An answer to the demand-supply challenge of climate change

Written by Kirtika Suneja | Updated: Mar 31 2014, 08:27am hrs
As more and more companies get affected by environmental urgencies, tough environmental regulations and consumer pressures, India Inc is realising the urgent need to measure and mitigate the business impacts of these on nature and society.

With this in the background, the CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development organised the Business Forum on Climate Change, on March 25 in New Delhi with The Financial Express as the media partner which presented an opportunity for business leaders to come together to share and discuss such solutions. The focus of the foruman annual offering by the Centrewas on climate change solutions, sustainable development and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Launching the forum, Seema Arora, executive-director, CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development, said: We are here to engage with businesses to understand their views on climate change and also to discuss possible solutions. The idea is to get an understanding from the leadership on how they are looking at climate change as an issue. We wish to look at the context within the country and see how businesses can respond to this. While we know that the global context is shrouded by uncertainty at the moment, the context within the India is something we can assess and should strive to address.

Representatives from Indian majors like ITC, SRF and L&T, among others opined that companies which help reduce emissions are going to have an edge over their polluting competitors. In the long-term, adoption of eco-friendly policies will cut down on manufacturing costs, increase their market share besides leading to higher productivity. Apart from commercial incentives, cleaner technology is paving the way for global collaborations as well.

According to Pankaj Sehgal, managing director, SUN Group, the challenge of climate change can be looked at simply in the terms of supply and demand, where the existing supply of power is considerable lesser than the demand. And as the nation and industry looks to meet this demand, it should make a conscious effort to do so in a climate-friendly manner. This assumes significance as on the supply side, 450 million people are still not connected to the grid.

Sharing the experience of ITC with climate change solutions, Pradeep Dhobale, co-chairman, CII Committee on Environment and executive director, ITC Limited, said: Initially our corporate policies were restrictive and mandated a maximum two-year payback for energy efficiency projects, which was an obvious hurdle. Once we got past this initial challenge and increased investments we met considerable success.

He shared that in the case of using vacuum in manufacturing, which uses a considerable amount of energy, ITC used to earlier rely on a battery of pumps. But, through energy efficiency practices and consolidation, they achieved a 33% reduction in energy consumption and a payback in less than two years.

Moderating the CEOs session of the forum, Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express noted that the only climate being discussed in India at present was the election climate. At a time when politicians are looking the other way, we have an opportunity to have a national perspective on climate change, he said.

On the topic of restrictive and high pricing of renewable energy products, Pankaj Sehgal, managing director of SUN Group said: There used to be a time when we had to use more expensive products to build a project that would be environment friendly and conducive. But there is no longer a substantial price differential between renewables and conventional energy sources. So why then are companies not on board with renewables

According to Arun Bharat Ram, chairman of SRF Limited, while emissions in developed nations have started slowing down, India-China-Africas growth and consequently pollution is only picking up. The adverse impact of this, he said, is inevitable and it would only become more severe.

Other issues raised during the session included the concept of carbon tax- to motivate companies to consider their impact on climate change as a real risk and cost factor as well as the low quality of diesel in India, which does not meet global standards including that of Chinas and pollutes more.