Tag Archives: Environment

Me at Cancun

I’m going to start this blog post with a summary of the people I have met, the events I have attended and what I have done. I shall start with the superficial. Over the last week I have met several “cool, famous” people. These have almost by definition been extremely short conversation. The first two people I met were The Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC secretariat, Christiana Figueres, and the President of the 16th Conference of the Parties (this one) Patricia Espinosa. This was at the initial party thrown by the Mexican Governemnt to, and was nothing more than an introduction and a quick photo.
On Wednesday, I happened to sit down for lunch at a table right next Dr Rajendra Pachauri. We had a quick chat about an uncle of mine he knows and what events he was going to be at COP16. The last was a meeting with Lord Stern, the author of the Stern report.
This meeting was set up by the British Council, and was a mind blowing experience. Six champions got to sit with lord Stern for over an hour discussing the current situation of the negotiations as well as our projects. Lord stern is the rare celebrity who is extremely grounded, well travelled and sparkling with intelligence. He gave all of us extremely relevant feedback about our projects and on many occasions whipped out old business cards he had collected, of people that he had met and who could have a direct impact on helping our projects.
The British Council also set up a virtual skype meeting with Champions from around the world. Champions from over 20 countries participated, and me and Ding (the Chinese champion) filled everyone in on what was happening and discussed International policy with the Champions for an hour.
My attitude to this entire COP was two-fold on one hand I wanted to help the Govt. delegation a s much a I possibly could, which I did consistently, on the other hand I wanted to use this as a 2 week Crash course on climate policy. I have always read a lot about climate policy, and tried to keep abreast with the latest policy proposals. At this COP with all the side events (events organized by different governments , research institutes and NGO’s) which literally had the who’s-who of climate policy speaking I had an opportunity to consilidate everything I knew and learn a lot more.
I sat in on events ranging from the role of the UN in climate negotiations to presentations of the most recent research papers on the Carbon Budget (the Idea that each country has a specific amount it is allowed to emit, which it should not exceed) . This was an amazing learning experience for me. The interesting part is that every single side event is available for free video streaming of the UNFCCC website (http://unfccc.int/) .

Regarding my work with the Indian Delegation, over the Summer I interned at the office of the minister at the with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India. As a result I knew a lot of people coming with the Indian delegation this year, and managed to get myself a role in the delegation, helping out in anyway I could. This was a very interesting experience and through this I got to meet several extremely interesting Indians. I met several young and enthusiastic Indian PhD and Masters students and older and extremely passionate scientists.

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The Debate

We were welcomed to the official meeting at Cancun with a party thrown by the Mexican Govt. on Monday night. The atmosphere was amazing. Last year the equivalents event organised by the Govt. of Denmark was full of Diplomats sipping Champagne slowly for 30 minutes before politely excusing themselves. The Mexican event  was a real party. Men on brought invited us in to a a beautiful open air venue which opened to the gulf of Mexico. The food was prepared by Mexico’s most famous Chef, and the bar served unlimited drinks of every imaginable sort. Most country delegations were present, as were the President of this years Conference as well as the head of the UNFCCC secretariat. The music was outstanding and everyone was relaxed.

It was difficult for me to be anything but optimistic. The negotiations on the first day had been relatively upbeat, and I was excited. Unlike COP15 I came into the process expecting absolutely nothing, since all the negotiators I had spoken to this time around have emphasised the focus on smaller scale technical matters this time around. It was a good night. Infact I have a picture somewhere (which I will certainly try and put up) of me with my arms around the two most important peole at the conference – the president and the head of the Secretariat! Which is no mean task given the approximately 1000 people there.

On to more serious news. The next day was a disaster. Japan stood up during the COP to say in very straight language (Which is extremely rare in conferences such as this one) that it would not sign any extension of the Kyoto Proposal until both the US and China agree to legally binding Carbon emission limits. I should not have been as surprised as I was – since they have hinting they would this for a while now, it was just the stark non-ambiguous language of the delegate that shocked me.  This leaves everyone in a bit of confusion. If the Kyoto protocol is not extended, the CDM mechanism that has brought billions of dollars to developing countries like India and China will be scrapped. If this happens it will be almost impossible to get developing countries to endorse a deal of any type.

