian Civil society and its government to do.

The rule book being developed at Katowice, to operationalize Paris Agreement (PA) has to reflect equity. The achievements if we may say so, of Paris process needs to be protected and for that to happen ‘equity” and Common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) must not be eroded. We completely reject the notion of CRRC (common responsibility according to respective capabilities) which has been advanced by the developed countries as an alternative to CBDR. The attempt by developed nations to not have differentiation and promote “responsibility sharing” without differentiating the responsibility between developed and developing nations has to be constantly opposed. The ‘common responsibility’ idea that has stemmed from the fact that some major developing countries (includes India and China in particular) are responsible for current emissions. India and other developing countries are rightly arguing for the ‘fair share approach’ which the developed countries have wanted to do away with. The attempt of the developed countries to have the PA as a completely new treaty, delinked from the 1992 convention was largely to do away with its accountability for historical emissions. While in the run up to PA, the notion of ‘equitable access to atmospheric space’ was gradually subsumed into ‘equitable access to sustainable development’ which in turn was gradually lost in the bottom up process of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We know that the process has been an inequitable one. We are aware of the gap that exists between the current NDCs targets and what is needed to limit temperature rise to 2 deg. By putting the equity rationale under the rug, and bringing in the ‘shared responsibility’ logic, would mean that the developing countries like India will need to push themselves that extra extra mile to fill in the gap created by developed countries. India and the bunch of ‘Like Minded Developing Countries’ (LMDCs) must ensure that this must not happen. This is contrary to the convention and the PA.

Associated with the position of equity, is the pre 2020 commitments which might get spilled over and shifted to developing countries in their post 2020 trajectories. It is important to mention that it has become quite common to quote the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ‘Emissions Gap Report’ especially by the developed countries in all such meetings. This report lays down what is being done on emission reduction and what more needs to be done to close the gap. This mostly highlights that all countries need to do more on emission reduction, without looking at who is not doing their fair share consistent with their historical responsibility. This is certainly not in line with the equity narrative and the burden of closing the gap should not be ours.

Civil society like us must come together and must expose the developed countries that they are doing far too little in terms of what is demanded by science and the latest 1.5 deg report. CSO must emphasize the fact that the actions of the developed countries are not consistent with equity and fair share. However, having said this, it is important to highlight that the observer status given to CSOs at the UNFCCC has become no less than a joke, with literally no mandate. The observers with yellow ID cards are kept out of bounds from all the key meetings and hardly have any say. But before we feel completely disillusioned by the observer status, we should find comfort in what was said by Dr. Saleem Ul Huq during our side event on the first day of the CoP. He said that it’s not our job to read the text, it’s that of the negotiators. We (civil society) should aim to meet as many people, groups and networks to learn and share from each other, explore collaborations and partnerships.

The final point on equity is Climate finance which has so far been the trickiest of all issues. Against the backdrop of a series of disasters that has battered India, with only over a degree of temperature rise; the latest being the one in the southern part of the country in Kerela, there is no doubt that India is vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change. Provision for climate finance is one key Means of Implementation (MoI) to operationalizing equity, which also finds a mention in Article 9 of the PA. Countries like India with a large poor population will be unable to do much with only domestic resources unless supported through financial mechanisms that respond to adaptation and mitigation together with loss and damage issues of its most vulnerable communities. In this context we hope that discussions on raising the floor for climate finance and predictable financial inflows will go a long way in operationalizing equity and making effective climate responses.

While the Katowice CoP is all about the rulebook, it is important that equity is integrated in the negotiations of the guidelines and procedures to be ready for the implementation of the PA.

What does India want?

However, I realized that discussion on equity becomes challenging in the backdrop of the glitzy Indian Pavilion that delegates are often heard raving about. India conveys a very glossy impression of itself at this global platform through its Pavilion (see Priyadarshini's blog). The pavilion is themed “One World One Sun One Grid”. India seems to have taken the theme a wee bit too seriously as sitting in the cramped space is literally like being under the sun while outside temperatures mostly are subzero!

