FEB 2020  
Special Report
Towards a More Equitable and Sustainable World: India’s Efforts and the Imminent Challenges

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are ubiquitous in the manner that they encapsulate a commonly shared vision of development towards a safer, civilized economical space for all individuals to survive on the planet. The global goals illustrate the moral standards that no one and no state will be left behind, and everybody and every government would be seen as having a separate responsibility to raise their share in achieving a global vision. Therefore, in broad terms, all the goals are described as bringing both expectations and difficulties to all countries. All of the strategies and priorities involve important ideas and concerns for both developed and developing countries. Nevertheless, the specific strategies and objectives display different levels of risk and achievement for different countries, focusing on their current developmental stage and national circumstance. With different environmental challenges emerging, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy to concerns such as climate change, clear water and air, employment, sustainable production and consumption and so on.

Redoubling Efforts to Achieve a Truly Universal and Transformative Agenda

By introducing the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, leaders of the world have addressed to free humanity from inequality, secure a healthy planet for subsequent generations, and develop peaceful, inclusionary societies as a base to ensure respectful lives for all. At the heart of this mutual journey is a pledge to leave no one behind. The global goals also focus on lifting millions out from shackles of poverty, ensure food security, quality education within reach of all, provide clean water and air, progress towards sustainable energy, and greater investments for sustainable production and consumption among many others. 

The 2030 Agenda shows clearly the importance of adjusting the goals to the local context so that the measures are important for the execution at the country level. It is valuable to assign categorical variables to the targets, as this generates a country with calculable targets to review the results for local efforts. However, statistical values aren’t included in most of the 169 SDG targets. Based on local environmental and social and economic conditions, how each region sets datatypes for SDG goals is a thing to watch for. In India, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has developed a National Indicator Framework (NIF) consisting of 306 indicators in consultation with other ministries for monitoring the progress of SDGs and its associated targets. The government has published the Sustainable Development Goals National Indicator Framework Baseline Report 2015–16, which provides a benchmark for monitoring progress of the country on the various targets under the SDGs. The Ministry has also developed a dashboard for SDGs to show progress on the indicators. NITI Aayog, a policy think tank of the Government of India, has also constituted a Task Force on implementation of SDGs and developed an SDG India Index to show state-wise position and progress on SDGs.

Challenges Facing the SDGs

The greatest concern is that the performance targets within the SDGs be applied, regulated, and financed. Overlooking the scope for convergence-a major obstacle facing the full implementation of the SDGs is the risk that national governments will choose to lay emphasis only on the targets that comply with their current production agenda.

Data and monitoring challenges

It was proposed that the implementation of the SDGs would be conducted out by national agencies with the help of various UN agencies. Nevertheless, there is an uncertainty that the SDGs going forward might suffer from a lack of tracking power, as there are now even more priorities and goals that need to be followed. Therefore, strengthening data production and the use of better data in policymaking and monitoring need attention as they are becoming increasingly recognized as a fundamental means for development. Also, using reliable data to monitor progress towards the SDGs would allow governments at national and sub-national levels to effectively focus on their development policies, programmes, and interventions.

Financing and the north–south divide

The most divisive challenge facing the SDGs is how they will be supported, as latest estimates indicate that it will take between $5–7 trillion, with an investment gap in developing countries of about $2.5 trillion for achieving the 2030 goals. A remedy may be within a model of sustainable capital that can utilize and catalyse a blend of new investments, international and domestic public resources; moreover, the optimistic reach of the SDGs can be reduced without a solution to the fiscal issue. 

Support development decision-making for the next 10 years

Reflecting on the SDGs and looking ahead to the next 10 years, there is no question that we can deliver on our shared responsibility to put an end to poverty, leave no one at the back and craft a world of dignity for all. However, there are a few aspects that we need to take into account. We need to define the national priority starting point, that is, categorize and correlate national development needs and government policy goals to recognize sectors where there is a visible political/financial commitment to drive progress and growth. Important policy initiatives have outcome-based and well-targeted programmes and schemes that are being executed at national, state and local levels, such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Act (MGNREGA), etc., and the country initiatives of international financial and donor organizations.

There is a need to identify priority subsectors to focus on, that is, focus on improving subfields where there is a need for growth and policy/investment momentum.  Documentation needed here is of a more sector-specific, including sector-specific strategies and intervention initiatives; policy sector-specific programmes at a national and regional level; country progress evaluation of SDGs; and business reports from growth development agencies. There is also a need to identify priority sub-regions to focus on, that is, identify sub-regions where there is both high-development need within each subsector, and strong political/financial momentum to spur potential subsector growth.

The Hon’ble Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Economic Survey 2018–19, emphasized a holistic approach towards India’s 2030 SDGs. The Minister stressed on mainstreaming the ‘Resource Efficiency Approach’ in India’s Development Pathway for achieving SDGs. It is clear through the Economic Survey that the investments required will be on unprecedented scale and size to achieve both SDGs and implement India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to combat climate change.

