Global cooperation will be vital to address environmental challenges like air pollution

By Kealan Finnegan

It is well known that India faces a significant challenge to improve the air quality in its cities.

Up to 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are Indian, causing detrimental impacts to the health and quality of life of its residents, including increased risk of diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neonatal disorders and respiratory diseases.

Fortunately, there are solutions available to improve and manage such problems, while also maintaining positive economic growth and development.

These come in the form of solutions that help us to use clean energy sources and improve energy efficiency through the transport we use and the work and every-day practices we conduct for example, like using electric vehicles or buying more environmentally-friendly products. On the other hand, there are innovative products and services that can help to relieve existing issues, such as pollution masks and air quality monitoring, to mitigate adverse circumstances and maximise use of resources.

India is making progress in air quality and broader environmental sustainability, thanks in part to its National Clean Air Programme which aims to reduce air pollution levels by up to 30% (against a 2017 base level) by 2024, but, like all countries, has a long way to go.

With the country’s annual renewable additions almost doubling from 2020, India will be a key contributor to the global renewables upswing expected in 2021 as a large number of wind and solar PV projects are expected to become operational. This is all part of a highly ambitious target of 450 GW of renewable power by 2030.

Global integration and cooperation are essential to successful climate change efforts, due to the varying levels of development and capabilities worldwide and owing to the global nature of climate change. With the UK hosting this year’s UN Climate Change Conference – COP26 – in Glasgow in November, and India among the key drivers of the climate change agenda, there has never been a better, or more important, time for UK-India collaboration on shared ambitions.

There are countless opportunities for collaboration in this area that would present a win-win for UK and India, and indeed the world, helping to grow trade and investment, create jobs, contribute to green recovery, and overcome climate change challenges. In air quality in particular, electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure will play an important part in the solution, as part of the transition to renewable and clean energy sources.

Such collaborative and system-wide programmes are already in operation. Energy Systems Catapult, an independent centre of excellence that bridges the gap between industry, government, academia and research, was set up to accelerate the transformation of the UK’s energy system and ensure UK businesses and consumers capture the opportunities of clean growth. Together with its partners, Connected Places and Satellite Applications Catapult (all funded by Innovate UK), Energy Systems Catapult launched a two-year joint initiative in India – the Innovating for Clean Air (IfCA) programme – providing opportunities for businesses to improve air quality monitoring and electric vehicle interventions.

The IfCA programme supports UK and Indian firms to develop innovations to improve air quality and tackle pollution at source in India (with initial programmes in Bengaluru) by addressing challenges related to charging infrastructure, grid management and the integration of renewable energy. This helps to bring a variety of stakeholders together and make use of their unique solutions to tackle challenges across the system. Through the programme the Catapults have worked with the Directorate of Urban Land Transport to pedestrianise a street in Bangalore – Clean Air Street – to showcase air quality and electric vehicle innovations, in addition to supporting UK and Indian organisations in developing pilot projects. You can read more on the programme here.

It is no exaggeration to say that global climate change goals simply will not be met if India does not meet its own climate goals, as one of the largest countries in the world and by nature one of the most energy and resource demanding. This burden comes with great responsibility, but thereby an opportunity to make India a prominent global player on the most important issue of our lifetimes. The UK too must play its part and by working together, utilising the best of both our innovation, ideas, and technologies, the ambitious, but necessary, global and domestic climate goals can be achieved.

The UKIBC will support our members and clients in this space by working with them and across our extensive network in the UK and Indian Governments for the shared goal of environmental sustainability and development.

Get a free consultation with one of our India Advisers