Inside view of the Indian Pavilion: Session on Climate Resilient Agriculture, December 7, 2018
Ajita Tiwari Padhi
National Facilitator,
Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)
Email: inecc1996@gmail.com
c/o INECC Secretariat
Laya Resource Center
Plot No. 110, Yendada,
Near Senora Beach Resorts,

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Musings from Priyadarshini Karve: INECC@COP24... Day 2 & 3

United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) annual Conference of Parties (COP) is happening in Katowice, Poland this year. I am part of the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) team attending the COP24 on behalf of two UNFCCC observer organisations - Laya and SCINDIeA, that are members of INECC.

5 December 2018

With our side event out of the way, we have now relaxed a bit and are focussing on managing the exhibition stall and attending side events and other activities of our individual interests.

Yesterday and today I attended two interesting side events. One was on Climate Responsive Agriculture, and the other was on Decarbonising Cities and Communities. Both these topics are very much related to projects and activities that I am currently involved in, and I learned some new insights from both the side events.

The focus of the agriculture event was on trying to understand how to bridge the gap between agricultural policy and the scientific assessments of how climate change is likely to impact food productivity in the short and long term as well as scientific solutions to risk proof the farming sector. One of the challenges that emerged from the discussions was that the outcomes of the scientific analyses were not definitive enough for policy makers to confidently plan interventions in agricultural sector on the basis of outcomes of scientific research. It was also heartening to see that the Nationally Determined Contributions of some countries are focusing on reducing the carbon emissions from agriculture and at the same time building climate resilience in the farming systems.

The session on decarbonising cities talked about a direction of urban development that I have been advocating for a long time - rather than striving for village electrification through renewables, it is the cities that need to go 100% renewable and local for meeting their electricity needs. It was good to hear that technologies are now available and various countries are creating policies favourable for combining energy efficiency and distributed renewable-based local energy generation for various types of urban buildings. As a result, cities are pledging and planning to go 100% distributed renewables or 100% carbon neutral by 2050. This very much resonates with the efforts of Climate Collective Pune of which Samuchit Enviro Tech is a member. This forum initiated by Pune International Centre (PIC) and Centre for Environment Education (CEE) is aimed at making Pune Carbon Neutral by 2030.

India has some unique challenges on both these fronts. While world population will stabilise to about 9-10 billion individuals by the middle of the century, India's population will continue to rise till the end of the century. During this period, it is expected that the agricultural yields across Asia will drop by 10% or more. Feeding an increasing population in a climate changing world is going to be a major challenge for us. At the same time, India is rapidly urbanising, and new urban infrastructure is coming up at a tremendous pace. A number of future megacities will be in India. Fulfilling the ever increasing urban electricity demand is going to be another huge challenge. But I don't see much long term thinking around climate change vulnerability reflected in agricultural or urbanisation policies in India. The two side events, one by Cornell University and the other by Delta Electronics Foundation and Renewable Energy Institute, provided a number of examples of how governments and organisations are addressing the issues in different parts of the world. It is only a global platform like this that provides opportunities to get such information from across the world.

Anyway, at the end of the previous blog, I had said that I would write about the India Pavilion. The exhibition area and the side events area are at two ends of the conference venue. In the ten odd minutes trek from one to the other takes me past the India pavilion at least twice daily. We also happened to be there when we were just wandering around the venue on Sunday when people were still putting things together.

The boundary wall of the India Pavilion is a actually a wall of fast spinning fans that are generating holographic images. Unfortunately, as there is a risk of people getting cut by the fans, they had to also erect a protective barrier outside it. If the barrier had been plain and transparent, it would have been a fantastic effect, but for some unknown reasons the barrier has been created in the form of a cage with Indian design motifs.

Inside the pavilion there are tables with touch screens which give information and statistics on various environmental and developmental schemes currently operational. On one side there is a virtual reality corner, where you can ride a bicycle and the images on the screen make you feel as if you are riding through roads of New Delhi. As you ride through the streets of New Delhi, you also get flashes of information on various schemes of the present government. The screen also shows how much electricity would be generated by the cyclist if the cycle was connected to a dynamo. No actual electricity is being generated as the technician told my friend Myron on Sunday after he had cycled for a few minutes and rejoiced at the number appearing on the screen!

