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The SAARC region is one of the most densely populated and ecologically vulnerable regions in the world housing more than 40 percent of the world’s poor. The region is energy starved. Energy demand has grown exponentially and is the main driver for economic growth. Climate change is expected to compound poverty and affect the energy sector. There are visible impacts of climate change with erratic monsoon bringing in large scale devastation — the 2010 floods in Pakistan, the 2013 floods in Uttarakhand, the 2014 floods in the Kashmir region and the 2015 heat waves in India and Pakistan. The SAARC region lacks in energy infrastructure and interregional trade is limited. Though the region is endowed with more than 250,000 megawatts of hydropower, due to lack of will and viable policies, production is still limited. The private sector could play an instrumental role in identifying new business opportunities, creating new markets, and recognising and managing risk, all of which are critical to ensuring resilient businesses and communities in the face of climate change.
The SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI), an apex body of private sector in South Asia, realises that climate change triggered water scarcity and natural disasters may pose serious threats for human life and livelihoods, and could particularly cause food insecurity in the region. As the major stakeholder, private sector plays an important role in terms of strategic response to contemporary and emerging challenges. Thus, SAARC CCI organised a conference titled Cleaner & Greener South Asia: Managing Climate Change, Energy & Water Resources in collaboration with: Bhutan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI).
SAARC CCI Proceedings
Cleaner & Greener South Asia: Managing Climate Change, Energy & Water Resources was held on 25th July in Paro, Bhutan. The objectives of the conference were to explore the role of private sector in combating climate change and in efficient management and conservation of water resources, as well as, create awareness amongst stakeholders about climate change, drivers of climate change, and its adverse impacts and opportunities. The conference discussed the prospects and challenges of energy, climate change, and water resources. The technical sessions on “Climate change and disasters: Impacts on water resources and food security in South Asia and Renewable energy potential and economic prospects” provided an opportunity for private sectors to understand the impacts of climate change in various sectors such as water, energy, disasters and look at ways of mitigation. The conference was attended by more than 60 participants including policy makers from governments, NGOs, environmental agencies, CEOs, decision makers, and professionals from the private sector from the SAARC region from seven countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.
The Honorable Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan shared his experiences and stressed the need for innovation in the science and technology front for combating climate change. Wangchuk said Bhutan experienced the hottest month on record in June 2015. Climate change is real and the problems are complex. There is no one solution, but a solution lies in various initiatives, whether it is making the decision makers more aware of the ill effects of climate change, or having innovations with new technology, or enhancing cooperation and collaboration across borders.
Dasho Ugyen Tshewang, session chair, highlighted the need for regional cooperation in combating climate change. Tshewang said, “what happened in the upstream has consequences in the downstream, and our livelihoods are very dependent on climate sensitive factors”. During the session, Mandira Shrestha, programme coordinator: HYCOS from ICIMOD made a presentation highlighting the impacts climate change and other drivers have on water resources, and how developing innovative technologies can be used to ensure a safer region. Singye Dorjee from SAARC Secretariat highlighted the role of SAARC and its efforts of addressing climate change giving examples of the various declarations. Dorjee hoped the private sector would play a key role in development.
Gyanendra Lal Pradhan, chairman, SAARC CCI Council on Climate Change, Energy and Water Resources & Energy Committee at the FNCCI and executive chairman at Hydro Solutions, highlighted the challenges of energy cooperation in South Asia.
Suraj Vaidya, acting president of SAARC CCI said the private sectors’ lead is important in the development. “Business has to be at the forefront and government has to create a supportive enabling environment, policy, legal and regulatory frameworks for private sector engagement,” Vaidya said. “SAARC CCI provides a platform for potential investment and collaboration with ICIMOD and could link sound scientific knowledge with business for devising effective solutions.”
SAARC Women Entrepreneurs meeting
A half-day meeting of women entrepreneurs was held on 26th July. In South Asia there are few women-owned-and-run businesses because of gender differences. A regional panel comprising members of SAARC Chamber Women Entrepreneurs Council from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan discussed the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in South Asia and provided recommendations.
The 63rd Executive Committee of SAARC CCI approved in principal to engage with ICIMOD as a knowledge partner in climate change. ICIMOD has been requested to draft a memorandum of understanding with SAARC CCI for further collaboration.
A formal partnership with SAARC CCI could lead to opportunities of engagement and collaboration with the private sectors of the national chambers of commerce and industry of ICIMOD RMCs particularly – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
Increased networking with the private sector on climate change adaptation and resilience building will create opportunities for partnerships and further engagement.
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