Garima Gulati, New Delhi

The main theme of the DSDS summit- ‘the Global Challenge of Resource-Efficient growth and development’ was characterized by the three D’s – Debate, Discussion and Decision. “Are we consumers fully aware of sustainability?” was the question posed at the summit to which the responses ranged from adapting the concept of sustainability from a macro perspective to cross cultural influences on sustainable development in cities.  The idea that was propagated was that sustainability needs to be looked at in terms of technological revolutions. The case study of BMW was cited as a success story .The ability of BMW to reduce its carbon output by over 30 % over a period 13 years was seen as a laudable step where technology and sustainable innovation were coalesced into producing a resource efficient car.

The DSDS (Delhi Sustainable Development Summit) has been the flagship conference of TERI since 2001. It was inaugurated on January 31 by Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. It is a global forum that seeks to provide long-term solutions to protect this planet. Held annually, DSDS is the only event of its kind in the world with participation by global stakeholders—multilateral and bilateral development organizations, governments, the corporate sector, non-governmental organizations, and academic and research institutions. Now globally esteemed as a credible summit on global issues related to sustainable development, it continues to provide hope to communities that are lagging behind on development indicators.

DSDS 2013 featured representatives from over 30 countries, including Heads of State, policymakers, academicians and corporate members. Giving a unique insight into the global sustainability agenda, the Summit comprised representation from both developed and developing nations.

The event started with an inaugural address by the Prime Minister. With regard to the theme of this year’s sustainable Summit, the prime minister said,”Humanity has traditionally put its faith in advances of technology to resolve problems of resource scarcities. However, there is now a growing realization that there may be no easy alternatives for some resources, particularly environmental resources. Resource-efficiency is, thus, a necessary condition for sustainable development, and a key element of the economic pillar of sustainability.”

The highlights of the event was the presence of noted columnist of New York Times and former Under Secretary of the UN Mr Thomas Friedman and renowned economist, Director of the Earth Institute and special advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations , USA, Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

Mr Friedman pointed out that the world in the era of connectivity has transformed from being a connected world to being a hyper-connected world. Further, he referred to this phase as the one where “friends can kill you much faster than your enemies” and where “rivals fallings are considered much more dangerous than rivals rising.” He also pointed out that today’s political and diplomatic problems cannot be solved independently, but by aligning with other countries. In the Indian context, Mr. Friedman maintained that a key derivative of the hyper-connectedness is seen from the rising virtual middle class. He also stressed on the fact that “our kids need to be the next re-generation. They need to bring back sustainable values back to the market and Mother Nature.”

On the other hand, Professor Jeffrey Sachs started his session by a comparision between a frog and the human race. He said that a frog is likely to jump out of the water if heated fast enough. However, by gradually increasing the temperature of water, it is possible to kill the frog as well. His question was, how fast can the human race jump?

He pointed out that the landmark treaties addressing climate change , biodiversity and desertification , while crafted well failed to deliver the requisite results. Using the example of Millenium Development Goals, he emphasized on the need for clear plans of action and defined goals to address the problem of climate change with active participation of civil society.

One of the topics that was intensely discussed was the need for greater water use efficiency. There is a growing realization of the importance of devolving ways to achieve the goal of water efficiency, which covers not only the behavioral changes in human habits on water consumption, but also the structural and operational changes required for the agriculture and industrial sectors for optimum utilisation of water. More crop per drop and industrial production per capita of water consumption are the approaches required to be incorporated in the system of water utilization. The improvement of water efficiency also requires structural changes in the policy and governance structure through innovative tools of promotion, and incentives for the efficient water utilization, while simultaneously, dealing with inefficient water consumption through taxes, disincentives, and tariffs. In this regard Envecologic had a discussion with Miss Helen Mountford, Deputy Director of OECD France on the issue of water efficiency. One of the main ideas that emerged from the discussion was to establish water meters and price the users of water in a progressive manner rather than making it free or imposing a flat fee. A cost benefit analysis of the amount of money that is spent on water purchase vs the amount that is spent on visits to the doctor for water related diseases was also suggested.

The valedictory address was delivered by Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairperson, Planning Commission of India. Emphasizing on the need for sustainable practices and policies, Mr. Ahluwalia asserted, “We are pushing for faster and stronger sustainable development. Sustainability is at the forefront of the 12th Plan.” “Behavioral changes and mindset shifts are crucial for sustainable development. Conferences like the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit can trigger major mindset changes,” he quipped.