Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) Impressions

5 Feb

While TERI’s 11th annual sustainability summit showcased many VIPs (so many former prime ministers, nobel laureates, and nonprofit bigwigs showed up that they were crammed together on one panel and spread across other panels…just see this list of speakers), I left a little disappointed. Admittedly, this was largely a conference on climate change and carbon emissions reduction, an informal Copenhagen without the stressful negotiating and country-protectionism, a discussion including the theoretics of academics and the vagueness of politicians, and thus, the topic was out of my knowledge scope (the most I know or cared to know about Cancún was that nothing happened.)

This year’s theme, “Tapping Local Initiatives and Tackling Global Inertia” promised great fodder for lively debate, but it became apparent that speaker inertia was a problem: each speech was a platform for the country’s propaganda of its environmental programs and I’m not sure if real issues were addressed. Well, a few audience members tried to bring them up, throwing out softball questions such as “What are the possibilities for local solutions to reduce carbon emissions?” and were dismissed by answers such as “That issue is too complicated to address here.” I will not mention the speech of the Guatemalan minister of the environment who appeared as if he’d just come from an opium den. The conference’s political and academic focus was a gripe for TERI students–I suppose we expected tangible results, conclusions and outlines of next steps–while it was a boon for industry attendees, who expect much global inertia (more than a few snarky comments were made about the U.S.’s refusal to participate in Kyoto and notably, representation from the U.S. government was lacking). A director with the Ministry of Environment in Japan remarked to me that the conference was delightfully light after the tough negotiations and standoffs at Cancún. Another veteran of the industry told me that he enjoyed the conference although they’d been talking about the same issues for 20 years.

Themes/Ideas from the one day that I attended of the conference:

  • Global Inertia is preventing action on climate change.  We cannot go on protecting our own country’s right to pollute and must think of the smaller countries.  A carbon cap on pollution per capita would help solve this, but the U.S. would never agree to it.  It must be noted that though the Indian Minister of Environment is most outspoken on this subject of global collaboration, he admitted that his purpose at Cancun was to protect India….political realities here.
  • One Global Carbon Price.  A bold idea. This would eliminate cross-pollution where one factory simply moves their operations to another country, but you can imagine the high cost of development for developing countries.
  • Continued Stalling on Climate Change Issues. Predicting of continued debates over legally binding agreements to cut emissions, how much to cut by (2 degree vs. 1.5 degree change), and when to cut.
  • Include Marine Biology in Carbon Counting. Much of the focus has been on land, in the forests, algae and plants.  Marine biology is equally affected by carbon buildup.


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