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Ambassador Ronen Sen's inaugural address at the "Green India Summit" at the US Chamber of Commerce

Washington, DC 
October 15, 2008

Secretary William S. Cohen,
Ron Somers,
Ladies & Gentlemen,

It is a privilege for me to have the opportunity to inaugurate the Green India Summit. I compliment CII and USIBC on their impeccable timing. Last Friday, India and the United States signed a landmark agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation, which will be remembered in history as a truly transformational event in India-US relations. The agreement marked the culmination of a historic process, as well as a new beginning. The agreement should now usher in a new era of mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation, including for addressing our shared challenges of energy security and climate change. I express my deep appreciation to the USIBC, the Coalition for Partnership with India, and the US Chamber of Commerce, for their unstinting support in bringing this initiative to fruition. Thank you, Ron, and your fine team for your contribution to this lasting legacy of India-US relations.

We are honoured that our Minister of Power, Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde, and the US Secretary of Commerce, the Honorable Carlos Gutierrez, will join us later today. The participation from India and the US reflects the importance of this issue in India’s development strategy and the enormous potential for India-US cooperation in addressing the underlying challenges.

Population and size of the economy has already made India one of the world’s leading producers and consumers of energy, even though nearly 500 million of our people are yet to have access to electricity. Our per capita consumption of energy is among the lowest in the world. The energy intensity of our economic growth has declined by nearly 50% from the level in early 1970s and is comparable to best global standards.

Increasing population, rising prosperity, growing industrial production, intensifying agriculture practice, expanding infrastructure and multiplying traffic will cumulatively create an enormous requirement of energy and natural resources in India. We will, for example, need to expand our power generation capacity from the current level of 160,000 MW to at least 800,000 MW by the beginning of 2030s. This will require a comprehensive response to minimize the impact on our natural resources and climate.

In India, we are at a stage of development where we can take steps to avoid the mistakes that developed countries had made in the past. We can leapfrog into a new generation of technologies, processes and practices that would place us on a more environment-friendly development path. Technological developments have also opened new possibilities. Despite the limitation of our resources and the enormity of our developmental challenges, and despite the fact that India’s per capita GHG emission is about one-fourth of the global average, we are committed to pursuing a greener economic strategy. We wish to do that in our interest and for the common good of all humanity.

For one, conservation has been an intrinsic part of India’s civilizational heritage. This is seen in the reverence of Nature as a nurturing force. Environmental concerns are also manifested throughout our modern history – in Mahatma Gandhi’s profound call for protection of our planet; in Smt. Indira Gandhi’s participation as the only visiting Head of Government at the UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972; in the creation of a Ministry of Forests and Environment and a Department for Non-Conventional Energy Sources in early 1980s; or, in the establishment of Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency in 1987.

We also remember the extraordinary legacy of industrial pioneers in India in recognizing industry’s responsibility to consider the environmental impact of their activities. I recall the words J.R.D. Tata, written in his Foreword to The Creation of Wealth in 1992: “I believe that the social responsibilities of our industrial enterprises should now extend even beyond serving people, to the environment.”

There are also practical reasons for bringing environmental concerns at the centre of corporate planning. Businesses will have to increasingly contend with strong public concerns on the environmental impact of these activities; higher international standards; with stronger regulatory framework at home; with competitive challenges from more efficient rivals with cleaner and cheaper products; and the consequences of natural disasters. Businesses will probably be operating in a new economic paradigm, where environment will be treated as a resource in production and consumption. Ability to adapt will determine success for businesses and as well as nations. 

Both our government and our private sector are responding decisively to the challenge of charting a greener future for India. The Prime Minister’s National Action Plan for Climate Change launched in July 2008; the Electricity Act of 2003 with strong incentives and mandate for development of renewable energy; the renewed emphasis on nuclear energy; programmes for energy audit and labeling; and the energy efficiency initiatives in the industrial, transportation and construction sectors are some of the more recent steps taken by us. 

We see it in ITC India’s quest to become the first corporate entity in the world to have a triple green rating, of being carbon positive, water positive and with zero solid waste emission. We see it in the CII’s remarkable initiatives, such as the standard-setting Green Business Centre in Hyderabad, the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development, or its Programme of Voluntary Disclosure of GHG Emissions. India today also has the largest number of registered CDM projects in the world. There is also a positive trend in investments in renewable energy.

All these augur well for the future. Yet the task of making a decisive shift from the patterns of the past will not be easy, especially for developing countries. Whether we talk of clean and renewable energy, greater energy efficiency, reducing pollution, minimizing industrial wastes and increasing recycling, it would require a mix of technological breakthroughs, financial resources and incentives, within a framework of strong domestic commitment and deeper international cooperation.

India-US cooperation can be an important component of this strategy. This will not be merely for the benefit of our two countries. The solutions we create could also be applied elsewhere in the world. Energy is a key element of our bilateral agenda. Today, we have a comprehensive bilateral Energy Dialogue that includes five components (i) Oil and Natural Gas (ii) Coal (iii) Power and Energy Efficiency (iv) New Technologies and Renewable Energy and, finally ofcourse, (v) Civil Nuclear Energy. 

However, whatever the two governments do, the full potential of India-US cooperation can only be realized if private sectors in both our countries substantially increase their engagement. The Summit today is an important step in that direction; and I once again congratulate USIBC, CII and its partners for taking the initiative of holding this conference.