Climate Asia annual conference addresses the planet’s growing concerns

In a call to confront our planet's pressing challenges, the third Annual Climate Asia Conference convened in Bengaluru this April. Themed Accelerating Climate Action: Bridging the Gap from Dialogue to Action, the event saw leaders and experts from diverse sectors, all driven by a shared determination to effect tangible change. Demonstrating a steadfast commitment to inclusivity and sustainability, the conference introduced innovative initiatives such as access to sign language interpreters, embraced eco-friendly practices, and served organically sourced cuisine.

01 May 2024 | By Rahul Kumar

A panel during the conference

Across two days, participants engaged in thought-provoking discussions spanning critical topics, including the feminist perspective on climate, mental health, capacity building in agriculture, and the cultivation of green talent, creating a learning environment poised for meaningful progress in climate action.

The opening panel, Climate Action is at Crossroads: Why Does it Need a Feminist Approach, co-hosted by EquiLead, spotlighted the urgent need for a feminist perspective in climate discourse. The panel featured insights from leaders such as Anjalli Ravi Kumar of Zomato; Neha Saigal from Asar Social Impact Advisors; Uthara Narayanan of Buzz Women, and Aiswarya Ananthapadmanabhan of EquiLead, Climate Asia. They collectively underscored the disproportionate effects of climate change on women and marginalised groups and the necessity of including these communities in decision-making processes. In advocating for more inclusive decision-making processes, Uthara Narayanan highlighted, “We first need to de-jargonise the conversation on climate change because women and communities most affected, while they experience it, cannot connect the dots between cause and effect.” The discussion also stressed the importance of involving men in feminist strategies to enhance productivity and promote gender equality.

The second panel, Climate Change and Mental Health in Marginalised Communities, co-hosted by Mariwala Health Initiative, revealed how climate change deeply affects marginalised groups, showing how lack of readiness, economic gaps, and exclusion compound their vulnerabilities. From the challenges faced by disabled individuals in accessing disaster relief to the disproportionate burden borne by women in rural areas due to heat-related illnesses and economic disparities, the conversation painted a vivid picture of communities struggling for survival amidst environmental upheaval. The speakers for the panel were Pranav Sethi from Geohazards Society; Ishwar Singh from Ek Potlee Ret Ki; Kalki Subramaniam from Sahodari Foundation, and Ruby Hembrom from Adivaani. Amidst these discussions, Kalki Subramaniam highlighted the issues of transgender communities around disasters, stating, “Natural disasters affect transgender the most, their homes and livelihood. Aggressive climate change has affected the invisible part of society more than usual. Being transgender and disabled is a double disadvantage.” This statement underscored how discrimination and displacement further intensify the vulnerability of transgender people, adding another layer to the urgent need for inclusive climate action.

The panel on Bridging Climate Science and Action: The Essential Role of Capacity Building in Climate Adaptation, co-hosted by the Center for Study of Science, Technology, and Policy, focused on the urgent capacity-building needs among India's small and marginal farmers. The speakers for this panel were Pramel Kumar Gupta from the National Coalition for Natural Farming; Dr Indu K Murthy from CSTEP, and Koushik Yanamandram from Climate Asia. Pramel Kumar Gupta illuminated the scale of this challenge saying, “In India, 86% of the 15 crore farmers are small or marginal, and half of these farm mainly for their own consumption. This highlights the urgent need for CSOs to help bridge the gaps in livelihood and consumption. Meanwhile, the National Coalition for Natural Farming (NCNF) addresses farmer distress by strengthening a natural farming movement, working with over 500 CSOs, research institutions, and numerous agroecology champions.” The discussion emphasised connecting scientific insights with actionable strategies through grassroots models and data-driven decision-making to enhance agricultural sustainability and community resilience.

The panel on Enhancing Global South Collaboration for Climate Resilience: Scaling Innovations for Small-Scale Farmers hosted by Climate Asia focused on the Global South's unique climate challenges. It advocated for practical, scaled-down innovations tailored to smallholder farmers, emphasising affordable technologies and traditional practices beneficial to marginalised groups like landless women. The speakers for this panel were Siddharth Chaturvedi from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Veena Srinivasan from WELL Labs, Sashi Kumar from GIZ, and Raisha Galib from Climate Asia.

Siddharth Chaturvedi remarked, “The role of the private sector is important as they can make large-scale investments in climate adaptation solutions. However, there needs to be an incentive, not just a subsidy but a sharing of risks. Simplification of solutions to meet ground-level needs is crucial.” Dr Veena Srinivasan from WELL Labs also highlighted, “When we talk about traditional knowledge, we should not adopt a reductionist approach but should look at the rationale of what our earlier generations did. For example, intercropping pulses between ragi crops illustrates a ‘system of resilience,’ where diversified fields experience fewer pest attacks.”  

