On May 4, 2023, the annual Climate Asia conference, ‘Building a Sustainable Legacy for a Greener Tomorrow, was held in New Delhi, India. The conference aimed to bring together a diverse set of stakeholders – funders, NGOs, climate and research organisation’s, experts and individuals working in the climate space, and members of the media- to discuss the challenges posed by climate change, explore opportunities for action, and identify innovative solutions.
The conference included four-panel discussions focusing on empowering the workforce, enhancing resilience and mitigation through gender-sensitive approaches, scaling impact and driving change in climate philanthropy, and navigating challenges and opportunities in health, mental health, and climate.
The speakers included: Dr. Parveen Dhamija (Skill Council for Green Jobs), Dr. Debajit Palit (NSB-NTPC School of Business), Dr. Sabina Dewan (JustJobs Network), Nidhisha Philip (Acumen), Rahul Balakrishnan (Arthan), Dr Indu K Murthy (Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy), Dr. Sona Mitra (IWWAGE), Mansiben Shah [Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)], Aarti Khosla (Climate Trends), Aiswarya Ananthapadmanabhan (Arthan), Raj Mariwala (Mariwala Health Initiative), Dr. Arun Sharma (University College of Medical Sciences), Abha Dandekar (Elephant in the Room Consulting, Raintree Family Office and Raintree Foundation), Shahaab Javeri (SELCO Foundation), Koushik Yanamandram (Climate Asia), Aparna Khandelwal (India Climate Collaborative), Siddharth Chaturvedi (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Moutushi Sengupta (AVPN) and Satyam Vyas (Climate Asia).
The conference commenced with a captivating keynote address by CEO of Growald Climate Fund Joanna Messing, which shed light on the opportunities and pathways for climate action.
“While climate change can sometimes seem overwhelming and scary and overwhelmingly negative, there is actually another narrative present which is the narrative of hope. While it’s true that climate change is creating damage and harming communities and nature. The pathway to solving climate change can also offer a positive and hopeful vision. For example, clean energy offers the positive co-benefits of clean air and clean water and makes economic sense. The transformation to a clean energy economy offers economic opportunities with new businesses, new job development, new technologies, and new development models.”
She also highlighted, “We also need to think of how we spend our time and careers in a global crisis. In every disruption, there comes great opportunities for those new solutions and new technologies. That means a whole new sector of opportunities. There is a way to think of every job as a climate job whether it’s in a corporation, whether it’s in the government, thinking about how every company will need to build climate risk, resilience & opportunity into their climate models.”
The lack of skilled human capital in the green sector is a major challenge, and addressing this requires improving courses and curriculum and promoting cross-learning between theory and industry practices. The panel on ‘Paving the Way for Green Careers: Building a Sustainable Future’ underscored the importance of creating and promoting green jobs to solve climate change. It further shed light on social entrepreneurship and investment playing a critical role in addressing climate change and supporting workers who are impacted by it.
The panel on ‘Enhancing Resilience and Mitigation through Gender-sensitive Approaches’ threw light on the evolution of integrating gender priority into climate action projects. Some pertinent takeaways from the discussion included the need for relevant data and research models that consider differential impacts and responses while breaking the norm of structured research to find innovative solutions. The importance of organizing women, enabling economic ownership, and adopting a human-centered approach was highlighted in the context of green jobs and upskilling for women. Furthermore, the intersection of gender, climate change, and cultural norms, including loss of livelihoods, mobility restrictions, and caregiving responsibilities, were recognized as barriers that must be addressed.
The second keynote address by Harish Hande, CEO of SELCO Foundation, provided the perspective on the health-energy-nexus. “Health is a fundamental right, it’s not a luxury. “Health- Energy-Climate is a huge potential for adaptation and future mitigation. Health is going to push companies to come up with different innovations. Hopefully that what we learn from the health sector can actually go into livelihoods, and the way public assets are done in these centers, we can actually learn how other public assets can be maintained in other sectors. Health is critical in terms of innovation, in terms of delivery, in terms of accessibility”.
Panel on ‘The Intersection of Public Health, Mental Health and Climate: Challenges and Opportunities for Vulnerable Communities’ emphasized the need to incorporate a mental health lens when planning disaster mitigation strategies. The panel also addressed the lack of oversight on mental health and its impact on various vulnerable communities. The discussion further broadened the horizon around the impact of climate change and mental health on indigenous tribal adivasi communities, oppressed castes, oppressed races, queer, trans or LGBTQIA communities, and persons living with disability.
The final keynote address by Sameer Shisodia, CEO of Rainmatter Foundation, addressed the audience on the theme of climate change and philanthropy “What is climate but the outcome of series of bad trade-offs we made for hundred of years, in our road building, in our construction, in our food system, in our choice of fabrics, in our design of industry, the economy itself and if we have to fix this, we have to be able to reverse in everything we do again. It’s an everything, everyone, all at once problem. This necessarily needs every citizen, every actor to understand this, to understand how climate problems intersect with their lives, the choices and opportunities they have to actually influence this, to get better outcomes for generations to come.”
On funding, he highlighted that “The need for flexible funding is important because a lot of climate problems are gigantic, and if you want to leave them truly solved, funding needs to support a lot of ecosystem places that are available as a response to people as they start to understand their needs. When I am referring to funding, this refers to philanthropic and CSR funding, but it also refers to government plans, programs, and schemes”.
Panel on ‘Navigating Climate Philanthropy: Scaling Impact and Driving Change’ opened with various climate philanthropy initiatives and the experience of working with various stakeholders, including government agencies. On the discussion of challenges arising for not-for-profits when seeking support from funders, Aparna Khandelwal, Sr. Advisor, Climate and Finance, India Climate Collaborative, highlighted, “One of the focus areas must be communication since there’s often a gap of understanding between donors and nonprofits. Through better communication, donors and nonprofits will understand that no one organization can solve every climate challenge, and therefore to get better outcomes – collaboration is key”.