Kirti Manian (01:10): Hi Pankaj. Thank you so very much for coming on our show. I'm gonna get started by asking you this what was your starting point on your climate change journey?
Pankaj Bhatia (01:19): Yep, I started my work in the climate change area, when I was working at TERI. And one of the first projects that I got involved in was focused on energy efficiency in India's appliance sector, and technology transfer, and this was in I think, early to late 1990s. And this particular piece of work included undertaking research and simulation modeling, using some of the models that were provided by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and the application of that model was done to analyse the scope for energy efficiency improvements in the Indian refrigerators technology, and based on that research, it was actually one of my first paper, peer reviewed paper that I published in the Ashrae journal, a very good journal, that present state of research on heating refrigeration and cooling industry, and that particular paper was very well received, and it was also quite helpful in the conversations that we had with Bureau of Indian Standards to revise the energy efficiency, energy consumption standard for India's refrigerator. So that was my starting point, or my climate change journey.
Kirti Manian (02:46): We'd love to learn more about your role in developing the GHG Protocol, Scope 3 and Product Standard. Can you take us through the process, especially given that there were so many stakeholders involved?
Pankaj Bhatia (03:00): Yes, so the GreenHouse Gas protocol initiative itself was established in 1998. This is an initiative co convened by WRI and WBCSD and the very first standard that we published was in 2001. I joined WRI in 2001, and I joined the GreenHouse Gas protocol team itself. I worked on the very first standard that was published in 2001. Not many people, perhaps seen that copy that was published and then very quickly, we started the process to revise it, because it also resulted in some very important feedback that led to another process to revise the very first standard, and then we published a revised standard of GHG Protocol corporate accounting and reporting in 2004.
That was the standard where we introduced the concepts of Scope 1, 2 and 3, and then over a period of time, as the GHG Protocol corporate standard was used, so there was an increasing demand for more guidance, and more specifications, for companies on how to undertake for Scope 3 accounting and product lifecycle accounting.
In GHG Protocol, we have a very methodical approach in first of all, establishing the need for a new global standard and thereafter, in planning and conducting the process to develop these standards. We have a Secretariat here consisting of GHG protocol team members from both WRI and WBCSD. Usually the work to develop a new standard starts with a global survey to understand what are the specific accounting issues that business or other stakeholders are grappling with, that do not have a commonly accepted approaches to account for GHG information in a credible way. So, this is how we started the work on Scope 3 and product lifecycle standard. We did a global survey, and we received very good feedback, and a very overwhelming response establishing the need for developing these two new global standards. Then we established a process, which involves convening a few key stakeholder groups who work together to develop these standards. These groups generally include a technical working group, or a number of technical working groups, an advisory committee or steering committee, a review group, and a pilot testing group. So hundreds of stakeholders worldwide are involved in these processes. I was leading the overall convening and the team that was working on these standards from WRI, but it's an integrated team across the WRI and WBCSD. And my role was to help support the team and lead the team in developing these standards over a period of I think, three to four years.
Kirti Manian (05:56): Wow, it sounds like a monumental task you have undertook really speaking, I mean to get feedback, process that and then come together with something that actually is standardized in that sense, right? I think it sounds like a monumental task really.
Pankaj Bhatia (06:11): It is a monumental task in many ways. First of all, I think the process itself is a very comprehensive and multi layered process. And then for important accounting issues, we have to bring stakeholders to a common view to the extent possible, even a consensus, because it's a voluntary standard, and the success of this standard depends on stakeholders accepting it, and using it. And so we have to make sure that, particularly the business community, but also the civil society groups and NGOs would have a certain viewpoint and expectation from business, and business would also have a business viewpoint in place because they also are looking for practical solutions, and solutions that will help them in incentivizing a continued growth in the business as well as opportunities. So we have to ensure that the standard is going to be useful in terms of ensuring environmental integrity in terms of ensuring transparency, clarity, consistency and accuracy of the information, and at the same time, it will be useful in driving positive change in the business sector.
