Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Citizens can be powerful climate action change agents through the ballot: Sonam Wangchuk

Engineer, innovator, education reformist, passionate conservationist, climate change practitioner, Ramon Magsasay award winner Sonam Wangchuk, and Dr. Prateek Kanakia, Chairman & Founder, TheGreenBillions Limited, delved deep into questions of climate change, individual responsibility, green hydrogen and net-zero goals in the second episode of the special podcast series "The Green Billions Code" presented by Forbes India

BRAND CONNECT | PAID POST
Published: Oct 26, 2023 11:34:00 AM IST
Updated: Oct 26, 2023 05:22:02 PM IST

Citizens can be powerful climate action change agents through the ballot: Sonam WangchukThis monsoon season saw large parts of India are smarting under a wave of floods that have brought bustling metropolises such as Delhi and Mumbai to their knees. Hundreds of acres of land remained submerged for weeks on end by overflowing rivers from Himachal Pradesh to Assam. It is easy to be dazed by the impact of climate change that has reached our homes. But everyone—governments, companies, politicians, and consumers—needs to act now.

Engineer, innovator, education reformist, passionate conservationist, climate change practitioner, Ramon Magsasay award winner Sonam Wangchuk, and Dr. Prateek Kanakia, Chairman & Founder, TheGreenBillions Limited, delved deep into these questions and related aspects in the second episode of the special podcast series “The Green Billions Code” presented by Forbes India.
“The Green Billions Code”, the special podcast series presented by Forbes India, will dive deep into issues of sustainability and interconnected areas in conversations with top global and national experts who are at the frontline of ushering in change.

There is also this idea of personal social responsibility (PSR) as compared to corporate social responsibility (CSR). It involves responsibilities of individuals for achieving climate change goals.
While governments and corporates can create impact by big policies, individuals will have to be the real change agents, Mr Wangchuk said. “It is individual citizens who change what governments do. While planting trees and the switching off of lights are good initiatives and must be promoted because they are relatable things, citizens can actually change governments and corporations through the power of the ballot and the wallet. Governments will change their policies to the moods of the people who vote for them,” he said.

India’s focus on green hydrogen mission is well appreciated, and there is no gainsaying the fact that it is well intentioned too. But here is a paradox too. At some point, will the unrelenting use of water to produce green hydrogen not result in water scarcity? Can this not lead to a severe imbalance in a finite resource: water? How do we address this within the larger goal of turning India into the world’s hydrogen heart?

Earlier this year, the government approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission (NGHM), with an initial outlay of Rs 19,744 crore. The NGHM is being billed as a programme that can potentially make India a global hub for producing and exporting green hydrogen.

“It is very ironic that we keep speaking about water conservation at one hand and the other side is speaking from the rooftop that we need to start using water to produce a new form of fuel to get sustainability. We need to look at various alternate routes to produce a newer form of fuels. While the whole world is moving in a certain direction let us try and at least create an impact story. If we can convert municipal solid waste into hydrogen, if there is a way to actually make this happen this will solve a lot of issues,” said Dr Kanakia.

The Himalayan glaciers feed around two billion people and half the Indian population, just like we protect our water sources like the springs. How can these glaciers be preserved, which are the springs of the continent?

“We can live without a few consumer materials but we cannot live without water. So, it's like the classic you know chopping off the branch, which you are sitting on, so we must do everything to conserve these glaciers. Global temperatures are rising and in the Himalayas the rise is even sharper. It hurts most when these glaciers melt because of this extraordinary rise in temperature. Definitely people in big cities have a huge responsibility to make sure these reservoirs of water are conserved. Recent research has shown that it's also local human activities that are causing pollution. Fragile regions like Ladakh must be safeguarded from rampant unbridled industrialization and that's why we need provisions in the Constitution like the Schedule Six”, said Mr Wangchuk.

Dr Kanakia echoed similar views. “We should get it straight and right that there is no shortcut to this. The only way to reach or attain sustainability is to have sustained efforts. The efforts need to be carried out so that these ecological balances don't go wrong”.

The path to Net-Zero by 2070 is now well defined. As also the goals and the challenges. Will a one-size-fits-all approach work in ecologically diverse geography such as India?

Every region requires a tailor-made solution. If we need to go carbon neutral by 2070 there cannot be a straight line. We need to wake up to this idea of achieving this goal by 2070 and going carbon neutral by bringing the change at the bottommost level and the institutional levels. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all strategy or approach towards this issue,” said Dr Kanakia.

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