The centrepiece of the pavilion is an arrangement of two robotic arms and a video screen, all controlled by a touch pad by the viewer. The panel allows you to check out India's achievements in four sectors -renewable energy, the lighting success story, forestation and transport.

These are represented by tableaus on four surfaces of two discs, each operated by robotic arm. So when you press a button on the touch screen, the corresponding robotic arm moves and rotates to show you the corresponding tableau, and on the screen behind a film shows you present and future achievement in that sector - for example, how the LEDs have transformed the lighting sector and how the bullet train and electric vehicles will transform the transport sector, etc.

All in all, it is a rather high tech pavilion and people are getting quite impressed by it from the feedback that we are getting from visitors to our booth. However, judging from the technicians that were tinkering around things when we first visited on Sunday, none of the high tech set ups used for the pavilion seem to be 'made in India'! That to me was a bit disappointing.

Inside the pavilion there is a small meeting room, where some governmental and India-specific side events happen on a daily basis. I am not prioritising these because I can know about what is happening in India any time! This is an opportunity to see first hand what is happening in the rest of the world, and therefore I am more focused on the international side events and other activities.

There are some more interesting side events coming up in the next few days, and I also still have to go around the exhibition area and see what other organisations from different parts of the world are showcasing. So stay tuned!

Credits: The hashtag COP24 photo is by Myron Mendis of Laya, other photos and videos are by me.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018


United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) annual Conference of Parties (COP) is happening in Katowice, Poland this year. I am part of the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) team attending the COP24 on behalf of two UNFCCC observer organisations - Laya and SCINDIeA, that are members of INECC. 

4 Dec 2018

While the UNFCCC COP is mostly a meeting of official representatives of the governments of the world trying to tackle the global problem of climate change, there is also a large presence of non-government stakeholders at these meetings. These include both civil society organisations and businesses. Special exhibition space is made available separately for non-profits and for-profits, and there are also a large number of official as well as unofficial side events happening throughout the couple of weeks of the COP. There is also a specially designated area where individual countries showcase their climate change related achievements in their own pavilions, and some side events happen in individual country pavilions too. So apart from the governments doing their own business of climate change negotiations, COP is also a big networking and information exchange opportunity for non-government stakeholders active in the sectors of climate change mitigation (reducing green house gas emissions) and adaptation (finding ways to deal with impacts of climate change that are now avoidable).

The INECC team had a very busy schedule on the first official day of the COP, 3 December. We had to set up our exhibition booth in the morning and we also had our official side event on the topic of Climate Friendly Technologies: Improving Adaptive Capacity of Women and Building Resilience.

Our Exhibition Booth

Ours was one of the first lot of side events on the first day of the COP. First week of the COP is relatively quiet, although intense negotiations are on among government officials and real work on finalising the documents is going on behind the scene. The politicians start arriving in the second week, and that generates a lot of buzz.

So we were not sure what to expect. There were three speakers lined up - myself from Samuchit, Siddharth D'Souza from Laya and Colin McQuistan from Practical Action UK. We were supposed to have a self-invited speaker, an ex Member of Parliament from Uganda, but after the initial email expressing her intention to participate, her office had been noncommunicative. However we were fortunate to have Dr. Saleemul Haq, International Center for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh, as a commentator. The event was ably co-ordinated by Ajita Tiwari, national facilitator of INECC.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the event room fill up with audience a few minutes before the starting time. We had 90+ people in the audience when we started, and although people keep coming and going as they are trying to catch a number of parallelly ongoing events, we still had more than 50% of the original audience when we finally wrapped up 90 minutes later.

The Crowd at our side event

The main issues that Siddharth and I focused on were climate friendly technological interventions for cooking energy, lighting and access to clean water. I emphasised on the need to bring in the dimension of user friendliness in R&D as well as dissemination of clean cooking energy technologies, and talked about how listening to the concerns of women cooks and the men decision makers in the families have helped us achieve successful replacement of traditional wood burning smoky cook stoves by low smoke and efficient improved cook stoves in our recent projects.  Siddharth described Laya's work on adopting low carbon technologies that require no fossil energy inputs for lighting, water pumping and water filtration for tribal communities in Eastern Ghats. He also talked about his experience of using carbon finance for providing improved cook stoves to these communities.

