November 09, 2011

Reflecting back on the NY delegation– Gurrein Madan

I am back in India, ready to go to school in another hour. But I feel as if I am still in New York with the other commissioners- discussing whether energy consumerism will surpass its production, hearing strong opinions on whether education on climate change must become mandatory or simply laughing at the heavy food offered at TGIF’s. The trip to New York was enriching, productive and fabulous.

The opportunity to meet people who are taking actions to promote and establish sustainable development was rewarding. I was exposed to techniques and ideas which are contributing to the development in the field. The trip gave me a global perspective about climate change; at the same time, I was able to relate to certain practices which would benefit my country and in particular, my state. I was impressed by the practice of hydroponics at the Science Barge and Sun works center. Punjab (the state where I live) predominantly depends on agriculture for its income. Resultantly, it faces land shortage. The concept of Hydroponics can be applied anywhere and it can surely be used in such a state where most people get their living from crop production.

The talks at UNIDO with Dr. George Assaf, at UNDP with Stephen Gitonga, at UNISDR and the lecture by Baroness Amos made me realize that sustainability may not always be the priority. Governments and organizations such as the UN must take into account a variety of factors before taking action. A country like Somalia would prefer to establish peace and harmony rather than build on its energy policies. Yet, we must be imperative as individuals since climate change will ultimately affect us!

This is a short list of priorities and suggestions that we must address in order to effectively manage energy and build on a sustainable environment:

1. Education: One must be educated about the environment enough to truly understand the depth and nature of the issues that climate change imposes. Albeit the commissioners had a vigorous discussion about how exactly education about climate change must be incorporated, we all agreed that it is vital for the public to understand what we will face in the future if we continue at the same rate.

2. Access to financing: Given the scale of the effort, access to various sources of financing is critical, particularly for the initial capital. Subsidies by governments, concessional loans from various sources, grants, cross subsidization etc are essential for the setup of renewable industries.

3. Increasing energy efficiency: The vast majority of energy demand growth is expected to come from lower middle income countries such as China and India, driven by rapid industrialization and increasingly wealthy population scaling up the demand for cars, household appliances etc.  Increased energy efficiency can be achieved by an integrated approach, with multi-lateral organizations, governments, utilities, municipalities, industry and the public sector working together and in parallel. Increasing the energy efficiency will lead to a higher system reliability which raises productivity and income.

4. Research: Man simply requires energy- whether it is from wood, petrol or the sun. We must invest more into research in order to produce effective, useful alternatives to non renewable sources. I was quite impressed by the research on Organic Solar Cells going on at the University of Warwick and at NYU.

I loved every moment of the trip- so thank you Kevin, Jo, Graeme and Caroline for meticulously planning the delegation, and the Junior Commissioners- Kitty, Nirali, Bakht, Ben, Massimo, Jarel, Tommy and Dudu for making it memorable in every sense. I loved- as Ben has put it- ‘the laughter, the intent concentration and the overall excitement’. I learnt so much from all of you and I hope we can remain friends throughout. I look forward to meeting Elliam during the final Junior Commission meeting (Hopefully!). Finally, I would like to thank IGGY and the sponsors for making this trip possible.

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