Maybe this years conference will not be as successful as I believed in my slightly drunk state on Monday night. With Key countries like Canada and Australia furiously Backtracking on their already vague and unenforceable promises, and Japan promising not to do anything unless China and the US commit to legally enforceable Carbon emission reductions.

Is everything so black and white? Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, It probably will be near impossible to convince China to agree to legally binding emission reductions. Japans many domestic adaptation and mitigation actions have been forgotten, and Japans action is being used as scapegoate by countires like Canada and Australia, who are equally against a deal of any sort. This is a bleak statement. But is everything as bad as this seems? This is not the entire story.

For one thing there seems to be a deals on REDD (an international anti deforestation scheme) and a climate fund. These two vitally important points ,if agreed upon, could lead to a solid foundation for a more thorough deal at South Africa next year.

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The Story from Cancun (COP 16)

Hi everyone, my name is Agastya Muthanna. I have been a British Council Climate Champ since 2008. I am in the penultimate year of my Economics degree at the University of Cambridge, and am representing the Indian British Council at the 16th annual United Nations organized meeting on climate change (COP16).

This is the second COP I have attended (the first was last year in Copenhagen) and I cant help but think that perhaps if the first one was here at sunny beautiful Cancun, and not cold and crowded Copenhagen we may have had a more concrete result. The weather is perfect, and the conference is extremely well organized.

On this first post I’d like to lay out hat I would like to see, from a policy perspective. My next post shall be more personal.

The Indian Environmental Minister Mr Ramesh summarised the topics he felt agreement are expected. These were, first, the establishment of a green fund that will collect and allocate Climate finance, second, an agreement on meeting adaptation needs. His third expectation is an endorsement of Redd (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), and on transparency issue concerning measurement ,reporting and verification (MRV)

I’m going to end this post with a quick summary of what I would like to see: The global climate meetings in Mexico in late 2010 and South Africa in 2011 should put much more emphasis on the links between climate action and development. Climate change should never be used as a reason for condemning the world’s poor to continued poverty. But their road to riches should take the climate into account. The cities where ever more people will be living need to grow in ways that don’t exacerbate the problem; the farms where ever fewer people are having to produce ever more food must be far better supplied with know-how, improved crops and insurance against the adverse effects that are sure to come. Development needs to be climate-ready, even if it cannot be climate-proof.

Second, new thinking is needed on how to change the energy mix that the world uses. Making fossil-fuel energy more expensive has so far not delivered much by way of controlling emissions. The better way is to make clean, renewable energies cheaper. Research and development can be part of that solution. But so can a willingness by banks and donors to increase the market for such energy systems. Buying in bulk is a tried and tested way of bringing down prices.

Such assistance and subsidy have the attraction of a built-in cut-off. As soon as increased demand and improved technology make renewables cheaper than fossil alternatives, the desire to generate energy through the burning of coal and oil will seem perverse, and the transition to a future beyond fossil fuels will become irreversible.

Finally, I would like to see more emphasis on using public policy and funds to increase private finance. Private finance makes up the bulk of all investments in Green technology, and mitigation (the ratio of private to public investment is currently around 5:1). There has been virtually no discussion about innovative measure to increase private capital flows, which can increase dramatically if given the right incentives.

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Blocks of GREEN

My project, ‘Blocks of Green’, which talks about the energy efficiency and water conservation in the green buildings in Kolkata, was selected for the UKEFF right after I got the National Film Award for one of my documentary films. When I started working on film, many of my film school friends and well-wishers were surprised and amused seeing me make a film on buildings. Some of them started calling me a ‘corporate filmmaker’.

But I am glad that I got the opportunity to do this film. I thank the British Council and the British High Commission for their unique initiative, the UKEFF.

Having worked as an independent documentary filmmaker for the past four years and having pitched my projects in India and abroad, I know how difficult it would have been to find funding for the film I made. My film was not telling the story of any protagonist but that of buildings. It was not made to entertain but for a cause, one that concerns all of us, but we do little about.

Today, we are more aware of the environmental concerns. But I believe this awareness needs to be spread far and wide and taken to the very grassroots level of the society, to the masses, to the common man in the small towns and villages. And best way to do it is through the audio-visual medium. The UKEFF did just that.

