Arjun Kumar, Simi Mehta, Anshula Mehta, Ritika Gupta, Sunidhi Agarwal, Sakshi Sharda, Swati Solanki, Mahima Kapoor

We are well known that Sustainable Development is the only way for a better and more equitable way of living, but at the same time, if we look towards implementing them, we don’t have much to talk about. To deliberate upon the same the Center for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD)  IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, organized a Distinguished Lecture on the topic by Dr Keith Alverson on “Achieving Sustainable Development” as a part of its series on The State of the Environment – #PlanetTalks.

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Starting the session the moderator of the session Dr Simi Mehta stated that sustainable development is a topic that affects not only present but also future generations. After The brundtland commisssion report of 1987 a lot has been discussed about the need for sustainable development. Despite knowing the importance of sustainable development we are on the verge of destroying the pillars of sustainable development.

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Dr Keith Alverson, Independent Professional in Oceans, Climate, and Environment; Former Director, UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre, Osaka, Japan. He started the lecture with his view on the newly published Climate change assessment report by the IPCC and a vote of thanks. He discussed the basics and details about Sustainable development goals.

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How is poverty an increasing issue?

He enlightens us about the first SDG, “End poverty in all its forms”. Before that, he explained to us about Poverty and the population trends which are related to it. While talking about the eradication of poverty, he gave the example of a politician in Kerala who targets to eradicate poverty from Kerala by 2026. While talking about poverty trends, he finds out that in 2020, about 120 million people were driven under poverty, the sole reason being the pandemic.

He then took an audience poll on “best ways to combat poverty”, and elucidated upon the necessity for the same and how it should be carried. Then he reflects how these goals are interconnected like poverty and climate change are linked. Usage of more fossil fuels and other climate change-related activities have a deep impact on poverty.

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Waste managed properly and how are these trends distributed?

He then elucidates about the 11th Goal “Sustainable cities and communities” and 12th goal “responsible consumption and production”. Mainly concentrating upon “Waste Management” in both the goals collectively. He gave a brief about what does the SDGs targets are upon the same field.

He framed the discussion based on the report “Waste to Energy”. Then he points out the number of waste inclinators in different parts of the world. Where the areas like Asia-pacific and Europe had the most number and areas like Africa and West Asia where these facilities are mostly unheard of. Richer countries have the highest inclinators rate and numbers of which waste is being disposed properly. This shows the contrast between the Developing and Developing nations.

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Why is this difference and how could this be reduced? The difference is because of the quantity of wet waste is huge compared to dry waste, which is very hard to manage, rather these projects are very expensive and lack of resources is the biggest issue for developing nations. National legal emission standards and frameworks are also very important in which India outstanding. Then he explained how plants function in India and what are its standards, rather than what could be the contribution of the private sector in India at various plants.

The challenges and considerations for developing nations would be waste characteristics, Economic aspects, legal standards and framework, and environmental effects. He concluded the discussion on these goals by a Public Poll on their thoughts on waste management.

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Adaption, mitigation, and funding for climate change

Then he looked towards the 13th goal “Climate action” Concentrating upon Adaption, mitigation, and funding for climate change. He explained via two examples, these two calamities were quite similar but the damages and the economic loss were significantly lower in 2012 compared to 2005. Then he highlighted at what rate and trend temperature are increasing and how it could lead to the biggest crisis. Fires, Floods and increasing water levels, and whatnot are the results of climate change and these deaths were indirect because of climate change, but the governments will not account for them.

Mitigation is about implementing climate change measures into national policies, the various indicator which is connected to it is not very good and clear, rather other indicators are very clear and very explanatory for development. Big corporations and developed countries like China and European nations have pledged for zero gas emissions in the coming future.

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Funding for developing nations is a very important issue, the indicator is to commit 100 billion towards climate commitment, which is not event relevant to the current expenditure. Zero gas emission is being achieved to lower down the things which could emit gases and plant trees to equalize the damages done. All these aspects have different approaches aligned with it; Adaptation is a challenge that is based on a more local base approach rather than mitigation is an aspect that should be targeted comprehensively by taking an international-based approach.

In conclusion of his lecture, he gave us a practical outvie of the world like the SDGs are unachievable as the number it has suggested and rather it is not only the duty of that state to contribute towards sustainable development but you as an individual should also contribute to them.

Discussion

The lecture was followed by a discussion on the same, in which Dr. Rema Saraswathy, Member Secretary and Chief Functionary, Institute of Sustainable Development, Chennai put her views at first. She acknowledges the diverse and important issues which were brought about by him. She brought her experience from the ground level and talks about individual and rural behaviour, which is very diverse, and how local governments should be habited to tackle more sustainable development.

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After her remarks, Dr. Ram Boojh, CEO, Mobius Foundation, New Delhi elevated the discussion, by bringing the issues with investment in achieving the goals, in the developed countries also. Rather, he talked about the issues brought by the Covid-19 pandemic in faring the SDGs. He talked about the problems of overpopulations and others that need a dedicated goal by itself, he strongly recommends a review of these goals for more inclusion. He then targeted the localization of SDGs as the best way of implantation and adaptions of these goals.

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Dr Keith Alverson reflected the importance of the newly brought issues and help us understand more about them. He underlined the importance of individual behaviour for waste management. He further highlighted the usefulness of nature-based solutions which are cheap and efficient.

Pertinent Questions and concluding Remarks

Answering a question on eco-fascism and the narrative of an individual to make a difference by making sustainable choices he stated that small solutions adopted by individuals are often difficult to see a path to them making a difference. Thus individual behaviour is important but one should also try to encourage governments and companies to change their behaviour.

Responding to how the young generation can contribute towards achieving sustainable Development he said that new ideas and new thinking of the young generation will enable one to come up with better development pathways

Answering a question of the importance of Traditional Knowledge Dr Ram Boojh reflected that traditional knowledge plays an important role in climate change adaptation and mitigation and also in terms of Biodiversity conservation. He further elucidated that traditional knowledge is tried and tested over centuries and has a scientific base. It would be beneficial to mix traditional and modern knowledge to achieve sustainable development.

Responding to a question of sustainable development of cities he stated that cities are an important player and municipalities play an integral role in waste management. Each municipality should think about its problems and solutions.

“Actions need to be taken from every level i.e. individual, family, neighbourhood, local community, local government, state and central to achieve sustainable development. Individual behaviour change is the key to bring that change.” Says Dr. Rema Saraswathy

“Education is the key to sustainability.” Says Dr. Ram Boojh

“Behaviour change is important at individual, corporate, municipal, and national. Also local constraints and solutions play an important role.” Says Dr Keith

“Start concentrating on social, financial, environmental wealth than ever increasing income.” Says Dr Keith

Acknowledgement: Ayush Aggarwal is a Research Intern at IMPRI

Youtube Video : Distinguished Lecture | Dr Keith Alverson | Achieving Sustainable Development | #PlanetTalks

Picture Courtesy: givingcompass.org