India is taking decisive strides in shaping the global agenda on climate resilience. Climate resilience refers to the adoption of policies, governance and management structures at the national and community level to cope with the stresses imposed by climate change. To this end, the Indian government has prioritized ecological investments in its budgetary allocations through initiatives such as the Green Energy Corridor project, cleaning up the Ganges river, and investing in solar power projects.
These endeavors have enabled India to achieve a record USD$10.3 billion in clean energy investments, making it among the top three countries in the latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index. Moreover, ahead of the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, the Indian government committed to reduce carbon emissions by 35% by 2030, reinforcing its position on environmental issues.
However, despite these efforts by the government, the adverse effects of climate change are becoming increasingly tangible—changing monsoon patterns, declining crop yields, extreme weather conditions, water scarcity and energy crises are evident across the country. The most profound impact of these changes are felt by the poor, especially women, who depend directly on natural resources for food, fuel and water.
To tackle the widespread effects of climate change and to complement the macro policy initiatives by the government, small-scale, bottom-up solutions tailored specifically to local issues are on the rise. Led by impact entrepreneurs, the solutions developed include innovative, low-cost climate resilience strategies to solve the problems of the poor. Impact entrepreneurs not only assess the very real, daily implications of climate change on people’s lives so as to enable better adaptation, but also promote the rights of the poor to access resources that can help to mitigate their impact on the environment. Impact entrepreneurs in India are slowly but surely changing the climate resilience landscape through interventions in waste management and clean energy.
Rapid urbanization and increased consumerism have compounded issues of solid waste management in India, with the majority of waste finding its way into unsanitary and overflowing landfills. In particular, plastic waste presents a huge concern – the country generates over 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste annually. Besides straining resources (both fiscal and socio-economic), plastic disposed in landfills can leak pollutants, contaminating soil and water sources. In addition, plastic incineration in landfills releases toxic emissions that affect human well-being and significantly aggravate climate change risks.
India’s impact entrepreneurs are responding to the growing urgency for innovative solutions to tackle the escalating waste management problem. Hyderabad-based plastics recycling business Banyan Nation is one such organization that aims to revolutionize India’s recycling sector. Banyan Nation employs innovative technologies to recycle plastic waste at high quality standards, significantly increasing the lifespan of recycled plastic pellets and reducing the need for new plastic production. Meanwhile, New Delhi-based Ecoware aims to displace plastic disposable tableware with its organic and compostable tableware and food packaging solution. Ecoware’s products are made from bagasse, a natural by-product of sugarcane, and decompose entirely within 90 days leaving zero toxins in either soil or groundwater.
India’s current energy portfolio is heavily reliant on coal and water—the former is making India the world’s fastest growing carbon emitter, while the latter is threatening the supply of thermal and hydroelectric power which is heavily dependent on water availability.
To facilitate access to affordable energy to 14 million Indians who lack power supply, impact entrepreneurs are looking towards the adoption of renewable energy sources such as micro-wind, hydro and solar energy to address remote electrification in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner.
For award-winning Mera Gao Power, the endgame is to enable access to energy for rural and off-grid communities through low-cost solar grids. Energy produced from solar grids mitigates the use of kerosene lamps, which is a major cause of indoor pollution. Further, kerosene increases health hazards by exposure to indoor air pollutants, poisoning, and burns. Vision problems also arise due to insufficient lighting produced by kerosene lamps.
So far, Mera Gao Power has already illuminated more than 22,500 households with solar grids costing on average less than US$1,000 per hamlet. Working with IIX’s Impact Partners, MGP has raised US$500,000 in 2015 to expand its operations and positively impact more lives. IIX continues to follow Mera Gao Power through its growth stages, ready to provide linkage to a network of impact investors when it reaches its next stage in investment readiness.
The impact investing market is exponentially growing in India, from $1.17 million in 2001 to $250 million in 2011. However, it is imperative that we ensure climate resilience is supported by this strong impact investment movement in the region. Impact enterprises offer creative, fiscally sound and environmentally sustainable approaches to address climate risks among India’s poorest people, but the institutional capacity of these impact enterprises needs to be strengthened to better protect livelihoods and promote sustainable development. Therefore, the impact investment community must play a role in both building a pipeline of investment-ready impact enterprises that focus on climate resilience and enlisting impact investors to support these enterprises in order to achieve sustainable climate change mitigation.
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