Educating people about climate change

Climate change has the potential to disrupt and reshape lives. There are several alarming predictions about its impact. The UN Sustainable Goals Report, 2018 notes that climate change is among the key factors in rising hunger and human displacement. The World Health Organisation estimates that climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. Undoubtedly, much of this loss will be accounted for by low-income groups in developing nations, including India. The World Bank projects that climate change could cost India 2.8% of its GDP, and diminish living standards for nearly half the country’s population, in the next 30-odd years. At present, climate change does not find specific mention in Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013. However, if it were to be articulated and specified as an activity for corporate social responsibility (CSR), rather than be implied in the umbrella term of environmental sustainability, organisations may be encouraged to view it with increased importance and clarity and lend more weight to creating awareness, mitigation and resilience-building. Schedule VII would then need to be amended from “ensuring environmental sustainability, ecological balance, protection of flora and fauna, animal welfare, agroforestry, conservation of natural resources and maintaining quality of soil, air and water” to include climate change as an area for investment. Scaling up current initiatives of the corporate and social sectors to regional or national levels would be an early, albeit challenging, solution. Efforts on this front could be facilitated and amplified by companies’ CSR activities. The National CSR Data Portal reports corporate spends on environment, animal welfare and conservation of resources to be Rs. 801 crore in 2014-15 and Rs. 912 crore in 2015-16. Clearly, business organisations are willing to invest their money in issues related to the environment. Similarly, the film industry could consider ways to incorporate key aspects of climate change in films, writers could introduce climate change in adult and children’s literature, and gaming companies could develop games on this theme.

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