The UKEFF, through its team of experts, not only helped us make the most effective film but also helped the films reach far and wide through the telecast on National Geographic channel and the following presentations and screenings in different part of the country. I was glad to present my film to packed audiences in Kolkata and Kochi.

The response at both the places made me feel happy to have made my small contribution to the green cause. I was overwhelmed to see the stimulating audience interactions in Kolkata following the film screening. The positive energy that I witnessed in the audience in Kochi, to do something in their own city and make a difference, was a special feeling. Their eagerness to go green in their very own environment showed me the positive impact of the UKEFF films. I hope the British Council organizes many more screenings in many more cities and towns in the coming days, and would be happy to part of the same.

I eagerly look forward to the DVD release of the UKEFF 2010 films. I wish to screen the films in as many schools and societies I can and keep spreading the green message.

‘Blocks of Green’, telling the story of the buildings, has been a challenging film for me. The challenge was in talking about buildings yet keep it interesting. I thank the people who helped me live up to the challenge- the experts from UKEFF, with special mention to Mr. Mike Pandey, for their guidance, and my professional and experienced crew members, Supriyo Dutta, cameraman; Sukanta Majumdar, Sound Recordist; Tamal Chakraborty, Editor, all of whom are my friends from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute. I also thank Mr. Biswajit Thakur, my guide on green buildings, and Sumanta Ghosh, the graphics artist for the film. I am also thankful to Mr. S. P. Gon Chaudhuri, Managing Director, West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Ltd.; Mr. S. Bhattacharya, Director In Charge, West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency; Mr. Harsh Neotia, CMD, Ambuja Realty, for their support.

Post by – © Bishnu Dev Halder

Bishnu Dev Halder

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Wheeling in Change

June 5th – World Environment Day – 6 am – I was sitting in an airport lounge sipping coffee. The irony of that moment didn’t escape me. My film idea had been chosen for the UKEFF 2010 on the theme of climate change mitigation and here I was adding more credits to my carbon footprint.

I guess this thought wouldn’t even have struck me a few years ago – but now I live in a world where every action has serious consequences for our planets future…I live in Bangalore and in the last 5 years, the city seems to have become warmer – no more warm clothes, no more aunties knitting sweaters, air conditioners sticking out like tumours from every window – yes the city has changed. I used to gripe about it till I met a small and steadily group of positive minded people – who really do believe that their actions can make a difference in this huge world that we live in.

My film ‘Wheeling in Change’ was inspired by the traffic in Bangalore – something that is so common to every resident of this city that it is the best conversational ice breaker. And when I realised that as the number of private vehicles were increasing and the number of trees were decreasing in this ‘garden’ city – I decided to explore this theme; see if it has a bearing on climate change and if so, what we could do about it.

And that’s when I met my films heroes – Mayank, Lavanya, Vipul and Das – people who have been steadily making the right choices as citizens and environmentalists – and whose lifestyle choices were influencing a larger circle…simply by cycling, taking public buses or carpooling EVERYDAY to work or otherwise – between the last 10- 3 years!!!

And yes! Some of them own cars – some of them refuse to buy one – and they all work corporate jobs!

Through them I realised that there are proactive individuals in the government too – the Commissioner for Transport and Road Safety is an avid cyclist doing all he can to promote cycling in Bangalore; a police force that actively encourages car pooling and the introduction of a bus day once a month.

A good film, I believe can’t inspire an audience till the film maker feels inspired too – and yes! I have been inspired – within my family there are changes – my husband cycles to work and I take my daughter to school by bus and walk back instead of taking an auto…

Of course none of this would have been possible without the UKEFF and the British Council who have been very supportive through our shoots, our feedback sessions and finally in enabling the films to reach a wide audience. It was really thrilling to show our films in cities all over India – from what I hear to packed audiences in every city that had screenings…in Bangalore, the discussions on the films went on long after the venue closed – so much so I missed the telecast on National Geographic and am eagerly awaiting a repeat! It’s so rare that a funding body takes this kind of effort to showcase the films too…and I’m really grateful for the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone involved with this project.

