WSDS 2023 is an occasion to have a collective voice for action: Vibha Dhawan, DG, TERI

By Rajiv Tikoo, Naina Gautam February 19, 2023

TERI’s upcoming World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) promises to be an important knowledge platform in sustainable development discourse for action between the ongoing G20 and COP 28 later this year. Dr. Vibha Dhawan, Director General, TERI, talks to Rajiv Tikoo and Naina Gautam about the importance of WSDS and how the deliberations between global leaders are expected to further action on critical issues like climate change. Edited excerpts 

WSDS 2023 is an occasion to have a collective voice for action: Vibha Dhawan, DG, TERI
World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) promises to be an important knowledge platform.

What is the special significance of WSDS 2023 this year? 

People today are basically looking for answers.  They are saying that climate change is a reality and what are we doing to address it. To act, we need to have a collective voice.  This year is very important because first of all the COP 28 will be also held in Asia. It will be a stock taking occasion.  

President Designate of COP 28, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, will be attending WSDS and listening to the deliberations. It will help in defining agenda for the COP. Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is also attending. Similarly, senior representatives of institutions like ADB will also get an insight into the thinking of key stakeholders. Important voices of the global south like that of the Vice-President of Guyana will be heard with a high level of interest. WSDS 2023 is an occasion to have a collective voice for action. 
With India holding the presidency of G20, how much emphasis is on furthering the voice of the global south on sustainable development?

Since India has the presidency of G20 this year, we are talking to other nations on a host of issues. The USP of both G20 and COP28 this year is that the voice of the global south is being heard. It should become COP of the South.  G20 is also a platform for raising a collective voice and furthering action. G20 is working through many verticals so that we don’t leave anything unattended.  So it is not just about policy thinking process, it is also about galvanising action. TERI is also involved in G20 at different levels as a knowledge partner. We are also raising important issues because those are based on studies.  

Vibha Dhawan
Dr. Vibha Dhawan, DG, TERI

The global action has been falling short on action on technology and climate finance for decades. What are your expectations from the summit?

There are many things that are in our hands. There are some things that are not in our hands. Let us take the case of technologies. Where are the required technologies? Who has these? Are these available free of cost or IPR-protected? If one wants to adopt these technologies, where is the money? We also need to explore the possibility of co-developing technologies. It is always useful to discuss such issues in larger forums and analyse the problems and devise solutions. 
How do you look back at the sustainable development discourse since Stockholm? 

When we started talking in 1972, it was very forward looking.  So much has happened over the last 50 years. Sometimes we are a little too early and that is what Stockholm was. 
TERI, too, will be also 50 next year. How are you reinventing yourself? 

Next year we are going to complete 50 years of our existence.  Times have changed. The recipes of yesterday are not going to work today. Therefore, TERI is reinventing itself and that is what we are focusing on at the moment. We have established TERI School of Advanced Studies and we are offering unique courses over there. Others are also following us now. Even at the TERI University we are looking at what should we be doing now and what should we change and so on. Inter-disciplinary approach is becoming important as climate changes and other disciplines are closely interlinked.