Speaking at the side event

Colin talked about a people centric approach to disaster warning and management framework as a crucial component of disaster preparedness. Such a system becomes all the more crucial in view of the increased risk of natural disasters due to climate change. He highlighted a need for the various international negotiations on disaster preparedness to be aligned with each other, and the approach to be more rooted in ground realities being faced by people.

Dr. Huq talked about the success story of Bangladesh in reducing population growth rate through education and empowerment of women. He also described how  women-centric solar energy and improved cook stoves initiatives in Bangladesh that are not only improving women's quality of life, but also creating income generating opportunities for them which raises their status in the family.  
We all highlighted the disconnect between policy and finance on one hand and the ground reality on the other hand, and the lack of gender considerations in technology focused discussions in the climate change negotiations.

The audience was quite responsive and overall we got positive feedback on the event. So that is one main task that we had as a team at COP24, and I think we did well!

From L to R: Siddharth, Colin, Myself, Dr Huq, Ajita

Over the last couple of days I have already passed by the India pavilion several times. More about that tomorrow! Also, in subsequent blogs I will try to explain what exactly is the focus of COP24 and what is expected out of this meeting.

Photos Courtesy: Myron Mendis, Laya

My City My Responsibility - Youth for Climate Action Part II

Dear All, 

Session by Kartikeya Sarabhai 
Direction of Development explained by Kartikeya Sarabhai

In continuation with my earlier blog, the next two days at the LCOY 14 were fun-filled and packed with information and activities. We had an enthralling session by Kartikeya Sarabhai acknowledging the facts on sustainability and realities of climate change. I would like to share one picture that got imprinted on my mind which is truly the impression of how we as Indians should develop, and should learn to make the right/appropriate choices. The developing and under developed nations should leapfrog and strategize for sustainable and low carbon development instead of mimicking the developed nations which are going towards sustainability after creating a menace on this Earth.  

Later we had a eye opening session by Zuhair from Bangladesh a young entrepreneur where he spoke about how Bangladesh is one of the countries facing climate change impacts with the rising sea levels engulfing their lands. He made a very straightforward statement that Migration is the only way for us to adapt to Climate Change. In order to migrate with better prospects, enhancing local skill development for livelihood options has been the most important strategy for the people in Bangladesh. 

Sanskriti presenting on Innovation
We had a great session by Sanskriti on Innovation putting impetus on holistic approach and relevance as a must! A session on Young reporters for the Environment (YRE) an international network of youth undertaken by AbhishekSriram and Sivaneswaran who are part
of this network was really interesting. It was good to know that these young minds are doing some amazing scientific studies on environmental issues in their regions and publishing it on such platforms. Its a pleasure to meet such ignited young minds doing such great work in their capacity. 

Groups presenting the critical analysis
Then we had this opportunity where we could present our work in the Handprint Haat kind of arrangement. Its like an exhibition where whoever is interested in your topic or area of work will come to you and you can present your work to them. I was able to explain our project work on making Pune a Sustainably SMART city by 2030 and a case study on Climate Vulnerability. Aditi Kale from Pune International Centre, who was my companion in this conference also presented the Climate Collective Pune initiative which aims at making Pune Carbon Neutral by 2030. We had a great time in this session interacting and listening to other initiatives as well. The session ended with songs sung by a participant Rumit, a Sufi singer. This was a good end to the day. 

The next day was our last day of the conference and we had a very informative session with the representative of YOUNGO - Yugratna Srivastava. We could critically analyze the articles of the Paris Agreement as a mock activity and felt that we can do better at the UN negotiations at COP! Too ambitious but yes the youth of today have a critical perspective and should be considered!

Overall, it was an enriching experience with new learnings, new collaborations and new friends. Looking forward to continue these relationships and build on Sustainable Partnerships.  

Stay tuned for more on the food in Ahmedabad and the Sabarmati riverfront that we experienced beside the conference!

Pournima Agarkar.