Post by – © Nina Subramani

Nina Subramani

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Drop by Drop

“Prayer has been made to mother earth that she blesses us with the knowledge required to exploit the treasures of nature but without disturbing the environmental balance” – Atharva Veda

Unfortunately, human progress so far has been at the cost of environmental imbalance and we have before us an enormous task of making up for it. So where does one start if we are to make a difference?
I got my start thanks to the UKEFF 2010 project. Its theme of finding environmental solutions for urban areas seemed a credible and do-able idea. How that idea would be executed came to me after a month’s ruminations (at an unlikely hour of 4 am in the morning, while watching the past UKEFF films on you tube) just 5 days before the submission deadline. I convinced Ira Prem of the IICE (I owe this film to her) to give me an Immediate appointment, and working at breakneck speed managed to courier my folder just in the nick of time.

I am glad I did that because it’s been a great journey all through the making of this film. Right from the first presentation to the Jury (The first time in my life that I was giving a PPT presentation in front of an audience) Right up to the last day when the film was launched on Nat Geo on the 5th of June 2010.
All the people I met while working on the film (many of whom could not be featured in the film due to time constraints) walked the extra mile to help me. Specifically, I would like to specially mention the experts in my film Dr. Ajit Gokhale & Ms. Roshni Udyavar.

One of the residential societies where I was shooting has installed Rain Water Harvesting & Water Recycling Systems (though not facing any kind of water cuts or water problems) just because it is the need of the hour. Everyone I met feels the government must make it compulsory & it should be a punishable offence not to have Rain Water Harvesting & Water Recycling System at one’s residence.

The focus of the film was to convince people who are staying in old buildings – which were built when Climate change was not a big issue, which were not built with green parameters – to take steps to make their buildings go green.

Following Mahatma Gandhi’s maxim “Be the change you want to see”, I have initiated the process of setting up a Wind Generator System in my residential complex (we already have a Water Recycling System). However, it is just not me; I have noticed positive feedback from others too.
During the dinner that followed the launch on 4th June, A lady came up to me and said their complex too depends on water tankers and after hearing one of the protagonist in my film, she too will try and convince people from her locality to do Rain Water Harvesting .

While editing the film, there was this businessman from Bhopal who had come to meet me and he saw the part where one of my residents talks about getting subsidy & claiming depreciation by investing in a Wind Generator System. He immediately called up his Chartered Accountant in connection with the depreciation bit and he is now fixing a Wind Generator System in his bungalow.
Indeed the film is serving its purpose…..
Time to take this idea further….. ?
Suggestions welcome….. !!!

Post by – © Jitendra Adappa

Jitendra Adappa

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The Miracle Water Village

The experience of making The Miracle Water Village has been a great journey for us! Our relationship with the village of Hiware Bazar started sometime in October 2009, when we were researching on rural communities that have worked on water conservation. Over the course of our research and production of the film, we happened to visit the village many times – meeting men, women and children for whom, water conservation has literally become a way of life.

Hiware Bazar is not merely a name – it’s both a symbol and a phenomenon. Tucked away in the parched landscape of Maharashtra, this small village is emblematic of the problem and solution to water management in India. When inspiring leadership and collective efforts take root within a community – what it gives to the world is nothing short of a miracle!

The experience of making the film has been humbling as well as one of unlearning of a lot of assumptions that most city-dwellers have about ideas of ‘development’. There was much more to learn from this typically rural and semi-literate community’s experience than from the expertise of the many scholars that we interacted with through the course of making this film. Through the course of making the film, we interacted with 90-year olds and 9-year olds who shared the same love and commitment for their environment! Stories of drought and despair have been taken over by tales of hope and positive efforts – each voice bearing a testimony to the collective wisdom of an entire village.

The UKEFF gave us the perfect opportunity to tell the story of this rural community that has used the power of its own vision and a bottoms-up approach to solve its water crisis. In the face of imminent consequences of climate change, it is collective community participation, ownership and responsibility of the environment that will make all the difference.

