Solar lighting in villages

Solar lighting in villages

In yesterday’s interaction Mr Pradipto Ghosh’s, an Indian negotiator, the major message was that these negotiations need to ensure that India can continue its growth.

I agree with Mr Ghosh’s comment. India does need to “grow”. With the largest population of people living below the world’s poverty line, with 400 million people who can’t access commercial energy, with major issues social justice, we cannot afford to agree to a deal that will impede on our development. Before we tackle problems of tomorrow we need to tackle the problems of today.

However in my opinion the detail is in the definition of growth and development. Will it be through lots of big dirty coal power plants? Or clean renewables? Will it be through excessive consumption by the upper class?  Or through increasing the living standards amongst those poorest in India? The devil is in the detail. Our growth needs to ensure energy security, food security, water security and equity within our own country. We can’t continue growth in our business as usual style.

Mr R.K. Sethi reminded me that India has a society that has traditionally been very sustainable society. All three negotiators highlighting India’s recycling system, telling me about the kabadiwalla, and how most materials are recycled to a point that we will rarely see in the developed world. No doubt, yes India has a very sustainable history; but what about the sludge in our Yamuna, pollution in the Ganga and piles of rubbish on every street, in every river and all over the country? Did they just appear out of nowhere?

India must ensure it doesn’t follow the western pathway of development. We need to ensure we remain sustainable. That we continue to use kulladhs (clay cups) not plastic cutlery, that we make use of our wonderful sun, that we don’t clog our roadways with more cars and air pollution. We mustn’t kid ourselves that we are sustainable when people are dying from the toxicity in our rivers, pollution in our air and the degradation of our forests and agricultural land. We must not forget the Indian traditional ways of living, and fall into the trap and flashiness of the western world. In the words of Mr J M Mauskar from today’s meetings – we can always do better. In the word’s of Deepa Gupta (me) – we have to do better.

So what is my message?

Yes India needs to grow. But it needs to do so sustainably. What is the point of economic growth if majority of the people’s standard of living goes down. The economy is dependent on the environment. We can’t decouple the two. With 70% of India’s population dependent on agriculture, the majority of jobs coming from agribusiness, forestry, fisheries and tourism, meaning about 80% of India’s population being directly employed through natural resources and being directly affected by environmental degradation.

My message to the negotiators?

Thank you for keeping in mind India’s growth and working to make sure that we get an equitable deal that ensures India’s continued growth. However don’t forget to define what you mean by growth, because business as usual would suggest environmental degradation. We need to protect our environment and minimise climate change. Our growth depends on it.

Our life depends on it.