I was invited to speak In New Delhi in the function of Earth Care Awards, instituted by Times of India and Jindal Steel Works on 9th Sept 2011 . The Speech:
Hon Minister and my colleague from IIT Alumni Shri Jayram Ramesh . Hon Minister Mr. Pala , Winners of the Earth Care awards, My colleagues from Panel of Juries, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to sketch before you, on behalf of my colleagues in the jury, a glimpse of the challenges that our panel faced and some strokes of the judgmental brushes that we deployed to complete the final canvass that you are going to view after few moments.
First of all the jury recognized that it is an award institutionalized by the unique combination of the industry, media and the civil society. That itself is powerful and potent combination of the doers. We in jury are, therefore, proud to be part of this initiative of awarding the innovations.
We were also very conscious right from the beginning that, yes, the awards are about distinct efforts by the people for the mitigation of and adaptation to the climate change. But it was more than that. It is now stark reality that climate change is not something a distant thunder but is with us now and is affecting our daily life and is going to remain so for the decades to come. It is given and in spite of our best intentions, we have not done enough about it and simply kept watching it grow. The rich are confident of facing the consequences as they have economic power. The poor have to struggle, as always.
In this context our remit was to assess and appreciate the distinct efforts that made difference to the passive world around us that has deep rooted inertia. We were sure that in doing so, we were not going to just measure the reduction in carbon emission and carbon footprints of the contestants’ projects but look beyond those numbers and assess the scalability, replicability, sustainability and creativity. We decided to microscope the elements of the climate resilient characters in their initiatives.
For us it was amazing to review 57 initiatives of which 18 highly committed initiatives were shortlisted for the further scrutiny.
On personal note, I myself won the climate protection award from USA when working on, the Montreal Protocol. For last twenty years apart from Climate change, I was deeply engaged in assisting 147 developing countries to implement the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. It is singularly successful treaty by any standard. I had the taste of the global and local level success and struggles during those days.
Getting such global award while one is in United Nations and that too from USA is unique distinction but I have no doubt that the work done by the winners of the Earth Care award is more down to the earth and closer to the reality and hence more important. Some of the winners have very thoughtfully considered the climate change not as crisis but opportunity to benefit the bottom of the pyramid.
From Kolkata to Kutch and from ground level efforts to the struggle of saving the fuel 10 mms above the ground, we scrutinized the passions more than the projects. We were making the decision about the amazing initiatives in the dusty villages, rocky terrains, bushy skylines and salty water bodies that are fast depleting with water life. It was tough.
We in jury knew what is bio and what is right. But we were asked to the initiative called bio-rights!
We knew tax and we knew the cuts, but we had to assess the emission cuts attempted while taxing the aircrafts.
We knew people and we knew Energy Efficiency, but we had to appreciate the power of giving the energy efficiency measurements in the hands of the people.
We knew soil and we knew the health, but we had to assess the imitative of the soil-doctors who examined the health of the degrading soil.
We knew energy and we knew cakes, but here we were faced with the evaluating the initiatives called the energy-cakes!!
We knew waste and we knew heat but we have evaluated the climate mitigation by the use of the waste heat!
For me, coming from background of United Nations, the initiatives were strikingly refreshing, so different so positive and full of optimism. I particularly say that because, the present top-down global scenario on climate change was never so sorrier than before. I, have, like many of you have experienced utter frustration on the Kyoto Protocol’s progress.
I recently met couple of the Senators in DC who with reassuring confidence stated that no positive action is remotely possible to address the climate change front for next 2-3 years. Never before I heard so much negative confidence on the climate change issue and that too from the elected politicians. Meeting after meetings, famously called as COP i.e. Conference of Parties, taking place in exotic places like Cancun and now in Durban, we have seen over last two decades that the main outcomes from these high profile crowded meetings are only promises that are not kept.
Hence these bottom-up creativities that we in panel of Jury reviewed were revitalizing, to say the least. They had power of suppressing the frustration that is now cropping up in the international negotiations.
After the jury meetings, I am almost tempted to say that what we need now are not the grandiose annual events, which have really become Conference of Passives. Instead, we need millions of the COPs-Conferences of Passions! Conferences of People. Conference of Panchayats, and Conference of Preraks, to promote the passion for the climate resilient society.
We in jury did face some tweaking issues: The dilemma of breaking the tie on more occasion than one.
Choosing an organization, for example, which is routinely getting high level of funding and flush with the resources vs. that struggling with scarce resources.
Another one was: how we deal with the situation when the candidate organization is part of the government-managed enterprise with substantive organizational and infrastructural backing as against Non-governmental organization striving with its perseverance, which is its only infrastructure!
What approach we take when the public sector organization is going through very bad patch but one of its departments is doing singularly amazing job?
What if one has invented the man made chemical to improve the energy efficiency but if the same chemical has bad effect on other aspects of the environment.
We were also faced with the possibilities of the articulated green wash not so evident in the application of the candidates.
Thus “sequencing the Genome” of the contestants was formidable challenge for us. Finally we realized that it was not about grading the project but rating their passion.
It was not about investigating the outcome and the impacts of their activities but it was about unfolding and comprehending their science of determination and biology of the unwavering faith.
If you allow me to use the contemporary phrase, we in jury were faced with not with the investigating zeal of CBI but encountered with columns and rows of the Anna Hazarian passion and resolute minds of climate change zealots.
The varied background of the jury members helped in taking informed decisions. From technologist like me from IIT to the civil servant achievers like Shailaja Chandra to the civil
Society torch holders like Kartikeya Sarabhai and Anita Benninger-Gokhale and Finance experts like Rajat Gupta and scientists like Dr. Manekar: the diversity of the experience really helped.
You all can envy us for one fact. There is no better place than jury of the Earth Care award to understand the real meaning of the “Grass Root passion”. In a way to days event is reverse award function. Yes, we helped the organizers to give the awards but surely Jury had rewarding experience that takes all of us to the horizon of the real optimism, i.e. the climate change is not insurmountable. That optimism was the award given by the winners to the Jury!
It is said that a judge addresses matters of law. A jury addresses matters of fact. We, as jury for the Earth Care Awards went beyond the facts and addressed the matters related to faith. The faith that prompts us to say that ‘ Yes, we can!”