Kirti Manian (07:24): It sounds brilliant. I think the work that you have, obviously has had impact, and I really feel that if four years, wow, Pankaj, I'm a bit astounded by that, but it sounds really, really like all sorts of efforts have gone into deliver something that is a world class product really in that sense. I want to know a little bit of our Product Standard and this was released in 2011, and it was envisioned as enabling companies to measure emissions expended for individual products, and it covered materials, manufacturing, use and disposal. Now, some time ago, in June 2020, Unilever announced it would begin rolling our carbon labels on all 70,000 of its products. Do you think that the Product Standard was way ahead of its time or companies are actually lagging behind in the actions they need to take?
Pankaj Bhatia (08:14): It could be both in parts. In fact, generally, most of our standards, when we design them, are not just looking at the current business practice, but is also looking at what we might want to see as the best business practice in the future. And so in some sense, almost all our standards will have some such innovation, that will be futuristic, and that would have certain expectations about the new business approach that not many companies might be following at that particular time. So for example, when the first GHG protocol standard that I mentioned, was published in 2001, and the revised edition in 2004, we introduced the concepts of indirect emissions and the concepts of Scope 2 and Scope three, which was not known at all. I don't think any company was really practicing that in their GHG accounting or reporting. And so that was much way ahead of what the practice was at that time. And now as you can see, Scope 3 is becoming a common practice. So it took about 10 to 15 years since the first publication.
So I'm not surprised also with respect to product lifecycle standard, that it takes about 10 years for a major company like Unilever, to come up with such a comprehensive product labelling program. And so we were definitely way ahead and also the companies also I think need time to fully adopt it across all their product portfolio because for many companies it is a huge commitment and they are producing a number of different varieties of products. So, before they are able to introduce such a carbon labelling program, they have to make sure that they are able to collect accurate and complete information from their suppliers, for example, so it takes some time to implement it fully.
Kirti Manian (10:16): Thank you for that. Can you talk about emissions inventory, please? How do cities create actionable climate plans using national data? And can you cite a few examples of this please?
Pankaj Bhatia (10:29): Yes, so, emissions inventory can be done in various ways and at various levels by different actors. So in the context of countries, we have national inventories and their rules that are provided by IPCC, that countries follow, UNFCCC and IPCC methodologies at the national level, but there are not so much standardized approaches for accounting for city level information. So we have also published a Global Protocol for Cities. It's called GPC, it's a standard on accounting and reporting greenhouse gas information for cities. And that is being used by hundreds of cities all over the world. And in fact, this particular standard was published in close collaboration with Italy, and C40 initiatives as well as the UN Global Habitat Centre so a number of important players in this sector. And they have played a tremendous role in ensuring the uptake and adoption of the global protocol for cities.
Usually, the approach that is offered here follows the same GHG Protocol fundamental framework of Scope 1,2 & 3 direct and indirect emissions. And in many cases, cities would have data for quantifying their direct and indirect impacts particularly I think, in developed countries, their data quality and information is more accessible, but it is not such a case in many developing countries. And so we are also now in the final stages of developing an online database called Data Portal. It has been developed in collaboration with Global Covenant of Mayors Gcom, that will provide a database that cities can utilize if they don't have city level data, then it offers them a methodology so that they can customize based on national level data, they can customize and create inventories using sectoral data sets at the national level for electricity sector, fuel consumption, waste, fuel economy, numbers for transport, energy use intensities, etc.
Such sectoral level data at the national level can be customized to downscale it to make it useful for the cities and so, that will allow them to create a general baseline or footprint of their emissions and at least begin an initial climate plan to prioritize mitigation steps in important sectors. I think in terms of examples, we have examples both in developed and developing countries. I would like to highlight for example, Denmark, they are one of the prime examples. Their national government provides cities with most of the necessity data for inventory and was the basis for our Gcom Data Portal online tools. Then in India, there are number of cities like Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Sagar and Satna who are using the data that was collected through the data portal, so customizing the national level data through a city level inventory and climate action planning, and then also in Chile and Colombia also, there are some ongoing efforts to customize national level data into city level information.
Kirti Manian (14:03): I find it very interesting that for India, you cited what I would assume would be second tier cities, right? My immediate reaction will be for that metros are they not doing it or I know you've given us examples but when you cited second tier cities my immediate assumption is Oh, they are doing it but not metros, but I'm assuming the metros are also involved in this using your portal to figure out where they are in terms of emissions.
