As the world grapples with the COVID-19 crisis, two major questions have arisen:

  • What is life likely to be or should be in a post COVID-19 environment and world? This question does not assume that the virus is going away, but clearly there are some changes that have been triggered by the virus and the way it has swept the whole world. Perhaps it could be used as an opportunity to reshape some practices that have been prevalent in businesses, civil society or even governments.
  • What are the post COVID-19 challenges and opportunities from a carbon footprint point of view?

Against this backdrop Ananta Aspen Centre held a digital session on “Reducing Carbon Footprint: The Post COVID 19 challenge” on 4th June, 2020 with Dr. O P Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, World Resources Institute, India, Dr. Aniruddha Agnihotri, Head, Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety, Tata Consultancy Services, Mr. Harish Hande, Founder and Chief Executive, SELCO Foundation. This session was moderated by Mr. Govindraj Ethiraj, Founder IndiaSpend & Boom.

From a mobility perspective, COVID-19 is an opportunity to step back and start thinking about what has been going wrong. There are two major things that people can take advantage of. First, the recognition of unnecessary travel. As we begin to realize that people do not need to travel to and for work on a daily basis it gives us the opportunity to pick up this trend and reduce travel demand.

The second concern is about social distancing and how long it will last - For the next six months or next two years? Social distancing is likely to impact travel patterns, particularly in public transport systems. The efforts of sixty (60) years of promoting public transport are going to start getting reversed because social distancing is becoming a concern. However, this is an opportunity to start looking at how public transport has been and should be financed. Is all the money coming from fares or are there any options available that could make the financial model of public transport more sound allowing it to provide higher quality service to the public

There are opportunities for electric mobility in this phase of transition as well as most regular trips have become short-cut trips.

In the IT sector, the impact of COVID-19 has been far lesser than most other sector because of the nature of IT business allows people to work remotely. IT assets have started moving to people’s home since the lockdown has started. Currently, for IT sector, about 95% of people are working from home.

In the energy access sector, there has been a collapse in and of the last mile entrepreneurs and enterprises. It’s important to highlight that if small and medium enterprises, who provide energy access services to the poor collapse, then the cost of providing essential services like energy will increase drastically. This is an imminent danger.

But looking ahead, towards a post –COVID 19 pandemic world, this a chance to look at decentralizing energy access and consider a decentralized manner of governance to support it

This is really the opportunity to start looking at decentralized set-ups. Prioritizing the creation of decentralized livelihoods, which would imply a decentralized generation and access of energy, healthcare, education etc. all would beget self-sustainability and reduce consumption of carbon and other materials. Working from home is also a one form of decentralization. Today, the decentralization in decision making is also happening for e.g. some Deputy Commissioners are exhibiting ground level leadership in India by arranging beds for COVID-19 patients in and beyond hospitals and for patients within the districts and returnees. This is a time to move away from centralization.

The pandemic, and the disruption it has caused in the status quo, could be the perfect opportunity for planning and executing overhauls in existing mobility, industrial, governance and service sectors to create new economically and ecologically sustainable systems. Systems that wouldn’t leave behind any faction of the social food chain while reducing each faction’s carbon footprint.

This digital session was a part of the series: “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” which explores this seminal moment in history where we battle two existential crises at the same time – Climate Change & COVID 19.


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