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WRI India: Guiding Young Minds to Climate Action

WRI India, a branch of the World Resources Institute, headquartered in Washington DC, is on a mission to safeguard Earth’s resources for future generations. Recognizing the shortfalls of the prevailing economic model in the face of escalating temperatures and the climate crisis, WRI India is on a mission to reduce emissions without jeopardizing livelihoods or nature, striving not just for conservation but also restoration. “Our ambition is to see how we can make these transitions turn into positive transformations.”, says Madhav Pai, CEO, World Resources Institute of India.

Key Sustainability Projects

Decarbonization through Energy Transition

One of WRI India’s flagship initiatives focuses on decarbonizing energy systems. The organization believes in equitable access to renewable energy, particularly for those lacking 24-hour electricity. They developed the Energy Access Explorer, an open-source geospatial tool, which integrates data from various sectors such as healthcare, education, and agriculture to pinpoint areas ripe for solarization. WRI India has solarized the healthcare sector in Jharkhand and replicated this achievement in Assam and other traditionally energy-deficient states.

In addition, the organisation is spearheading state-wise energy planning, acknowledging that “Each State will have a different starting point depending upon their accessibility to

renewable energy. For example, Rajasthan will have solar energy in abundance as compared to Kerala or Tamil Nadu.” says Pai.

Ensuring Food Security and Nutrition

With unpredictable weather patterns and climate change severely impacting agriculture systems globally, WRI India is committed to ensuring food security and adequate nutrition for a population expected to reach 9.5 billion. Their research and projects aim to fortify agricultural resilience in the face of climate adversity.

Greening Urbanization

In a rapidly urbanizing India, WRI India partners with Bihar to develop a low-carbon development trajectory that aligns with green growth. Considering Bihar’s vulnerability to floods, this initiative exemplifies their holistic approach. Furthermore, their collaboration with Convergence Energy Services Ltd. led to the aggregation of demand for electric buses across nine cities, demonstrating the economic viability of electric buses compared to diesel-run buses. Giving statistics around electric buses, Pai says, “Currently, there are 4000-4300 electric buses plying with a commitment to get to some 14000 to 15000 buses.”

The organisation influences urban planning and policy formulation, and its efforts extend to educating school students through vegetable gardens. “We are establishing vegetable gardens in the schools of Mumbai and Jaipur to educate students by engaging them in greening activities and making them feel more connected”, states Pai briefly emphasising the importance of sustainability education at the grass-root levels.

Another project of WRI India that gained prominence in the urban planning sector is the Last-Mile Connectivity in urban transport. Stating that metros have attracted the largest expenditure in urban infrastructure yet continue to remain underutilised due to last-mile connectivity. To obtain findings regarding the issues users face, Pai recommends, “Create small teams of four to five people who are actively studying the users of metro services and create services to their needs.”

Success in Transforming Systems

Through the initiatives outlined, WRI aims to make these transitions into positive transformations as these systems or pillars will have an outsized impact. Pai says, “With all the transformations and challenges undertaken, it is good to see the evolution go beyond the proof of concept to market creation.” The organisation’s evidence-based approach combines government data with geospatial and open-source data, enabling robust problem understanding and policy recommendations.

Challenges and Innovation

To transition successfully into positive transformations, WRI India recognizes the need for new institutions, technical capacities, and financial models at scale. They actively support building these capacities, fostering entrepreneurship, and running accelerator programs to introduce technology tools that can be replicated.

Driving Behavioural Change

WRI India understands the pivotal role of behavioural change in sustainability. Citing a talk from the International Energy Agency (IEA), Pai says, “Studies that say 10% of the people consume 90% of the resources and behavioural change will get us a 20% reduction in emissions, so all we need to do is focus on these 10% people”. The organisation ran a campaign in Bangalore, VidyutRakshaka, in collaboration with Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE) and Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd. (BESCOM) to help people take certain actions to reduce their electricity bills across households to demonstrate their commitment to nudging individuals towards eco-friendly choices

Another behavioural change campaign was the Raahgiri, an urban initiative that temporarily closed streets to vehicular traffic, transforming them into pedestrian-friendly spaces. It encourages community engagement, physical activity, and social interaction, promoting healthier and more sustainable urban living.

Managing Carbon Footprint

WRI India practices what it preaches when it comes to carbon footprint management. “To be able to manage, you need to first measure your emissions”, says Pai. The organisation measures and tracks its emissions while implementing sustainable practices like avoiding plastic bottles, reducing food waste, and incentivizing public transport use over car ownership. WRI India also engages its employees with public transport allowances, promoting eco-friendly commuting options.

At the beginning of this year, the organisation organised a carbon-neutral workshop in Madhya Pradesh by following the three-step approach outlined below:

Step 1: Identifying emissions related to the event such as energy consumption, transportation, resource and paper use, and waste production.

Step 2: Reducing non-essential emissions such as offering vegetarian meals; eliminating disposable items such as plastic plates, and cups; requesting organically and locally produced food and beverages to cut transportation emissions, etc.

Step 3: Offsetting unavoidable Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)

Empowering Young Professionals

WRI India’s workforce predominantly consists of young professionals who are passionate about sustainability. They actively engage with the younger generation through accelerator programs, providing a platform for aspiring sustainability leaders, community groups, and entrepreneurs to make a meaningful impact.

Words of Advice

Pai advises the upcoming entrepreneurs in the sustainability space to:

1. Find Your Purpose: Discovering your purpose is as crucial as finding a sustainable business model. Align your goals with your purpose.

2. Balance Purpose and Business: Ensure your business model supports your purpose; otherwise, it will be an ongoing struggle.

3. Set Clear Goals: Establish clear short-term and long-term goals. Even if you stumble along the way, stay committed to your vision.

WRI India is dedicated to sustainability, innovative thinking, and a commitment to transformative change believe they can make a profound impact on the world.

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