Pankaj Bhatia (14:25): I think the reason second tier cities actually are more relevant in this context is because they are the ones who do not usually have either resources or information. The first tier cities in many cases would already have the systems in place to get information. And they have more data available. So in many cases, the data portal database would be much more useful for second tier cities I think.
Kirti Manian (14:53): That clarifies it. So by 2020, almost all developed countries are expected to have peaked. Am I correct in assuming this? And if so, our global GHG emissions are still rising, right? So can you tell us more, you know, but what needs to be done especially by the biggest emitters?
Pankaj Bhatia (15:13): So it's quite surprising the global energy related emissions already plateaued in 2019 according to the most recent data from International Energy Agency, and they remain unchanged at 33 giga tons per year from the year before. And this happened despite the world economy expanding by 2.9% and was due primarily to declining electricity generation from advanced countries, the growth of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar and switch from coal to natural gas. Some experts are predicting that 2019 could be the peak year for global CO2 emissions.
Also given the COVID impact on energy consumption, CO2 emissions declined significantly during the height of the lockdowns and the pandemic could have accelerated the global oil demand to peak now by several years. WRI research indicates that the large majority of developed countries as well as some developing countries have already peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2020. About 53 countries, including the US most of the EU countries, Korea, Japan, Australia, China are committed to peak emissions by 2030. But we think it may happen even earlier. But nevertheless, the number of countries peaking and the emissions level at which they are peaking is insufficient to limit warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade. Actually, we think it will be critical that some of the top emitting countries in order of China, US and India would need to make and achieve commitments to peak their ambitions as soon as possible, and to peak at lower emission level, and to commit to a significant rate of emission decline after peaking if we have to achieve the 1.5-degree goal.
Kirti Manian (16:57): Pankaj having read all the news reports about this, what you are talking about seems very impossible to me. I mean, we're talking about the way countries have been emitting, and the way COVID, of course, has played some role definitely like kind of bringing this down. But I mean, I feel for the world, you know, 10 years from now it's going to be hotter, it's going to be changed, really speaking. Do you agree with me?
Pankaj Bhatia (17:23): I think we perhaps can believe in the possibility of human potential and potential of countries' leaders.. leadership, to turn the tide, I would assume that it is still possible. And also, some of the technology breakthroughs means who would have imagined just a few years back that renewable energy technology prices will come down so much that it will become so competitive with coal itself. Coal, which was known to be the cheapest fuel available and in abundance, and now renewal energy is very competitive in all places. And so that was an unexpected, transformative change that helped us a lot. And I would also still pin my hopes, on some other technological breakthroughs that we could expect to see, then some societal breakthroughs also, I think could happen either because of the opportunity that COVID has provided that has resulted in, I think, some change in the mind-set about certain ways of working, and also because of the opportunity through the economic recovery plans that various country governments are planning. So let's hope that there is still going to be a possibility for us to achieve the goal that we have in the Paris Agreement.
Kirti Manian (18:51): Fingers crossed, fingers crossed. So the Paris Agreement also brings me to COP and now COP has been rescheduled to 2021 in Glasgow. What are your expectations if any at all?
Pankaj Bhatia (19:01): Yes, COP26 is a key moment for the world to get on track to the transformation we need to achieve by 2030. By Glasgow we need to see strengthened substantially climate commitments under Paris along with important progress on key international fronts, including scaling of financial flows private and public, and shifting finance from grey to green. I think financing is an extremely important topic that needs a lot more attention and action. Similarly, it will be very critical to address adaptation, loss and damage and other resilience issues also that vulnerable countries are facing as very devastating climate impacts are growing.
