Ministers, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for that welcome.
Let me express my thanks to the Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) for hosting this conference, and for inviting me to join you today.
The presence of so many influential leaders and experts underlines the importance of the subjects under discussion.
They are issues which TERI has been at the forefront inidentifying and addressing.
Forty years ago, green energy and sustainable development were at the top of few agendas.
The decision to set up TERI in 1974 was an example of the vision and intellectual leadership which is a hall-mark of this country.
These qualities have never been more essential.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the contrasts and challenges we see around the world have rarely been greater.
Collectively, we are better off than any previous generation could have imagined.
Prosperity has spread from the mature economies of Europe and North America to Asia, Latin America, and more recently Africa.
Asia has seen a particularly dynamic transformation and is a major driver of global growth.
This growth has reduced by fifty percent the number of people living in extreme poverty since 1990.
But we all know that this is only half the story.
Despite this progress, hundreds of millions of people lack access to food, water and energy – the very basic necessities of life.
One in eight of our fellow human beings do not have enough food to eat.
In the Asia-Pacific region, 1.7 billion people lack access to sanitation and 680 million are without electricity.
Inequality is growing both between and within societies.
According to a recent Oxfam report, the richest 85 people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion.
Here in India and across the world, we remain a long way from our goal of a decent life for all.
For we are exploiting finite resources at an alarming rate and causing huge damage to our environment.
Our existing model of development does not give an economic value to fresh water, energy, biodiversity or environmental resources.
As a result, they are not prioritized in policy making. Instead, wasteful production and consumption patterns are encouraged.
The challenges are growing. Each year 10 million people in India alone move to towns and cities as a result of population growth and urbanization.
An expanding middle class is changing lifestyles and consumption patterns, increasing pressure on natural resources.
It is now estimated that by 2030, we will need 30% more water, 40% more energy, and 50% more food.
Looming above all these challenges, and exacerbating them, is climate change.
As India knows, climate change is not a future threat as it already impacts people’s lives and livelihoods.
A recent report suggests that a quarter of India’s landmass has been affected by rising temperatures and fluctuations in rainfall.
Across the world, more frequent extreme weather events are reducing harvests and forcing people off their land.
No country or society will escape the impacts of climate change. But as always, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who will suffer most.
Ladies and gentlemen, these inter-linked challenges cannot be addressed by tinkering around the edges.
A fundamental shift to a more sustainable development pathway is urgently required.
We must do more to promote integrated policy-making which addresses social and environmental goals, and not just economic targets.
Making the transition from the brown to the green economy is perhaps the biggest challenge of our age.
It will require leadership, courage and commitment from all the sectors represented here – government, business, academia and civil society.
No one has all the answers but let me set out a few priorities.
First, we have to act on climate change.
We need a robust, universal and legally binding agreement to limit temperature rises to less than 2 degrees Celsius – above which climate change may be irreversible.
For agreement to be reached in Paris next year, every country, whatever their stage of development, must raise their sights and commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But fairness demands that richer countries lead in the scale of their emission cuts, and in providing financial support for adaptation, and diffusion of green technology.
Internationally and nationally, the right policies and incentives must be put in place to ensure a shift to renewable and efficient sources of energy.
This would include putting a price on carbon and phasing out harmful fossil fuel subsidies.
Second, sustainability must be at the heart of the global development framework which succeeds the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
The MDGs helped countries lift millions out of poverty, and increased access to health, education and drinking water.
But as we transition to a new development framework, we must ensure that environmental degradation, inequality and unemployment are tackled through ambitious and universal Sustainable Development Goals.
These new goals must improve quality of life and access to opportunity for the very poorest and marginalized. And they must create decent jobs for the youth.
Thirdly, sustainability must be at the core of national policy-making.
Too often policies to manage food, water and energy resources are developed and implemented in isolation when we know that they are interlinked.
Governments must do more to foster policy coherence and encourage cooperation between ministries and stakeholders.
Only then will we have the right incentives to encourage more efficient and sustainable production and consumption frameworks.
Fourth, accelerating the shift to sustainability will require leveraging the full potential of every human being.
Women and girls are major drivers of development, yet challenges to eliminating discrimination and achieving gender equality remain significant.
In India and elsewhere, women continue to be denied opportunities to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives, and those of their families and communities.
We see a continuing gender gap in education – the greatest investment any country can make in its future.
In too many countries, women face unacceptably high levels of violence, including sexual violence, which is an affront to our common humanity.
So we must dedicate ourselves to transforming relations between men and women at all levels of society, and put the welfare of women and girls at the heart of all we do.
Ladies and gentlemen, the role of government is vital in catalyzing action on these priorities.
But delivering the fundamental shift to a new sustainable model is not the responsibility of governments alone.
The private sector is the main engine of the global economy and accounts for two-thirds of the use of natural resources.
It has an enormous responsibility, and an indispensable role to play.
Businesses, big and small, must embed sustainable development goals in their policies, production processes and value chains.
They can drive research, innovation and investment to facilitate the transition to a green economy.
South-South cooperation can play a major role by sharing these advances across regions.
Civil society must also bring their expertise to bear. By working closely with local communities, they are ideally placed to ensure that government policies meet local needs and priorities.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the well-being of our global community depends on overcoming these challenges.
With courage, vision and a renewed spirit of solidarity, we can move decisively towards a truly sustainable development path.
We have no time to waste. I wish you a successful conference.
Photo credit: CIAT