Policy Initiatives for Sustainable Development: Concerted Global, Regional, National, and Local Efforts

Water and sanitation (SDG 6): Appreciating the relevance of water and sanitation for the attainment of the SDGs, India has taken huge steps towards gaining universal safe sanitation and has been relentlessly working to define common interests and frameworks for working with others to eradicate open defecation from different countries. The ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission presents promising statistics. The number of people practising open defecation in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014 to less than 100 million today. Around 22 states, more than 500 districts and half a million of the villages have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). All the villages on the banks of the Ganga have already been declared ODF. Urban India is also quite close to being deemed ODF. However, there is still some area to cover, but India as a nation is engaged and was able to meet an ODF status by 2019 – the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. This from India’s standpoint contributes significantly to the global success of SDG 6. While the effectiveness of the system can be attributed to the extensive engagement of the general populace, the main driver has been the huge focus on ‘behavioural change’. But what’s more critical is the ‘cultural revolution’ it brought about.

We could not have made substantial strides if we had embraced business-as-usual policy. Collaboratively, we have found and enforced technical solutions at all levels with the highest intensity and passion to bring meaningful benefits to the lives of our people. The subsequent acknowledgement by the World Health Organization (WHO) of the success of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in deterring more than three lakh deaths between October 2014 and October 2019 is very promising and a matter of joy for the whole country.

Sustainable Production and Consumption (SDG 12): The fundamental value of sustainable production and consumption (SCP) as part of the SDG system cannot be downplayed. The world from time to time has emphasized a complete income disparity in the use of world resources. It was stated in UN Secretary General’s High-level panel report that 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty account for only one per cent of world’s consumption of resources, while the richest 1 billion people consume 72 per cent. The scenario also reflects the huge gap between both the average per capita energy consumption and other services in developed and developing countries, and also the massive waste of resources at the consumer end in developed countries which makes it important for developed countries to take the role in transitioning to SCP trends. Certainly, our attempts to put the world economy on a sustainable path must not and should not be on the backs of people. At the very same time, optimizing energy consumption and the use of assets in production methods is incredibly important. Yet again, developed countries must accept to lead from the front and contribute technology transition to developing countries to facilitate this. This holds true in case of tackling issues related to climate change where under the Convention it is stated that all Parties shall encourage and collaborate in the production and transition of technologies that minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Action (SDG 13): Working towards SDG 13 on Climate Action, India is committed at the highest level to meeting its national commitments made to the international community through the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. India’s proactive and sustained actions on climate change mitigation have led to a reduction in the emission intensity of India’s GDP by 21 per cent over the period of 2005–2014. International Solar Alliance (ISA) is the vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, to bring the world together for harnessing the untapped potential of solar energy for universal energy access at affordable rates. India’s solar installed capacity has also increased tremendously over the years. Moreover, the Government is implementing National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) which comprises eight missions in specific areas of solar energy, energy efficiency, water, agriculture, Himalayan ecosystem, sustainable habitat, green India and strategic knowledge on climate change. India is committed to resolute action against climate change as a global champion. But climate change is a global problem and has to be addressed through positive concerted actions on the ground by all countries working together based on their respective capabilities.

Make Decisions, Assess, Measure, and Monitor Outcomes

Furthermore, due to the both-encompassing nature of the term ‘sustainable development’ and the gravity of the concern it is supposed to solve, many treat it as an ambiguous, unworkable principle. Nevertheless, a complete understanding of this sector and its obstacles is crucial in our current setting and can encourage us to pursue a more mindful and benevolent life.

In the run-up to the 2030 development agenda, its complexity and passion must be complemented by sufficient funding and reinvigorated actions to mobilize entrepreneurship, science and technology for sustainable development. For a developing country such as India finance remains critically along with the limited capacity to raise public resources. Nevertheless, a complete understanding of this sector and its obstacles is crucial in our current setting and can encourage us to pursue a more mindful and benevolent life. It is reasonable to pay more regard to the ability of a country to draw additional funding flows, both by mixing it with non-concessional public finance and by utilizing private finance and investment. These market-like products can play a key role in the financing of the post-2015 development agenda.

Therefore, with the given time-period left, it is paramount to work holistically towards accomplishing the 2030 Global Goals, along with each stakeholder in the system to build and strengthen the concern-setting process and acknowledge a diverse range of partners both in the key goal-setting process and in the enforcement of goals. Focusing on inter-sectoral and inter-agency interaction to forge collaboration with non-governmental sectors (industry, society, and the public at large) to establish and achieve goals – is a key predictor. The Energy and Resources Institute’s (TERI), annual flagship event, the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) has over the years emphasized on establishing synergies between, and possible for convergence in, the fundamental principles of country-level planning frameworks especially to address environmental problems, including long-term and regional insights. This year yet again, the WSDS plans to carry forward the discourse on sustainability with a strong focus on the global future with strategic planning for sustainable development with application to impacts both on developing countries and globally. The event, if looked at closely, shall provide a basis for broader national and international discussions and agreement on this issue.

Ms Biba Jasmine is a Fulbright-Nehru scholar with a major in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology from the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. She is currently working on a GoI-GEF-UNDP Project.

© TERI 2020

Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013

The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in Indias CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers.

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at or by e-mail to [email protected]

Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
[email protected]