We Need To Have A More Sustainable And Equitable World If We Want To Survive: Vibha Dhawan, DG, TERI

By Naina Gautam February 06, 2024

WSDS 2024: TERI’S annual World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) starts on 7th February and is a platform to discuss threadbare issues surrounding the climate discourse . Dr. Vibha Dhawan, Director General, TERI discusses with Naina Gautam about the prospects of climate discourse, COP28 and what lies ahead for climate action. Edited excerpts

We Need To Have A More Sustainable And Equitable World If We Want To Survive: Vibha Dhawan, DG, TERI
World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) promises to be an important knowledge platform.

What has been the follow up of the outcomes of WSDS 2023 edition?

One thing which we are now doing differently is that it's not really an activity WSDS. We also have Act for Earth. So, under Act for Earth, we keep on organising seminars, we are disseminating policy papers etc. Whatever, is the outcome of the conference, we try to follow it up with research or dissemination of research through Act for Earth.

The subjects are discussed and what kind of research is required. So part of it we do ourselves and part of it we try to reach others through roundtable conferences and give them feedback. Or, rather sensitise them of the work done, elsewhere in the world as well as what we are doing and what is it India can do in the future.

What are your expectations from WSDS 2024?

The leadership in the country and internationally, all is mobilised to quite an extent. Knowledge creation is very much there, and it is well recognised globally that we need to have a more sustainable and equitable world, if we want to survive.

What we are trying to do through this WSDS 2024 is that we should play a very constructive role, through dialogue. The initiatives that are taken at the global level and to reinforce, strengthen the commitments at all levels and enhance it, and how we can act, together.

There is call for more of research in some topics. But also not reinventing the wheel and that is where dialogues becomes very important and that is why it's international nature becomes crucial. There are successful examples somewhere or the other and learnings that maybe something didn't work.

What are the learnings of COP28?

The good thing which happened over there, is recognition of fossil fuels. It was officially recognised that it is the fossil fuels, which are the primary drivers of climate change. India, we are frontrunners, but otherwise also it was discussed, that over 100 countries, committed to tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling global energy efficiency rates by 2030.

Most importantly, we discussed about loss and damage fund. It is a complex exercise. Some money has been committed. But who can avail that? We are still struggling with that issue. 

The inaugural Global Stocktake, it provided a comprehensive assessment in terms of climate action and emphasising the need to triple renewable energy capacity, phase down coal etc.

Dr. Vibha Dhawan, DG, TERI
Dr. Vibha Dhawan, DG, TERI

What are your expectations of climate action this year, given that this is an election year for over 50 countries?

This has also become a slogan for the parties because they have recognised that climate change is something which is impacting and the stakeholders want to see that their governments are doing something in that direction. And that is how if you see the interim budget, which was released recently, they are talking about solar rooftop.

Different parties are there and therefore at global level citizens are basically looking for decisive action to confront the existing climate crisis that we are going through, and everyone is looking to shape a sustainable future. Because once the parties, they make various commitments, even if not 100%, even if they stick to it, 50%, 60%, I think we are moving towards a cleaner planet because that is what everyone is bringing in their election manifesto.

 How  do you look back and ahead on the occasion of TERI at 50? 

We were established in 1974 by a group of companies. And during that time, it's quite interesting to know that not many people were talking about renewable energy. So we started looking at energy, renewable energy, decentralised energy generation, energy efficiency, etc.

And we were a fund giving organisation. So our first 10 years were more in terms of calling for proposals. And then from 1984-85, we started doing our own research. And that was the time we also realised that it's not just energy, it's many other things. 

And very soon we realised that it is not research. It is also that you have to implement your projects. You have to have some role or you have to look into the impact of those technologies. So policy also plays an important role and in 1989, we organised an international conference on climate change. 

In 1997, when the entire country was talking about development, we brought out a report called Green India  2047, in which we mentioned that we are growing, but this growth is not sustainable.

We are working in different pillars and different disciplines. So that is our 50 years journey.

Now what we intend to do from now onwards is also that we should look into a total solution, not one. We intend to continue with partnerships, our collaborations with government, multilateral organisations, philanthropic entities and corporations.