Commonwealth collaboration: An opportunity we dare not miss

Commonwealth collaboration: An opportunity we dare not miss
Commonwealth collaboration: An opportunity we dare not miss

India holds the key to taking the Commonwealth lead in sustainable solutions for development. We face an immense global challenge of developing sustainably. We know climate change already contributes to migration and conflict. Some Commonwealth countries are unable to generate the economic growth they badly need to become more resilient. In contrast, India has developed successfully into the world's seventh largest economy, and third largest by purchasing power parity, hence increasingly a world leader in economic growth. Yet even India suffers climate change risks through a warming climate and extreme weather events; effects on agriculture and food security; falling water tables and water stress; melting glaciers affecting rivers, also impacting hydropower and thermal power generation; sea level rise and storm surges threatening coastal cities; and always the challenge of climate driven migration as will affect so much of the world in decades to come. Hence for India, as for the rest of the world, financing sustainable development and deploying skilled resource to undertake infrastructure projects are key issues for the future. It is forecast that there will be $90 trillion of infrastructure investment worldwide over the next 15 years. This is renewing aged infrastructure in the developed world and creating new infrastructure in developing countries. A massive overall investment in land use, energy and the urban environment that needs to be on a sustainable pathway or it will lock us all into worryingly high global warming. Choices made soon will shape the future of the world's climate system, and bad outcomes will make it near certain we shall exceed the global warming level that the international community has agreed not to cross. It is wonderful the Commonwealth already enables diverse networks and collaborations across 52 countries and nearly a third of the population of our planet. It has no real equivalent and has so many advantages of common language, legal frameworks, and historic ties that truly it would be a crime not to take advantage of this remarkable global network to jointly address the major challenges of this century. We owe it to our children and all young people to try and mitigate the alarming threats to their future. Happily, sustainability is now becoming mainstream thinking for multinationals and global investors. It is the only sensible investment option for the long term. A serious gap is that small and medium sized enterprises, key to economic growth and job creation, are in general not yet adequately engaged in and benefitting from sustainable global enterprise. That needs to be addressed as widely as possible. The Commonwealth has the opportunity to capitalise on existing networks and collaborations to help all member nations jointly face the future with greater confidence and resilience for whatever may come. There is great need for exemplary, well communicated global collaboration that will put to shame the growing tendency in some countries towards narrow national self-interest. We share one planet, and everything is connected, so co-operation must be the way forward for any hope of resolving the threats to humanity that are for some countries increasingly close or already manifest. Commonwealth nations, and not just governments but also businesses and civil society, can with strong leadership cooperate on action plans to build collaborative working models and practical systems to take forward objectives such as:

  1. Promoting sustainability education and knowledge sharing, awareness of innovative technology developments, and sustainable trade/investment opportunities.
  2. Strengthening SMEs to manage for growth and to connect with business opportunities globally. Leadership and management skills, international and best practice standards compliance in supply chains, good corporate governance and collaborative frameworks all need to be enhanced to facilitate trade and investment.
  3. Connecting global investors and businesses with local partners and viable investment opportunities through trusted mechanisms. Building relationships for business are a priority to make things happen.
  4. Promoting sustainable public procurement of projects and technologies, and information sharing with other countries and cities on technologies for urban development and key resource needs.
  5. Focus on finance for sustainable development and innovation, jointly developing mechanisms to encourage investors and demonstrate successful outcomes. There is increasing scope to mobilise green finance for infrastructure.
The Commonwealth has all it needs to build and nurture a powerful ecosystem for sustainable development and climate related problem solving. India is in a special position, with half the population of the entire Commonwealth on its own, to be highly influential in such an ecosystem and in driving collaborations across all key areas for development. The potentially vital role of the Commonwealth as the most collaborative world network for sustainable development very much needs India, and India′s opportunity is to be central to Commonwealth enterprises working together innovatively to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Collaborative frameworks are needed in particular for encouraging technology innovation, skills development and deployment in:
  • Energy production and efficiency
  • Refrigeration
  • Health
  • Building
  • Transport
  • Agriculture
  • Water
  • Flood/sea barriers
  • Waste management
  • Smart cities
In many instances there are already networks to build on, and the multiplicity of existing Commonwealth trade and professional organisations undoubtedly cover most if not all the required competencies and connections. The need is to focus on global co-operation, make all the necessary links and make the most of the resources that exist or can be quickly enhanced. Sustainable peace and prosperity are reasonable objectives, vital to our world and future generations, and the Commonwealth is a natural trading cooperative that can help all member nations through collaborative global frameworks that set an example to the world of what is possible with goodwill and commonsense. In all this India is in a special place to make the difference.
Michael Sippitt is Chairman of the Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform (CEIP), a pan Commonwealth network linking entrepreneurs and companies in the environmental sector to each other and to international investors.

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