The Charting the Course for Systems Change in India’s Development Sector fireside session co-hosted by Arthan, featured speakers including Nawaz Alam from Heifer International, Archana Tripathi from Saahas, Mridhula Sridharan from AVPN, Dr. Savitha Suresh Babu from Samvada, and Anchal Kakkar from Arthan shared diverse methods for climate adaptation, from sensitisation to advocacy. Highlighting a community-driven approach, Nawaz Alam emphasised the importance of a community-driven approach to systems change, stating, “In response to feedback and needs expressed by local communities and Gram Panchayats, we identified motivated individuals, particularly women, who showed interest in receiving training in veterinary services. These individuals were then empowered to provide care for livestock, becoming what we term as CAVEs (Community Agro Veterinary Entrepreneurs). This initiative not only deepened their engagement with Krishi Vigyan Kendras but also provided them with a reliable source of income. Buoyed by its success, our funders are now considering further support, particularly in terms of mobility, to expand the program's reach and effectiveness.”

Day two of the conference began with a recap of the first day's sessions, summarising key discussions and insights shared. Following the overview, the day commenced with Dr TV Ramachandra's Keynote address on Insights from the unplanned rapid urbanisation in Bengaluru for designing climate resilient cities. He discussed the transition of landscape from forest and water bodies to urban areas, Green GDP, and the importance of water management in the city. 

Day two kicked off with the panel Empowering the Green Workforce: Cultivating Sustainable Skills for Impact, co-hosted by EY Global Delivery Services. The discussion, featuring Rumi Mallick Mitra from EY GDS, Dr Mukund Raj from Nabard Consultancy Services, Dr Gayathri Vasudevan from Sambhav Foundation & Labour Net, and Satyam Vyas from Climate Asia, highlighted the essential role of green skills in today's job market. They emphasised reskilling through technology, sustainable practices for organisations, and the support of climate finance like green bonds. Satyam Vyas underlined the integration of climate awareness in every role, noting, “Every job of the future will be a green job, and it is imperative that we imbibe climate consciousness into every aspect of life, starting with work. By empowering our workforce with sustainable skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership, we not only invest in their future but also commit to our planet's health. Let's prioritise upskilling and embrace collaboration to turn green potential into transformative green power.”

Building on this further, Rumi Mallick Mitra added, “True leadership in the future of sustainability lies not only in cultivating green skills but in harnessing them to drive social impact and the transition to a sustainable future. It's about forging a path where ecological consciousness and social equity intersect, paving the way towards a brighter, greener tomorrow.”

The panel Scaling Up Climate-Smart Agriculture in India: Opportunities for Entrepreneurs across the Value Chain, co-hosted by NSRCEL, featured insights from Archana Stalin of myHarvest Farms, Binu Cherian from HarvestPlus, Abhilash Sethi from Omnivore, and Vijaylaxmi Patil from NSRCEL. They explored sustainable agricultural practices, emphasising the need for bio-fortification, reducing post-harvest losses, and improving technology adoption among smallholder farmers. On sustainable agriculture, Archana Stalin shared, “We support smallholder farmers by revitalising their farming methods. Initially, we transitioned them from monocropping to a diverse ‘food forest’ model and introduced integrated livestock practices, natural pest controls, and improved water management. Our efforts not only enhance their economic sustainability but also teach that in agriculture, nothing is waste.”

The next panel on ‘Harmony in Sustainability: Regenerative Agriculture, Sustainable Supply Chains, and Climate-Resilient Ecosystems’ panel, co-hosted by Beetle Regen Solutions, discussed the importance of regenerative agriculture and the role of farmers in mitigating climate change. Experts like Rajeev Baruah -an Independent Agriculture Expert, Dr Binay Kumar Choudhury from Control Union's Operations in India, Amol Mishra and Bhawna Solanki from Beetle Regen Solutions explored the efficacy of organic farming, the role of global recycling standards, and the need for policy shifts to enhance sustainability.  Amol Mishra emphasised the environmental cost of current recycling processes “Transporting recycled materials (or post-consumer waste) from Europe to Asia generates significant emissions that can offset recycling benefits. Reducing the carbon footprint in circular supply chains requires localising the sourcing and production of recycled and intermediary textile materials by minimising transportation-related emissions in global supply chains.”

The event also had a series of interactive workshops on day two, which delved into themes shaping climate action. These workshops, facilitated by our partners, covered a wide range of topics. From discussions on talent development towards climate future to exploring the significant role of digital solutions in agriculture, and from strategies to overcome institutional biases and empower women leaders to practical insights on climate change adaptation and resilience-building, each workshop provided invaluable perspectives and actionable strategies for driving positive change in the face of climate challenges.

The network partners for this event included MASH Project Foundation, Swissnex, TechnoServe India, Kohmorehbee Consulting, Purpose, National Coalition for Natural Farming, Bengaluru Sustainability Forum, The Climate Party™, EntIISc, Impact Investors Council (IIC), Initiative for Climate Action, and Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

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