CEIF: Together towards a Sustainable Recovery

When: Dec 09th, 2020
Where: Online Meeting

Event overview

The Forum was created around an Indian-Czech-Romanian initiative to foster higher-order relations and enhanced dialogue among Central European countries (Czechia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, and Serbia) and Indian counterparts. It aims to encompass key issues and stakeholders from the two sides and welcomes high-level participants from different sectors.

The first meeting of the Central Europe - India Forum, originally planned to be held in Prague in June 2020, had to be postponed due to the global pandemic. As a new date is still being determined, the Steering Committee decided to go online and organize a series of virtual events. The first one titled “India - CE relations in Post-Covid World Order: First Lessons Learned” took place in June – report from the event can be found here. Report of the second event titled “Health Systems under Pressure: Experiences from India and Central Europe”, which took place in September, can be found here. The next online ‘by invitation only’ event took place on Wednesday, December 9, 2020 and carried title of “CEIF: Together towards a Sustainable Recovery.”


Charting a pathway to a sustainable post-Covid economy

Climate change is one of the gravest challenges ever to have confronted human, political and economic systems. It could directly cost the world economy $7.9 trillion by 2050 as increased drought, flooding and crop failures hamper growth and threaten infrastructure. Given the astoundingly heavy toll it inflicts on the economy, the environment and the society, taking action to mitigate climate change is not just a priority but a critical imperative for governments all over the world. While individual action at the country-level is essential to make an impact, partnerships that leverage the power of coordinated, collective action play a pivotal role in moving the needle on climate change.

India and the European Union share a commitment to a sustainable global economy; since 2016, India and the EU have been part of a Clean Energy and Climate Partnership. A missing link in this partnership is between Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and India, which both seek to scale up their attractiveness as investment destinations for investment into green technology, sustainable infrastructure, and other climate change-related projects. It is also worth noting that some CEE countries share ambition to lead the change in green transformation which supports current EU funding for regions most affected by the transition to the low carbon economy.

Given this context, the Central Europe-India Forum (CEIF) (the Observer Research Foundation, KEYNOTE and GlobalFocus) organised a high-level virtual discussion on December 9, 2020 to dissect and deliberate the pathways to a sustainable economy in a post-Covid world. This discussion sought to examine the approaches of India and CEE countries to building a sustainable economy that will also ensure a green post-pandemic recovery.


Green industries to catalyse growth for a post-Covid sustainable recovery

The Covid-19 pandemic has served as a threat multiplier, amplifying existing challenges such as hunger, malnutrition poverty and climate insecurity. The economic mayhem and fiscal disruption unleashed by the pandemic has struck India and the CEE countries in equal measure. However, the impact has been more severe and magnified in the case of India on account of multiple factors such as weaker health infrastructure, lack of social safety nets and stressed fiscal resources.

At the same time, the solution to emerge out of this unprecedented crisis will be shaped by similar contours in both India and the CEE countries. Both regions will have to rethink the traditional building blocks of economic growth to “build back better” in the truest sense. In the past, urbanisation and industrialisation have been the two key drivers of economic recovery all over the world. However, a post-Covid architecture for a more resilient and robust world will rest on the twin pillars of technology and sustainability. In other words, the traditional “farm to factory” developmental paradigm must be replaced by the “farm to frontier” approach. Green industries and sectors such as e-mobility, renewable power, green buildings and waste management have a high potential to power the green transformation and accelerate a post-Covid recovery in both regions.

The same aim can be approached by different tools. In India, the main focus may be on solving poverty as the key to it is closely connected with greener world. The developed world including CEE countries should pay attention to global income distribution: the richest 10% of the world’s population were responsible for 52% of the cumulative carbon emissions between 1990 and 2015.

In spite of the said, to harness the economic and environmental potential of these industries, countries must design incentives that spur innovation and create new markets. In that context, partnerships that create financial and technological synergies between India and the CEE countries should be prioritised.


Public support to play a critical role in accelerating climate change momentum

One of the biggest impediments in mobilising climate action is climate scepticism. Even the best of climate mitigation policies and programmes turn out to be ineffective if significant portions of the public refuse to accept the scale and magnitude of the climate emergency. The age-old saying, “vision without execution is hallucination” is perfectly applicable to the context of climate action.

Probably the key element for successful transformation is a good legal framework. Such governance balance incentives and taxes and thus influencing and eventually changing behaviour pattern.

Fostering public support and trust is one of the most critical aspects for ensuring proper execution of any climate effort. Universal rule is to keep up the promises. This generates a circle of trust and prosperity between the government and the citizens and ensures that the desired outcome is achieved.

Countries can leverage the post-Covid reality to mobilise public opinion and harness public support for climate action. Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University, called the novel coronavirus “climate change on warp speed.” The pandemic is a wake-up call for policymakers and citizens alike to address the vulnerabilities of the existing development paradigm and rebuild a more sustainable one. India and Central Europe should become partners in designing this economic and social reboot and championing the idea of a sustainable economy.


Annexure 1 – List of Speakers

Anita Grmelová, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Czechia 

Alicja Pawłowska-Piorun, Head of Low Emission Transport Unit, National Centre for Climate Change, Poland 

Jayant Sinha, Member of Parliament, India 

Corina Murafa, Global Co-Leader Ashoka Planet & Climate, Ashoka Romania, Romania 

The report was written by Tanushree Chandra, Junior Fellow, Economy and Growth Programme, ORF.

Further online sessions are prepared for the months to come and will set the ground for the initial CEIF meeting in 2021.

The Central Europe - India Forum strives to enhance the mutual flow of information and knowledge in the fields of research and technology, business and trade, civil society, politics and security between India and Central Europe and to contribute to strong and diverse relations among the represented countries including promoting cooperation, creating and fostering sustainable networks, and identifying new opportunities. The project is developed, led, and organized by the Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi), KEYNOTE (Prague), and the GlobalFocus Center (Bucharest).


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