John Vidal (in white) Environment Editor of The Guardian moderating the session on Adapting to the Impacts on Climate Change

In the past one year I attended several sustainability conferences – a couple of CII-ITC Sustainability Summits, Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value Forum, Unilever’s USLP and some others as well. And I must admit that no other conference came close to the size, grandeur, and sheer overwhelming presence of world leaders and personalities in the world of Economics, Sustainability, Climate change and Politics that this Delhi Sustainable Development Summit had. But that in no way takes away any iota of importance and role being played by the so-called ‘lesser’ conferences because the whole idea of sustainability is to bring a holistic and systemic change – and that includes everyone doing their part!

The reason this conference is different is because of the presence of Dr RK Pachauri, IPCC Chairman and the man behind the science of Climate change along with Al Gore. Dr Pachauri is passionate and committed to the agenda. Now that’s a classic case of sustainability being driven from the top…but soon that passion and commitment needs to seep down (I hope it has), because when the top leadership changes and the organization’s culture hasn’t changed, it can rock the boat – one of the nine challenges of sustainability that I blogged for recently.

So, we have this clear. Now some background info.

The Energy and Resources Institute’s (TERI) flagship Sustainable Summit (DSDS) came to a perfect end with Salman Khurshid, the External Affairs Minister of India and MS Ahluwalia, the Deputy Chairman of Indian Planning Commission giving away their valedictory addresses. MS Ahluwalia, one of the most abled Economists in India pushed for faster and stronger sustainable development with Sustainability being at the forefront of the 12th 5 year Plan. What was more heartening to hear from him was his desire to bring behavioural changes and shifts in mind sets of general people in the discussions around sustainable business practices.

5 Takeaways – Adapters & Mitigaters

Dr Ugyen Tshewang, National Environment Commission, Bhutan

One, I felt that although there was a general consensus among the leaders about the need for resource-efficient innovations, many still felt that the resource-efficient technologies are already there – only they are not being implemented due to some vested interests.

Two, the discussions kept revolving around the BRIC and OECD countries about their economic growth strategies. Well, I think if we keep using the terms like BRICS-OECD, North-South, First World-Third World and divide the world based on the economic progress, then we will keep getting what we have always gotten!

So, to fight climate change, we need to adopt climate related terminology to divide the world (as it is we do). For example, why not divide the world with Adapters and Mitigaters – Countries that have the time (in a sense that they haven’t yet experienced much of climate impacts) can become Mitigaters and countries that don’t have the time (say a few decades and extremely vulnerable) and are currently facing the climate impacts, become the Adapters – and they get together every few years and learn from other and change their roles. And for countries who have the time and are also experiencing climate change effects, both adapt and mitigate. This way countries can have a clear cut agenda on what they have to do, other wise, it is always a game of private costs and effort with public gains going beyond the boundaries – no country wants that!

Three, natural eco-systems can be used to build resilient landscapes – a point categorically mentioned by Carl Pope from Sierrra Club. He says that we just cannot engineer our way out in building a resilient city from chaotic weather patterns. But if we restore the oysters in the ocean (which don’t require huge capital investments), incidents like Hurricane Sandy will remain only in history.

Four, there’s a lot to learn from Bhutan – a small economically poor country with emotionally rich and happy people. Bhutan’s constitution states that at any given point of time (that is, for perpetuity), at least 60% of the land will be covered by forests under any circumstances. Now, that’s a strong policy. Bhutan also doesn’t pass any policies that don’t pass the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index muster.

Five, the younger generation, has to be brought into the loop because it is they who will eventually inherit the planet – a child of 10 years can teach more effectively to his parents in not creating any waste and not using a plastic bag than any amount of carbon tax on plastics and subsidies on paper.

The real reason why this Summit was different?

The cultural extravaganza of India….

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