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Suresh Prabhu

Date
12 September 2011
Suresh Prabhu

We speak to Mr Suresh P Prabhu, Ex-Federal Cabinet Minister of Industry, Energy, Environment and Forests, Chemicals and Fertilizers, Heavy Industry & Public Enterprises, Government of India, to find out more about the Clean Revolution that is unfolding in India, and how to accelerate this movement.

  • How critical is the role of local governments in triggering a Clean Revolution in the cities of India?

It is ultimately the local concerns that get manifested into national and international actions. As far as the use of clean technologies is concerned, it somehow boils down to our daily lives and hence it’s also a local issue. In India, constitutional amendment earmarks certain responsibilities for local government. Therefore the local governments have a crucial role in triggering the change. But having said that, ability of the local government to adopt to these technologies is difficult, because of absence of capacity at local level as well as inability to integrate the use of these new technologies into day to day lives. Therefore the solution lies in a collaborative approach where actions needs to be taken at a local level, and they have to be supported and adequately assisted from the central government.

  • Need for a network of collaborative institutions for low carbon or renewable technology has been highlighted at several fronts. What do you think is the way to move forward for that?

I don’t believe in the fact that we are in a position to develop laboratories specifically for clean technology research, but what I feel could be a possible solution for this is - integrate and create a network of all research laboratories and then find out how their current research can be tuned to cleaner research. Focus should also be on activities like building an alliance of clean technologies institutions.

  • “Who will finance low carbon growth?” - this question is asked time and again, yet we don’t have the answers. What do you think needs to be done to grow a fertile mentality for green investments among financial institutions in India?   

The financial institutions need to be explained and convinced that financing a non-clean technology activity can jeopardise their finance portfolio because it’s obvious that the social forces and regulatory issues are bound to question any financing that aims at a non-clean activity, hence it's ideal to support low carbon financing. At the same time, more awareness needs to be spread on the facts that for clean ventures, even the payback is very good. Such success stories of companies dealing and prospering with clean technology needs to be showcased so as to generate greater interest among the institutions.

As far as source is concerned, efforts should be made towards creating a corpus for equity and debt from various industrial bodies, multilateral agencies etc. Creation of such mechanism will certainly have a lot of long term benefits, further helping this sector starving for funds. 

  • The mission planned on electric and hybrid vehicles seems very much on the cards. What do you think could be key elements for a practical road map for EVs in India?
I agree with the fact that EVs may be a mode of cleaner transport than the existing vehicles but attaining clean energy for electricity is an issue of greater concern. Therefore for this mission to attain practical approach, a few basic question pertaining to generation of electricity needs to be addressed with greater clarity. In fact access to cleaner electricity will solve several issues rather than just transport problems.

  • With Brazil, South Africa and China now endorsing India’s stand on equity, intellectual property rights and green trade barriers, how important and critical would be India’s role in climate talks at Durban?
To me, the writing is clearly on the wall that India is one of the most vulnerable country facing the threat of climate change and so we need to take a leadership role and look forward for a global deal. We certainly need to switch to a more proactive approach. 

Biography

Suresh Prabhu was a member of Indian Parliament from 1996-2009, and as a Minister with Government of India he was instrumental in introducing power sector reforms that went a long way to protect the environment and ensure sustainable development. Currently he is a member of the United National Commission for Biodiversity and Land Use Change and Chair of the Global Water Partnership, and also a member of several Global and national organizations on diverse subjects.

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