Now 2020 was supposed to be the year when all countries submitted updated NDCs and finalized their long term climate and development Strategies. In a number of countries because of COVID this has been delayed and it has its own ripple effects. So far only 12 countries have submitted their NDCs, and 16 countries have communicated their long term strategy. So this year it is really critical to build momentum on strengthening ambition, and I think the EU and a number of vulnerable countries are expected to come forward with their enhanced NDCs by the end of 2020. I think also there is an expectation of major emitters like the US, China, India, and the question that how they will represent their commitment in terms of stronger ambition and stronger climate action, and both are essential urgency and ambition are essential. And we think that these countries will need to make right decisions on rebooting economies in the wake of COVID-19 COVID crisis also, and by investing in green jobs and resilient infrastructure and by avoiding to bail out polluting industries, unless those industries will commit to carbon neutral goals and fossil fuel subsidies in particular, I think is extremely important.
And from COP26, I think climate negotiating sessions ahead of COP26 while the status of global pandemic and the health and safety of all participants will determine the UNFCCC ability to convene in person meetings, we understand that the UNFCCC is considering several extra negotiating sessions in 2021, to address some of the most political and sticking issues, and therefore helping negotiators to be in a good position to make concrete decisions in Glasgow.
I think some of the very important negotiating issues will include negotiation on Article 6, on transparency, on reporting tables, the common timeframes, the questions of finance that I mentioned earlier, and adaptation, loss and damages and capacity building.
Kirti Manian (21:53): I also want to talk about the 2050 Pathways Platform and this was launched at COP22. For those of you who don't know, it’s a platform that supports countries seeking to develop long term net zero GHG, climate resilient and sustainable development pathways. It provides financial and technical assistance to those countries who have identified such needs. How successful has this program been?
Pankaj Bhatia (22:17): So WRI partners with the 2050 Pathways Platform on the long term strategies project, which brings together major organizations worldwide, working with countries to develop their long term strategies with the latest research and analysis as well as in countries support. The 2050 Pathways Platform is one of several organizations supporting countries to develop their long term strategies. It has 30 country partners now, and it also serves as the Secretariat for the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, a group of about 30 pioneering countries, including Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, that are committed to net zero long term strategy. And the Platform is working with the Climate Ambition Alliance, the COP26 presidency and the high level Climate Champions Race To Zero campaign to drive both national and business action on net zero commitments to the race to zero campaign.
120 countries have joined these efforts, which is very impressive, I think, as well as nearly 500 city governments, 21 regions, 995 businesses, 38 of the biggest universities in more than 500 universities. We think that if done right net zero targets could drive the emission reductions we need. WRI also released a new paper on designing net zero targets recently. And science based target setting initiative is also going to publish new guidance on net zero targets for business soon. But with all this, the top 23 emitters including China, US India, are not on this list of country partners. That is still very important that we see these countries also participate and step up their ambition. And we need to see that they also commit and ensure that their announcements will be turned into real action through well thought out plans and targets.
Kirti Manian (24:14): Gosh, I really hope so. I really do hope so I mean, if the three biggest emitters are choosing to be silent or this doesn't bode well. But I'm still holding on to the hope that you talked about that there are still time and then that the countries will figure it out in terms of leadership how best to go ahead. Can you comment on connections between COVID-19 and emissions? Do you think there have been any benefits from lockdowns happening globally? Or is it all very, very temporary and they are going to be back to business as usual?
Pankaj Bhatia (24:45): Yes, even though we have some understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on emissions, we do not have very good systems in place to monitor global emissions in real time. CO2 emissions for example, are reported as annual values often released months or even years after the end of the calendar year. So what we can understand is only based on some proxy data, which is somewhat near real time or monthly intervals. So for example, fossil fuel use is estimated for some countries at the monthly level and released a few months later, then observations of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere are available in real time. But then there is also a natural variability of the carbon cycle and, for example, fires right now that are happening. So, there is overall a lack of real time CO2 emissions data, but nevertheless, a paper was published in Nature Climate Change in May, with an alternative approach to estimate country level emissions based on available daily data of activity - activity data for economic sectors.
