India’s G20 Sherpa Mr. Amitabh Kant set a high target for India, stating that India must become the first country in the world to industrialize without carbonizing, while delivering the opening address at Connect Karo 2023 organized by WRI India in New Delhi on Monday. Connect Karo 2023 is WRI India’s flagship event that offers a platform for multiple stakeholders from India and abroad to share their perspectives and experiences as well as to ease collaborations toward finding meaningful responses to critical environmental and sustainability challenges. Launching the two-day conference, Mr. Kant said, “India as a country occupies just 1.3 percent of the total carbon space available (in the world) today. But the way we will urbanize and indurstrialize in the future, we will become the third-largest carbon emitter in the world in due course. It is important that India as a country, both from the perspective of climate action and technology, leapfrogs and makes a substantial difference as for as action on climate front is concerned.”
In its 10th year, Connect Karo 2023 brought together a distinguished gathering of over 450 participants including experts, policymakers, industry leaders and researchers to deliberate on sustainability solutions for India. Under its theme ‘For People, Nature, and Climate’, day one of the conference saw the release of new research and 18 thought-provoking sessions on issues related to urban planning, water and resilience, integrated and electric mobility, climate and clean air, energy, and food.
Speaking at the event, Madhav Pai, CEO of WRI India, said, “We launched Connect Karo in 2013 with the aim to build a network of thinktanks, private sector players, researchers, civil society and the government to work together and find viable solutions that enable sustainable development in India. A decade on, it is heartening to find more than 450 participants join our discussions, seeking an evidence-based response to complex, sectoral issues and exploring nuanced, contextualized solutions to urgent challenges of our times.”
Pai highlighted that Connect Karo’s endeavor is to offer a platform for a high-level dialogue that would foster the building of sustainable, livable cities of the future that place people at their center. “To shape connected, low-carbon and resilient cities, we must focus simultaneously on data-led urban planning and climate action, incorporating nature-based solutions and reimagining our food systems (from production, storage and distribution to consumption practices),” he explained.
Amitabh Kant’s address set the tone for the day. As a leading advocate for sustainable urban development, Mr. Kant emphasized, India must take leadership position technologically and in climate action. We must become the champion of climate action, energy transition, green hydrogen and sustainable public transportation. That is how we can provide a better life for our citizens for the future. For our survival, we need all to take radical measures and assume leadership position in this area.
Three working papers were released on Monday:
- Public Bicycle Sharing in India: Lessons Learned from Implementation in Three Cities presents findings from Mysuru, Bhopal and Pune, the first three Indian cities to have adopted Public Bicycle Sharing (PBS) and highlights the financial, business and operating models created by them to implement the system. It studies the common factors that led to their initial success, and the challenges to sustaining and expanding them.
- Improving Metro Access in India: Evidence from Three Cities surveys 7200+ metro commuters in Bengaluru, Delhi and Nagpur and lays out potential solutions to improve metro rail’s accessibility. The paper studies various commuter segments that use the metro in these cities, and their last-mile commute choices. Based on the findings it identifies the aspects to consider, and data to collect, to design metro last-mile services that suit commuters while also remaining viable to operate.
- Our Journey with the City: Deciphering WRI India Ross Center’s Influence in Bengaluru reflects on the Sustainable Cities program’s ‘deep-dive’ engagement in Bengaluru since 2010, and its impact as a key change agent for sustainable development – from mobility to other urban services such as energy, water, and climate resilience.
A total of six publications are slated to release over the course of Connect Karo 2023.
Monday’s sessions focused on sustainable urbanization, decarbonizing transport and the need for a just and responsible energy transition. A roundtable on Unlocking Financing to Revolutionize Electric Bus Adaption brought together transit agencies, automobile manufacturers, administrators amongst other stakeholders to explore funding pathways for transit agencies that seek to take on electric buses. The panel on the upcoming National Urbanization Policy (NUP) report, to be presented by WRI India to the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, saw inputs from an array of high-level speakers including Hyun Hee Ban, Social Policy Chief, UNICEF India; Justine Jebakumar, Director- Government Relations, Habitat for Humanity; and Kanak Tiwari, Project Lead-Delhi Master Plan 2041, NIUA.
Another session discussed a recent WRI India report: Urban Blue-Green Conundrum: A 10-City Study on the Impacts of Urbanization on Natural Infrastructure in India which looked at India’s most populated cities, between 2000 to 2015, and found that their built-up area has increased on average by 47% and 134% in core and periphery regions respectively, even as blue cover decreased by 15%.
A panel on Financing Clean Energy Transition for India offered insights towards ensuring that the investments needed to achieve India’s climate targets are catalyzed. The discussion looked at multiple financing possibilities, including de-risking and insuring businesses that are attempting a low-carbon transition; and explored avenues for the participation of private and public sector financial institutions. The session Expanding the Limits: Making the Clean Energy Growth Circular, focused on the need for a circular economy within the clean energy transition since the materials required to extract renewable energy are limited. Panelists looked at the various dimensions of India’s public and private sectors rapidly adopting circularity as a production practice, and the evolving governance structures that can help ensure that the resource use for the clean energy transition is socially and environmentally just and responsible.
The focus on a just transition also emerged during the panel, Vulnerability to Resilience: Fostering a Just Transition for MSMEs in India, which explored how the undergoing shifts induced by climate change, climate policies and decarbonization imperatives may impact MSMEs. Panelists including government representatives and stakeholders such as Grace Pachuau, Executive Director, FaMe TN, Vinnie Mehta, Director General, ACMA, Jarnail Singh, Deputy Director, India Office, MacArthur Foundation and Ila Patnaik, Chief Economist, Aditya Birla Group discussed the measures needed to ensure a just, equitable and inclusive low-carbon transition that allows India’s MSME sector and the 111 million people employed in it, to thrive. The panelists also discussed sector-wise just transition, with a bird’s eye view on the auto industry. It tried to analyze the impact of low-carbon transition on women workers.