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The EU and India must scale resource efficient efforts and circular economy approaches for a post-pandemic green recovery: EU Ambassador

17/12/2020 - 14:00
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Virtual EU Day held with IIT Madras

The Delegation of the European Union to India and the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) organised a virtual discussion today on the theme, “Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency”. The event was part of the “EU Day” series focused on key topics at the heart of the growing EU-India partnership. It promoted sustainable production and consumption, research and innovation.

At the 15th EU-India Summit in July 2020, the EU and India adopted a Joint Declaration to establish an ‘India-EU Resource Efficiency and Circular Partnership.' This aims to support and strengthen, dialogue and cooperation in these areas, including technologies, business solutions and financing mechanisms for enabling Resource Efficiency (RE) and Circular Economy (CE). The partnership will also focus on research and innovation areas -in products, consumption patterns and business models- as critical enablers of accelerate the RE/CE transition. India’s draft National Resource Efficiency Policy and the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan, a precursor to the EU Green Deal, are among the strongest policy measures in the world today fostering a shift from a linear to a circular economic model. The EU and India’s policies are instrumental to domestic success, and as beacons for other countries to join the RE/CE transition.

Delivering the keynote address, the Ambassador of the European Union to India, H.E. Mr. Ugo Astuto, said, “The EU and India have made great strides in the area of resource efficiency. The EU-India Resource Efficiency Initiative, NITI Aayog and the MoEFCC have put together a draft resource efficiency policy as well as state level RE Strategies. The EU-India’s Declaration on Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy released in July 2020, and endorsed by political leaders on both sides, further underlines our joint commitment towards cooperation, research, development and finance in this field.”  He added that like the EU Green Deal, major economies around the world should also chart their own version to limit global emission levels, preserve or restore nature, and design innovative transition pathways to Circular Economy.

In his opening address, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IITM welcomed the EU Delegation and gave an overview of the institution’s actions in the field of resource efficiency and circular economy. “IIT-Madras has collaborated with several European countries and published over 1,000 papers in six universities. We have been working on sustainability in a significant way. Resource Efficiency has been a part of Indian life since the pre-independence era. However, as we continue to embrace development, today we need to strike a balance between resource efficiency and the imperative of economic growth. Understanding issues beyond technology is the way forward,” he said.

Dr. Michael Bucki, Counsellor, EU Delegation to India, illustrated the role of RE/CE in remaining in safe and socially acceptable planet boundaries, as well as the role and relevance of policy dialogues between the EU and India. Referring to the EU Green Deal, he said that it aims at making EU a climate neutral, zero-pollution, nature friendly, circular economy between 2030-2050, decoupling human well-being from environmental degradation. He emphasized, “There is a need and a potential to accelerate circular economy at states and cities levels. It requires the involvement of civil society, including the private and finance sectors, to show and test the feasibility of best consumption patterns. Individual or household decisions matter but they are not sufficient: going circular requires political awareness and collective action.”

Dr. Rachna Arora, Deputy Team Leader and Project Coordinator, EU-REI project, gave an overview of the collaborative partnerships to promote circular economy. She mentioned that collaboration between businesses, innovators, governments, civic society organizations and research and academia would be critical for enabling and accelerating the transition to a circular economy.

Mr. Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer, the Mahindra Group, outlined the innovation in new materials, design, processes, technologies for making and recycling / end-of-life processing of products, as well as new business models that would be required to shift towards a circular economy model.

Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula, Professor, Applied Mechanics Department and Dean, Alumni and Corporate Affairs, IIT Madras, said, “Innovation should appeal to an independent consumer’s choices. Most importantly, from a circular economy and sustainability perspective, it has to serve consumers’ long-term interests. At IIT-M we have developed an entrepreneurial ecosystem and a research park that covers all elements required for fostering innovation and incubation among our students.

Dr. Vivek Dham, Advisor, Research & Innovation, EU Delegation to India, speaking on “Building a Circular Economy: Role of Research, Innovation and Education” outlined the policy framework and research & innovation actions. He gave details of the currently open Calls under the ‘EU Green Deal’ and the upcoming calls under the ‘Horizon Europe’ programme. He also gave an outline of the scholarship opportunities available for Indian students under the Erasmus programme. He highlighted that the Green Deal call is focusing on tangible results and contributes to a green economy and will fund initiatives that create products that can move to commercialization in the shortest time.”

Dr. R Vinu, Associate Professor, IIT-M, stated, that IIT-M is focusing on creating value out of waste and cited the example of the institute focusing on R&D to tap the potential of the energy value of plastics that can be turned into valuable liquid fuels or other products. He also stated that IIT-M is working on evaluating solid waste on beach sites.

Prof. Ashish Agarwal, IIM Lucknow, discussed the drivers of sustainability and the key sectors in India where there is a need for enhancing resource efficiency and waste management. He stated that a country with several concerns of food security annually loses a significant amount of food wastage due to lack of appropriate storage facilities, technologies to preserve food and transport it to the population.

Mr. Luca Marmo, Senior Expert, DG Environment, European Commission, Brussels, highlighted that the EU would like to engage with India in the G20 RE dialogue as India would be taking over the G20 presidency in 2023. He also highlighted that the EU, in cooperation with UNEP and UNIDO, plan to establish a Global Alliance on CE/REE (GACERE) and encourage India and other countries and relevant stakeholders to be part of this initiative.

The panel discussion presented case studies and projects from India and the EU on standards for e-waste, value-chain management, recycling, and secondary raw materials recovery and processing.

Key speakers at the event were Mr. Pascal Leroy, Director General, WEEE Forum, Dr. Dieter Mutz, Team Leader, EU’s Resource Efficiency Initiative (EU-REI), Mr. Souvik Bhattacharjya, Associate Director, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and Ms. Pavithra Mohanraj, Director, Infinitive.

IITM & EUD engagement:

IIT-Madras has a long track-record of association with EU-funded higher education and research programmes. Almost 100 students from IIT Madras have benefited from the EU-funded Erasmus Mundus scholarships. Since 2015, at least six projects related to capacity building have been funded under the CBHE component of the Erasmus Mundus programme, leading to more than 1,000 scientific publications. IIT Madras was one of the partners of the ‘India-EU Study Centre’ project which started in 2010.

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