The U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata in collaboration with Kennesaw State University, the South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE) & National Council on Climate Change and Sustainable Development (NCCSD) organized an international symposium on combating the impacts of climate change in urban settings to present an opportunity for Indian cities to develop unified city-level goals in climate mitigation. This global and local knowledge conference on climate change was held simultaneously in Kolkata, Guwahati and Patna and encouraged these cities to develop their own goals to find a place among the C40 group of cities. The symposium was generously supported by the U.S. Department of State through the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata’s Public Affairs Section. U.S. Consul General, Ms. Helen LaFave noted in her inaugural remarks, “This conference is a part of the U.S. government’s commitment in addressing the challenges of climate change. To have this conference when the world commemorates Earth Day today is all the more significant. I am also delighted that we have been able to connect via video conference with Guwahati and Patna to open up the very important agenda of combating climate change and addressing this urgent and complex global challenge.”
The Symposium brought together urban stakeholders from India, the United States, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to address issues of climate change and formulate plans to mitigate environmental concerns in an urban setting with special focus on the role of C40 cities. The work of the C40 Cities is critical for reducing carbon emissions worldwide. Dr. Dipayan Dey, Chair, SAFE noted that, “C40 is a global network of large cities – megacities, taking action to address climate change by developing and implementing policies and programs that generate measurable reductions in both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks.” Experts from Indian and neighboring C40 cities of Delhi, Thimphu and Dhaka addressed world environmental issues and highlighted the challenges faced by local populations in the region. It also highlighted several touch points and the economics behind some of the climate smart policies adopted in the C40 cities network, and examined their applicability in mega cities such as Kolkata and in smaller cities like Patna and Guwahati.
In his keynote address on Action to Reduce Air Pollution: The Health and Climate Co-Benefits, Mr. Samuel Kotis, Deputy Minister Counselor, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi (Energy, Environment, Climate, Science) noted,“. . . there are many things that contribute to air pollution that also contribute to climate change. The same polluting sources that foul the air of our cities also produce greenhouse gases that impact our climate. Thus, if you address air pollution for reasons strictly to improve the health and well-being of citizens in the here and now, you will also be taking steps that help mitigate climate change . . . the key thing is to act. Whatever the motivation, the benefits are clear and the U.S. looks forward to working closely with India to help make that happen.” Former Supreme Court Judge and President of National Council on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, India (NCCSD) Justice B P. Singh called on all stakeholders to “view rapid growth of urbanization with a concern not only due its impact on enhancing GHG emission – but also to ensure to meet quality of urban life due to increased pressure on existing infrastructure.”
This international symposium encouraged all the stakeholders in Kolkata, Guwahati and Patna to use the recommendations from the conference to lead these cities into the league of the C40 Climate Leadership Group. Dr. Govind Hariharan, Professor of Economics, Kennesaw State University, U.S.A. & Advisory Board Member, NCCSD summarized the objectives of the conference by stating, “The economic argument becomes very easy when actions adopted to create a happy, healthy and wealthy citizenry coincide with measures to create a Climate Smart City.”