The International Cooperation Forum, Switzerland, hosted its 2022 hybrid and interactive conference in April, enabling a CO2 neutral event that included participants from across the world. Led by experts and scholars in the field of environment and climate change, as well as journalists and prominent world leaders, a plethora of climate issues were discussed.
Speaking at the event under the topic ‘Cities: Pioneers in tackling climate change’, Ms. Supriya. Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Climate Change and Forests, Tamil Nadu state, India, lauded the CapaCITIES project, adding that it has enabled local authorities to respond with timely solutions to various climate crisis.
The project is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and its second phase is being implemented in India in two partner states – Gujarat and Tamil Nadu – and eight cities to mainstream climate action by enhancing their capacities to adopt integrated climate-resilient planning, design innovative private-public finance mechanisms and develop climate-resilient infrastructure.
Emphasising the Tamil Nadu government’s undivided support and the availability of resources for immediate climate actions, Ms Sahu said that the state budget for 2022 included a substantial allocation for tackling climate crisis. Tamil Nadu has also launched a first-of-its-kind special purpose vehicle called the Tamil Nadu Green Climate Company, which will work as a partnership between the public and private sectors to generate resources and raise funds, while offering equity to partner organisations who share mutual interest in projects that contribute to a greener environment.
Ms Sahu stressed the importance of climate literacy as a priority so that people understand climate change and its implications. The state has launched a programme to this effect called the Climate Literacy project, which looks to include climate crisis as a need-of-the-hour subject across educational institutions and platforms.
Hon’ble Municipal Commissioner of Rajkot Amit Arora spoke about Rajkot’s initiatives towards reducing GHG emissions through energy-efficient social housing and electrification of public transport. He added that the city planned to increase groundwater recharge systems and the share of renewable energy in municipal services, and to improve last-mile connectivity through bike-sharing systems and e-rickshaws.
ICLEI South Asia too presented an inspiring story of change from Coimbatore at the event. In an impactful video on the city’s climate action journey, Hon’ble Municipal Commissioner of Coimbatore Mr. Raja Gopal Sunkara said the city has emerged as a lighthouse following the successful implementation of several pilots under its Climate Resilient and City Action Plan. He said the plan “defines specific actions on how to address them…. Coimbatore is a pioneer in this field. We are one of the first cities in India to have a climate action plan that combines adaptation and mitigation.” Ms. Soumya Chaturvedula, Deputy Director, ICLEI South Asia, led the audience through the video of how Coimbatore is combating the climate crisis under the CapaCITIES project. Aided by SDC, the city corporation and ICLEI South Asia have worked on a climate-resilient city action plan that includes a greenhouse emission gas inventory, which maps and addresses the risks of the climate crisis. Coimbatore city is now home to a 1.5-tonne per day biomethanation plant that combines both climate change adaptation and mitigation. The plant produces biogas from waste collected from local markets, hotels and households, which in turn is used to generate power to light up the compound area of the plant. A classic example of climate innovation, this initiative negates carbon dioxide and methane emissions from waste disposal and power generated from coal. Local residents have benefitted extensively from this innovative technology. Though there have been challenges of segregation of waste at source and in the functioning of the plant, there have been learnings as well that have now resulted in a success model.
The Periyakulam Lake in Coimbatore has also had a makeover with intervention from the city and its partner organisations. The extensively polluted lake had posed a threat to the marine ecosystem, besides emitting potent gases such as nitrous oxide and methane. Supported by technical guidance and expertise, the project has transformed the lake with better wastewater management system, improving the water quality and thereby aiding a healthy ecosystem for marine beings, plants and birds.
With both projects proving to be winners, Coimbatore now has a larger bio-methanisation plant in the works, and a proposal for a floating solar PV system has been submitted.