Why radical collaboration is the gateway to cleaner industrializationJarnail Singh, India Director at The Climate Group
As we head towards 2020 – a critical year in the fight against climate change, it’s clear the need to accelerate action is more urgent than ever. And it’s also clear that no individual country, company or institution can do this alone. It is going to require unprecedented levels of collaboration.
Collaboration has been behind some of history’s greatest achievements from the moon landing, to the sequencing of the human genome. Bringing people from diverse backgrounds together across borders leads to new ways of thinking, better solutions and faster progress. Mutual trust and articulation of a shared vision is essential to successful collaboration.
The 2015 the UN Paris climate Agreement is a shining example of collaboration where national governments came together to agree upon a single document which helped them submit feasible and necessary targets to accelerate climate action. Furthermore, it triggered a chain reaction to drive collaboration between business, scientists and civil society to help national governments find ways to achieve and go beyond their climate pledges.
At the recent UN climate summit, Prime Minister Modi announced plans to increase the renewable energy capacity of India to 450 GW, while also launching the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. The Indian and Swedish governments also launched a new joint initiative to fund innovation projects that can be commercialized within two years. These announcements demonstrate that India is embracing the economy-wide benefits of collaborating to pursue ambitious emissions reductions.
To achieve India’s goals, and the global goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, even more radical levels of collaboration are needed between all levels of government, business and civil society.
One such collaboration led by international non-profit, The Climate Group – is the renewable energy initiative RE100. This is a global platform for influential corporations that are committed to sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewables. The combination of plummeting costs and advancements in energy storage mean that businesses are now embracing renewables not just as a token gesture, but as a good business strategy.
The Climate Group started RE100 along with CDP back in 2014 with a group of just 12 companies. Now, over 200 multinational companies have committed to 100% renewable electricity through RE100, of this we have 49 global companies with operations in India, including five Indian companies. The 200 companies are driving 220 TWh of renewable electricity demand – almost enough to power Indonesia.
However to achieve the challenging – but achievable – goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C to ensure prosperous human survival, we need to reduce emissions from heavy industries, such as cement, steel and aviation. In India, where 70-80% of the infrastructure needed by 2030 is yet to be built, this represents a massive leap – or a missed industrialization opportunity, if it is not capitalized on in time. We know achieving this leap is feasible since there is an expanding body of evidence that shows that reaching net-zero carbon emissions from heavy industry is technically and financially possible by mid-century (Energy Transitions Commission). The key is in the mechanics of how we collaborate and get there at the pace required.
India is recognized globally as one of the most energy-efficient and sustainable markets for cement – and collaborative partnerships are driving its transition. Indian cement makers – such as Ambuja Cement, Dalmia Cement, UltraTech and Shree Cement – are part of the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) which is now housed within the Global Cement and Concrete Association. Being members of the CSI has catalysed innovation within these Indian companies. For example, Ambuja Cement, Dalmia Cement and UltraTech Cement are making significant emissions reductions by using waste products in their blended cements.
Indian cement companies are also collaborating beyond their peers in the cement sector in India to innovate. Dalmia Cement has partnered with the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and IIT Delhi to develop new ways to produce high-blend cements which produce less emissions. Likewise, Ambuja Cements has founded Ambuja Knowledge Centres, working with architects, engineers, and construction professionals to foster product innovation and sustainable construction across the industry, helping both Ambuja and its customers to reduce their carbon footprint.
Further collaborations by Indian business with NGOs are driving emissions reductions – UltraTech Cement, Mahindra Group and Dalmia have signed up to double energy productivity through The Climate Group’s EP100 initiative with the Alliance to Save Energy. Dalmia Cement, Ambuja Cement and Shree Cement have also committed to set science-based targets to help them define how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, both in their direct operations and supply chains. Mahindra and Mahindra, one of India’s largest automotive companies, has already doubled its energy productivity which has saved US$38million through 450 projects across the group.
Within the steel sector, collaboration is also underway. In Sweden, leading companies – SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall – are working together to commercialize fossil free steel by replacing coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with fossil free energy and hydrogen. Elsewhere, Lanzatech – a global renewable energy company that uses waste from steel mills to manufacture low-carbon fuels is working with the world’s largest steel producer ArcelorMittal to build the first ever large-scale plant that will capture waste gas and convert it into bio-ethanol that can be used for lowering emissions from the transport sector.
According to the Energy Transitions Commission, increasing the steel recycling rate from 85% to 95% would cut the need for virgin steel production by two thirds while reducing CO2 emissions by a similar amount. To reach this level of recycling, the steel sector will have to work with its value chain sectors producing automobiles, electrical appliances and industrial equipment, since they could supply steel scrap for the long term.
Such collaborations have the potential to spur growth by catalyzing international trade, finance and technology transfer, even in the largest emitting sectors of our economy.
Collaboration has been at the heart of many of humanity’s most inspiring achievements and signs are emerging that we will look back at the transition to a thriving zero-carbon economy in India and globally as one of them.