So, the new analysis looks at emissions through April in 69 countries, 50 US states and 30 Chinese provinces which represent 85% of the world population and 97% of global emissions. Activity data shows that the changes in daily activities were biggest in the aviation sector with a decrease in daily activity of reduction by 75% during this period. Surface transport saw activity reduced by 50% whereas industry and public sector saw their activity reduced by 35% and 33%, respectively. Power sector saw its activity decrease by a modest 15%, which is understandable as most people were staying home and using energy and the residential activity sector actually saw its activity increased by 5%. Overall the effect of the confinement was to decrease daily global CO2 emissions by 17%. So reduction of 17% by early April, related to the average level of emissions in 2019. And for individual countries, the maximum daily decrease average to - 26%! And the average and estimated decrease in daily fossil CO2 emissions from the confinement was 17% at its peak, and it is unseen before, and still, when you look at these this will correspond to emission levels returning to the level in 2006. So, I think there is an opportunity because of this crisis, and now, real responsibility is with I would say country government leaders, business leadership. If the countries will use the economic stimulus spending, let's say if to invest in polluting industries or coal or fossil fuel industries, then the world will be back where it started with emissions rising again year over year and the impact on global climate change as well as air pollution and other benefits that we see have seen will be only temporary. So while the opportunity has been presented to us, but how we respond to this opportunity will decide whether we are able to leverage this or whether we will actually bring the world back to even perhaps a worse position if we invest in fossil fuel industries, and coal and polluting industries.
Kirti Manian (28:30): So, one of our podcast guests would come in earlier, and he talked about this, and he said when we had the previous pandemics, the bigger pandemic happened in the early 1900s, he said government said how best to get people back in, and the easiest thing to use was the environment. Right? And I really do hope that the governments and leadership in governments actually go the green way in that sense, right, that would be really the ideal solution for us. But yeah, I think it's all up in the air unfortunately, at the moment. I also want to talk about WRI and WRI is in the process of setting up new standards right for GHG protocols to be processed by 2021. Can you shed some light on this please?
Pankaj Bhatia (29:14): Right. So after some time now, we are starting the process of new global standards and this is under GHG protocol in partnership with WBCSD, WRI launched the GHG protocol carbon removals and land sector initiative in January of 2020 this year. The initiative will produce new standards and guidelines for carbon removals and storage, land sector activities and biogenic products. We expect that these standards will be useful for companies to inform key mitigation strategies and to ensure right incentives are in place because information, data helps to inform strategies and incentives, and there is an accountability also component. And as companies, they set targets. If the targets are set in the right way, this will ensure that the targets themselves provide right incentives, and which very much depends on the fundamental basic framework. And these standards are very crucial as they pertain to the land sector, which can serve as both sink and also a source of emission depending on how we treat it. So, we expect this will take some time.
As I mentioned earlier, standard development also, depending on the complexity of the standard, the significance of the issue, the involvement of multiple stakeholders, and range of stakeholders and the range of views, it takes a longer time. It may take us three to four years to complete the standard. Right now, there is no guidance on how to incorporate land sector impacts and greenhouse gas removal activities including not just biological removals, but also geological removals, carbon capture and storage. How do you incorporate that in GHG inventories and targets? There is no common approach, companies do not have methods for accounting for them, and that limits opportunities to reduce emissions and meet GHG targets.
In terms of the process, we have, similar to our basic methodology in terms of the process. We have set up three technical working groups, and one advisory committee and a peer review group, and when we are ready for pilot testing, there will be a pilot group also set up. More than 100 expert members in the three technical working groups are right now working to develop the new standards and guidance. Review group presently has about 200 members, but it continues to grow as it is open for the audience, the stakeholders to participate and join. And we expect that when we are ready for the review group, it may be 500 to 1000 members who will be invited to the peer review of the draft standard.
Kirti Manian (32:18): Looking at land use emissions, I'm interested in knowing are you doing pioneering work in that sense? I mean, is this something that's done or is it something that you're looking at with new perspectives? I just want to understand a little bit more about it because clearly, it has not been done before and you talked about companies don't seem to have standardized ways to do this. So I am a little bit more curious to know about that.
Pankaj Bhatia (32:40): Yes, I think the GHG protocol work is, I wouldn't say it's creating new methodologies as such. In most cases, the quantification methodologies are already there. Even in the land sector, they are IPCC methodologies, there are several other initiatives that have provided very good methodologies for quantification of greenhouse gas emissions and removals, related to the forest and agriculture sector.
