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Given the emergence of the global health crisis in 2020 and the economic fallout thereafter, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and its partners, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-India, World Resources Institute-India, The Nature Conservancy-India, Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wetlands International-South Asia (WI-SA), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Development Alternatives (DA), World Wildlife Fund-India (WWF) and the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), discussed the need to initiate discourse on mainstreaming nature into the economic recovery process in India.

These discussions led to the initiation of a webinar series under the overarching theme of rebuilding nature as a response to COVID-19. The series was titled ‘Investing in Nature to Build Back Better’ and it aimed to generate and foster discourse on how we can lay the groundwork for scaling up transformation as part of a ‘green new normal’. It brought together decision-makers, experts, and practitioners to discuss the significance of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration, and find ways to mobilize investments into nature as we build back better. The webinar series concluded in March 2021, bringing valuable insights on nature rebuilding to the fore. Collectively, these webinars help identify ways to recognize, demonstrate and capture reflections on the benefits of investing in India’s unique biodiversity and natural resources. It provides a powerful message that building back better is needed now more than ever.

CPI’s former Aisa Director, Mahua Acharya moderated the first webinar in the series on World Environment day, titled, “Investing in nature to build back better“.

CPI also co-hosted the fourth webinar titled, “Building back better: Green recovery of the Indian economy” with the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE – a 5 UN Agencies’ collaboration of UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO, UNITAR, and ILO), and Development Alternatives Group. The webinar deliberated on directing economic stimulus packages towards greening India’s economy. With a particular focus on these key questions: Although the economic stimulus in India has economic revival as the main goal, could it facilitate a shift towards a greener pathway of growth? Or are the measures so specific that such an ambition would not be possible? Are there elements that can be picked up and redirected towards greener, cleaner activities For example, can the Government make affordable housing projects align with green building standards to reduce future energy needs? Can some of the infrastructure projects in the economic packages be developed in a climate-resilient way? Can the ‘green’ sectors such as sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, green transport, or green construction become the drivers for employment opportunities? What, if any, are the possibilities?

CPI along with its partners created a summary report with ideas on directing economic stimulus packages towards greening India’s economy

Key takeaways from the webinar:

  • Green tagging – Tracking climate-related expenditures in national budget systems.
  • Designing appropriate and regulatory interventions by assessing India’s progress on NDC goals.
  • Enabling the financial sector and corporates to act upon climate change risks and opportunities.
  • Better reporting and disclosure of climate change risks and opportunities.
  • Attract foreign capital for green sectors.
  • Encourage companies to adopt international best practices on climate change disclosure, ESG guidelines, sustainable business practices, lending, and investments.
  • Create financial instruments such as green equities, green bonds, and ESG funds for foreign investors who want to invest only in green assets.
  • Make a separate helpdesk in ‘Invest India,’ National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency, to facilitate green investment in India.
  • Use public capital for environmental compliances (for example, set-up of wastewater and sludge treatment common facilities) of MSME clusters, since they will not be in a position to deploy additional capital to meet the regulatory compliance in the scenario of shrinking order books and a cash crunch.
  • Large scale grants and equity funding for carbon mitigating technologies such as electric mobility and batteries increase in green demand generating interventions: Increase in subsidies for electric cars, tax benefits for green buildings, and energy-efficient consumer goods.
  • Promote public transportation through better city planning, subsidies, and incentives.
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