The week before started for me at the prestigious Milken Institute’s annual conference in Los Angeles: I had been invited to participate on three panels. Two of them were environmentally focused and one of them looked specifically at India. The environment panels were a great platform to bang the drum for renewables with some of the most influential and powerful players in corporate America.
However, recent polls I have seen show that the environment friendly and green part of the energy matrix – though a concern for the public and politicians – is less of a priority for businesspeople. However, by connecting energy security (always a contentious topic in the US) with green issues I was able to make a compelling case for wind.
A revised Climate Bill is needed as soon as possible in the US (although there is little chance of one before the mid-terms) if green jobs are to be created, energy security realized and, yes, an impact made on the climate change issue. The panel on India was less well attended (probably due to the 8am start time!) but interesting nevertheless. Many questions were made about India’s bureaucracy or machinery of government. But I made the point that, actually, when it comes to the environment the Indian Government has done significantly more than most other countries. Yes, of course we need to reduce the red tape but let’s not lose sight of some of the very real and positive things we are doing at a macro level.
People sometimes ask how useful such events are. I was staggered to learn that the 3,000 attendees of Milken collectively manage the equivalent of 18 per cent of global GDP; I think that answers the question!
I then traveled to Washington DC for a joint meeting of Indian and American energy regulators at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It is redundant to say that the U.S is pushing hard towards creating a low carbon economy - that at this juncture is a future every country strives for. The question is whether the efforts can be taken out of the clutches of merely political propaganda to be driven purely on market forces. I firmly believe that it is critical for the growth of a new low carbon economy that market forces and public demand be allowed to determine the shape of the future, and not simply politics.
America has huge wind and solar potential, both as means for job creation and energy security. I believe that the country can retake the lead in the renewable energy space - but it calls for radical change in policy mandate. The meeting was an attempt to put in place standards and practices that drive growth and development while maintaining a clear view of natural market drivers. It is fantastic that meetings like this happen: there are key learning’s for both sides and progressive dialog between two of the world’s greatest democracies has to be a good thing.
Later that evening I was very humbled to be presented, by Meera Shankar – India’s Ambassador to the US – with LEED’s Platinum Certificate for One Earth, our new global headquarters based in Pune. Effectively that certifies us as having the greenest corporate building in the world. I was incredibly proud to receive that certificate and felt – as I told those gathered on Thursday night – motivated even further (if that were possible) to spread the green message wider and deeper than ever before.
This week I travel to Brussels for the World Economic Forum’s Europe conference – I am both a panelist and discussion leader there. I hope to meet senior European Commission staff as well as a range of media concerned with what remains the greatest threat to humanity: climate change.