Now, what the GHG Protocol does is it adds a layer of reporting and accountability, which provides guidance on what are some of the minimum common reporting categories that we would expect all companies will account for and report. It ensures then some measure of consistency in reporting, and also it provides a structure that aligns reporting with incentives and drivers for reporting. So the reporting itself can have multiple objectives. Just simple reporting in itself is a goal to increase transparency for public information, but then there are many other internal corporate objectives that could be served by a proper reporting practice. And then there are target setting practices, science based targets, for example, it would need commonly accepted methods.
And so what GHG protocol does is it builds on the existing best methodologies and best practices, and then it adds to them a layer of a corporate accounting and reporting framework that allows the information to be properly categorized structured into different scopes, that allows a level of accuracy, completeness, consistency, and in particular with the forest and with the land sector, there is a principle of permanence. It is very different from other sectors, that here when we account for, let's say removals from agricultural forest sector practice then how do you decide what is exactly a removal? Whether a temporary removal, what is a temporary removal? What is a permanent removal? So those are questions, we need to have commonly accepted answers.
And so the additional work of GHG Protocol, one is technical convergence, where we converge on a certain set of technical accounting principles and methodologies and objectives. And then there is a political purpose where we achieve consensus across a diverse body of stakeholders, including business, NGOs, civil society groups, policy makers, and representatives, and researchers and experts. So those are broadly speaking four distinct sets of stakeholder groups who all we try to bring together and to ensure that there's a common understanding in terms of what kind of rules that everybody would follow in ensuring a complete accounting and reporting. So this is the value addition and contribution of GHG Protocol, but we do build on existing research and methodologies.
Kirti Manian (36:08): Thank you for that clarification. So my second last question to you is about carbon neutrality. How do we accomplish this? And is this a pipe dream? There might be some emissions, which you can't avoid so how can countries compensate for those?
Pankaj Bhatia (36:24): Right. So first and foremost, human caused emissions like those from fossil fuel vehicles and factories, they should be reduced as close to zero as possible. And any remaining GHG emissions would then need to be balanced with an equivalent amount of carbon removal, for example, by restoring forests or through direct air capture and storage technology. So that is the basic principle.
Now the latest IPCC science suggests that to meet the Paris agreement on temperature goals, the world will need to reach net zero emissions in a timeline that looks something like this. In scenarios that limit warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade, carbon dioxide emissions to reach net zero on average by 2050 to 2052. In a two-degree scenario, CO2 emission should reach net zero on average by 2070 to 2085. And total GHG emissions should reach net zero by the end of the century. So this is the basic scientific background.
And now I think, to your point, whether it's a pipe dream or whether we will be able to reach I think first of all, I would argue that we should really aim and you might say it is even a bigger pipe dream, but I would still argue that the world should really aim to reach net zero emissions a decade sooner that is by 2040 so that we don't take any risk, I think that we cannot really take any risk here. And we do not want to try to meet the deadline just in time here. So my argument is that we should really reach net zero emissions by 2040. The sooner we peak, the lower we will be at that point and the more realistic it will be, then we achieve net zero in time. And we would also want to rely less on carbon removal in the second half of the century. Our analysis has shown that the most cost effective and lowest strategy, particularly for building out carbon removal capacity will involve developing and deploying a variety of approaches, for example, restoring forests, better farming practices to restore soil carbon, developing bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and direct air capture, carbon remineralisation, and ocean based carbon removal like seaweed cultivation, we must start working on all these approaches now. This is also, I think, the time to begin investing in research and development and demonstration and early stage deployment of these current approaches as well as new potential technologies and approaches that then become viable well in time, so that those can be adopted at scale in the coming decades.
Finally, I think important that countries start to set targets for all their emissions, not just CO2, for non CO2 emissions also the net zero date even though it is later, such as methane from agriculture sources become they are somewhat more difficult to phase out, but these are very potent shortlived gases, which will drive temperature higher in the near term, and will potentially push temperature change past the 1.5 degree much earlier if we do not control them in time. So we have to also focus on non CO2 gases.
