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Friday, February 13, 2009

India Inc. debates climate hurdles, solutions

India's government needs to give financial support and incentives for technological research to help industry go green, but firms must also take initiatives in battling climate change, a new industry white paper said.

Most firms in India, one of the world's worst polluters, are yet to plan for the impact of climate change on their businesses and do not measure emissions or have deadlines to curb them, according to various studies.

India's top firms also face little stakeholder pressure to combat climate change with only about 40 percent of the companies setting voluntary carbon emissions reduction goals, according to a survey by KPMG consultants of CEOs last year.

"This Corporate White Paper ... presents the expectations of the corporate sector from the government in terms of enabling policies and incentives that would help in achieving the roadmap for the industry," the document said.

"Through this initiative, we have identified several paths forward for our industry to reduce its ecological footprint, manage its impact better (and) become more eco-efficient," the white paper, ratified by 84 Indian firms and released this month, said.

Experts say Indian firms' response to climate issues is driven largely by the need to comply with expected regulations, while leaving the leadership role in tackling global warming to the government.

"Various programmes which government has enunciated will fall flat unless industry takes it upon themselves to realise that it is business opportunity they have to do," J.J Irani, director of the Tata Group, wrote in the white paper. The white paper called for vigorous private-public partnership in key areas such as technological research.

"R&D is critical to the topic of climate change. Don't leave R&D only to the governmental sector. Public-private partnerships in R&D are the need of the hour," said Prasad Chandran, chairman and managing director of BASF India Ltd.

India's new national climate change plan focuses on renewable energy, but doesn't commit to any emission caps. It says it must use more energy to lift its population from poverty and that its per-capita emissions are a fraction of those in rich nations.

India, whose economy has grown by 8-9 percent annually in recent years, contributes around 4 percent of mankind's global greenhouse gas emissions, but says its levels will never go beyond those of developed countries.

The government is setting up energy benchmarks for each industry sector and allowing trade in energy-efficiency certificates.


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