This year, Delhi recorded the second warmest April since 1951 with a monthly average temperature of around 40.2 degrees Celsius. Over the past few weeks, the nation’s capital has also seen temperatures soar to 49 degrees celsius as a heatwave grips parts of the country under its tight grip. Around the same time, flash floods submerged parts of northeastern India, killing at least 25 people in Assam and displacing thousands so far.
The devastating impact of these and other climate phenomena across the country has made it clear that India has a long struggle to fight against climate change. A recent report by the Deloitte Economics Institute stated that unchecked climate change would put 80 per cent of India’s GDP at risk with sectors such as services, manufacturing, retail, tourism, construction and transport bearing the biggest climate-related losses for 50 years. forward. many years. Interestingly, climate change also offers $26 trillion in growth opportunities globally, according to the New Climate Economy report.
With this background, what India needs is a strong group of professionals trained in science with a particular focus on climate risk and sustainability. This is where the next obstacle lies. Being highly vulnerable to climate change, India has a greater need for research and education on the ground but the country reportedly has only a few thousand people formally trained to deal with it even as governments and companies are willing to take action. to reduce the risk of climate change.
It all comes down to the number of courses offered in the subject and studies of climate and sustainability, unfortunately, it remains a specialized subject taught in a number of colleges and universities in India.
What do we have
Sudhir Sinha, professor of practice at the Rural Management Institute, Anand, feels India could definitely do it with more courses. “In India, not many universities and institutions offer specialized courses in climate studies or science itself. But courses in environmental science are common now. Almost all top-ranking universities and IITs in India offer courses in environmental studies,” said the CSR and sustainability expert. As such, he also points out that Indian universities do not have a wide variety of courses in environmental science that meet emerging needs.
In India, there are certain universities that offer courses related to the field. Anant National University in Ahmedabad, for example, offers B.Tech with a specialization in climate change. Shiv Nadar University in Greater Noida has a program in climate change and environmental studies. The Institute of Energy and Resources in Delhi offers a Master’s degree in climate science and policy. In terms of IITs, we have IIT Bombay which has an interdisciplinary program in climate studies at doctoral level and IIT Hyderabad also runs several courses and electives in the subject. In the south, there is IISc Bengaluru which offers studies in climate science but only at Masters and doctoral levels and has the Divecha Center for Climate Change, a single institution that conducts research in the field. The National Skill Development Corporation has also included sustainability issues in its courses. Apart from that, there are also online courses.
The landscape of the field is also constantly changing, so it is important for professionals to continuously improve their skills.
Sinha explained the point through the lens of the net-zero target. He said while a sustainability team at a company generally has professionals with expertise or qualifications in environmental science, with a net zero target, the requirements are different. Net zero, he said, is a very specific technical concept that companies seek to strike a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere and the carbon emitted from it.
“Therefore, every company must have special expertise with the right qualifications in climate studies in its sustainability team. However, to get such qualified professionals is a challenge in India. The Indian company somehow manages the sustainability vertical with a general environmental expert with a degree in environmental science,” he added.
Professionals in the field are of the view that the subject is better taught at foreign universities. Columbia University in the US, for example, runs the Columbia Climate School, in partnership with The Earth Institute, offering a variety of sustainability programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and PhD levels—enabling students to become managers who understand issues in science and sustainability.
In the UK, the University of Oxford not only offers internships to undergraduate and postgraduate students through the Institute for Environmental Change, but also awards a number of scholarships to students to undertake research in the field.
The University of Queensland in Australia runs a full-fledged School of Earth and Environmental Sciences that offers a wealth of undergraduate, honors, postgraduate and research studies in subjects such as environmental management, environmental science and more.
“I feel that people who study sustainability abroad get a wider exposure of the global context. Climate science is a growing subject and, in my opinion, the course structure is much more up-to-date. Some Ivy League and foreign universities are quite on top of the latest research and cutting-edge arguments about why it matters. I feel, on the Indian scene, that is definitely lacking,” said Aarti Khosla, director, Climate Trends, adding that in India, the desire and desire of individuals to do so is the driver and not what has been taught and the implementation of the learning.
Awareness Increases, Opportunities Increase
The Carbon Disclosure Project, a global NGO that collects environmental data voluntarily submitted by companies, in its annual Indian disclosure report released in March this year revealed that corporate climate governance is important to Indian businesses in such a way that it has become a core element of internal management. for many of them.
About 53 companies that responded identified 77 acute physical risks that indicate extreme weather events that pose an immediate threat to the livelihoods of people and organizations. This financially impacting climate-related risk is pegged at Rs. 1.434 billion in the report. This only makes the case stronger for having more people adept at driving the company’s sustainability vertical.
Sustainability requires hard skills and soft skills, says Shailly Kedia, senior fellow and associate director at The Energy and Resources Institute, Delhi. “Companies are seeking technical skills such as energy auditing, waste management, policy advocacy and compliance.”
Chaitanya Kalia, partner and national leader, Climate Change & Sustainability Services, EY India, said, “Today, there is a growing awareness and need for sustainability experts as businesses have increased the adoption of sustainability into the core functions of their operations and supply chains. . Over time, more businesses will adopt a sustainability-based approach to their core functions.”
In fact, EY, in collaboration with Hult International Business School, also provides its employees with fully accredited master’s degrees in sustainability—free of charge.
Married to Management and Sustainability
Dipankar Ghosh, leader, sustainability and ESG at BDO India, believes that subjects related to climate change and sustainability should be integrated into the curriculum of an MBA or BBA program and not just an optional paper or specialization,
“Business leaders today and tomorrow need to have insight into how doing so creates business resilience by reducing risk and opening up opportunities. What the industry needs is not independent knowledge about climate change and sustainability, but an understanding of the business impact it can have,” said Ghosh.
Bengaluru-based Garvita Gulhati, founder and CEO of Why Waste?, agrees. “We obviously need more courses in sustainability but more than that, we need all aspects to be seen through a sustainability lens. Instead of introducing new courses in sustainability, we should integrate the subject with existing courses,” said a young activist and entrepreneur who focuses on optimizing water consumption and was selected by the United Nations for last year’s global climate change campaign.
Policy targets will be key in boosting institutions, Kedia said, adding that there is a need for a policy framework to develop and track courses. “They should have not only degree courses but also refresher courses and skills upgrading modules. The science-policy-practice interface could be strengthened and the skills approach could have greater involvement from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ministry of Jal Shakti and Ministry of Rural Development,” he suggested.
Apart from creating specialized institutions for research and development, the situation demands that the existing academic system introduces mixed courses with an inclusive approach along with specialized courses in climate studies to suit diverse needs.