So overall, I think it may appear to be a pipe dream, but I think countries can do spirit should really inform the development of long term strategies and with very clear, and specific National Plan, Sectoral Plans, so five-year interval plans, which also makes NDC very important. So really, this has to be a blueprint that should be prepared by all countries now, a long term blueprint, and then the question is that how much that blueprint will also drive investment and decisions in different countries and sectors. So that's where my hope is.
Kirti Manian (40:24): You've really set out a blueprint in that sense right, I really like the way you've described the whole process, and I really do hope that governments are listening to all the suggestions being made to them in that sense. This is such an important thing to leave something for future generations so not have the planet grow that warm where we can't handle living literally on surfaces. So I really do hope that whatever you've talked about, does come true. So my last question then is, you've given me the blueprint already. So how do we look at tackling climate change? Is it really only governments that can resolve it? And then what is your call to action to our listeners?
Pankaj Bhatia (41:06): I think we need both - government as well as common public, so to speak. And I would say not just the government, we need leaders at all levels in all key sectors of the economy. The government does play a very important role but solving the climate crisis, as we also have seen, it depends on changing really basic human behaviour, changing our basic consumption patterns and lifestyles. It also depends on technological and policy innovation, and on very robust climate and also economic policies.
So I've spoken quite a lot about climate change and how we have to be successful, particularly in the context of net zero targets, and IPCC projections, both for 1.5 degree and 2 degree. Now, I want to add to that perspective, that how we become successful on achieving our climate goals, I think very much depends on what kind of economic policies countries will follow, particularly in developing countries, where they also have to tackle the problem of poverty, they also have to tackle the problem of hunger, health issues, and access to energy, and just some basic human development needs.
And I think that it will be very difficult for politicians in democracies, to make a case to public to direct investments into climate solutions, if that occurs at the cost of these basic services and basic human needs. If those investments would mean that, for example, the energy costs will increase for people, and that will reduce access to energy for particularly poor section of the society, I don't think those solutions will work. And so in all cases, I think in all cases of climate change policies, countries will need to look particularly in developing countries, the social and economic elements of those policies and how to fine tune climate policies in such a way that they will also achieve the critical social and economic objectives of the country. Otherwise, those policies will not be properly implemented or executed or adopted in and that is my concern. So we have to address those issues, as well.
But how do you do them? And how do you leverage some of the opportunities that are presenting for example, in the context of COVID recovery, there are opportunities being presented and governments can really leverage them. For example, in India, I believe India's Prime Minister spoke about climate change as a key future challenge in announcing the largest economic recovery package in independent India's history and that is aimed at strengthening the country's supply chains through the private sector and public sector participation to make the country more self-reliant, and also the Niti Aayog has said that prioritizing clean energy will be a major driver of India's economic recovery and international competitiveness.
So, that is the view I think that has to be coupled that even economic recovery and economic competitiveness now, very much depends on ensuring the climate change problem is addressed effectively. If you just look at for example, the air pollution situation in some parts of northern India, unless the air pollution problem is handled, I don't think India in particularly those areas will become a very attractive region to attract capital, from leading private sector companies from the world to come and invest and set up their operations in those areas because they would not perhaps want to expose their staff and employees to such air pollution level.
And so I think economic competitiveness is very much now linked to solving environmental and climate problems, and they have to be tackled together. And I hope that leadership across all levels, and not just government, but business, and researchers and civil society groups, and all other leadership will focus on addressing climate change and environmental issues as a need for ensuring that future generations will also prosper in the way that they have prospered so far in the world. So they have to think about what kind of legacy they will leave and whether future generations will see them as failed leadership or as leadership that succeeded and ensure that there is also a world for future generations to prosper and succeed.
Kirti Manian (46:04): I like this point you made about legacy and really thank you so very much. I have learned so much today, I'm sure listeners have as well about the work that you've been doing, and really, it does sound like an amazing amount of effort to give us something that we can actually build on and rely on to look at how emissions are in that sense. So thank you very much, Pankaj, I really appreciate the time you've given us. Thank you very much again.
Pankaj Bhatia (46:29): And thank you so much for this opportunity Kirti. I also enjoyed it very much. I also want to mention that a lot of team members contributed and helped me in preparing these points and your questions were great, very good questions. And thanks for this opportunity.
Kirti Manian (46:47): Thank you so much.
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