Finally, as filmmakers, the most important concern for us was not to make a film that raised issues of climate change, without providing viable solutions for the same. Now that the film has been shared with a wide spectrum of audiences, the feedback and response that we have received has been extremely heart-warming and encouraging. There has been a huge demand from community leaders and scholars to share copies of The Miracle Water Village in different regional languages that could be shared with more farming communities across India. For us, this where the power of this film lies – to be used as a resource and education tool to affect positive grassroots-level change. The UKEFF has ensured that the success of Hiware Bazar will not just remain a local story but one that can inspire many similar water-thirsty regions across the world!

Post by – © Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas.

Sushmit Rintu

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12 minutes of Going Green: Notes from a Green City

The UKEFF 2010 gave me the wonderful opportunity to make a 12-minute film on ‘Climate Change Mitigation in Urban Areas’ – a topic very close to my heart. Most of my films in the past focused on green innovations in the industry sector or in rural areas. To make a film on green interventions in Surat, India’s ninth largest city, was a new challenge I was eagerly looking forward to in the beginning of January 2010. The film was completed in May 2010. The months in between were an exhilarating roller coaster ride. Some of the highs – the thrill of interacting with people in Surat, especially in the municipal corporation and the industry, to understand and visualize the stories, the willing cooperation and enthusiasm of everyone in the city to help with the film, the amazing connectedness of people of Surat – where everyone knows everyone and is just a phone call away, the joy of being in a city that seemed to be doing many things right and of course the food! Having lived in Gujarat for many years, I have grown to love ‘Gujju’ food, even as many of my friends and colleagues cannot fathom how can ‘dal’ be sweet.

Crucial to shaping the film, after the filming was over, were the feedback sessions by the jury of the British Council. To have the film continually assessed by an external audience at every stage of its creation was both new and useful for me. Encouraging, full of ideas (all totally divergent at times!), bringing in new dimensions to the subject, the jury’s feedback would get our heads buzzing and even go numb. The trick was to go back to the drawing board each time and test each idea against the overall theme of the film and see if the idea enhanced the film. I am very grateful for those feedback sessions, as they helped me integrate small details that made my film richer.

The final stage was going public – thanks to the British Council’s active efforts at getting the film ‘seen’. With a TV broadcast, simultaneous screenings in various cities on the World Environment Day and the newspaper publicity, I suddenly got a wee bit nervous as it made me realize how a film takes on a life of its own once it is out there for the audience. The excited phone calls and sms-es made me heave a sigh of relief -  “Congrats”, “I think it could do without the graphics”, “Thank you for making me famous – my cousin in Australia saw me on TV”, “I liked the last shot in your film”… As the voices trail off, it feels nice to have made a film which has been seen by many, on a topic that matters to each one of us and. As for me, I now look at every city with fresh eyes – does it have an organized system of garbage collection? Does it have public transport? Does the city do PPP (Public Private Partnerships)? And wish for more stories of urban India to unfold.

Post by – © Madhyama Subramanian.

Madhyama

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Filming Firdaus: Melting Paradise

Following in our fathers ( Naresh Bedi’s) footsteps , my brother Ajay and I also wanted to make a film which could convey the message of conservation to people across. We were delighted when our film concept was approved by British Council and British High Commission for UKEFF fellowship on a new age yet very current subject of climate change.

Our film “Melting Paradise” looks at Kashmir valley in a very different way. The valley has been in the news for its conflict and terror but we wanted to take our camera beyond the battle zone and talk about shrinking water bodies due to climate change. We had many difficulties to begin with, Jammu & Kashmir is not a easy place to film. We were always under surveillance by police or army and even as we filmed we could hear gun shots indicative of encounters which were on in the nearby region. Despite this we could capture Kashmir beauty at its best. We planned our trip in the middle of Kashmir’s coldest season locally called “Chillai Kalan” and we could see that this season had not received the maximum snowfall. While we know that isolated incidents cannot be related to climate change- the people pointed out how this has been happening for many years now. Our most poignant moment of filming was when we entered a mosque and the maulvi was leading a prayer begging the gods to bless the valley with snow. We could see firsthand how climate change is not in the future but now.

There was not much of snow but extreme weather made it difficult on many days to work our cameras. With temperature dipping below freezing point we had to keep our camera warm and take it out only when need to film. Due to the intense cold we also had to keep our batteries warm to ensure they worked properly . Shooting in the wetlands like Dal Lake and Asia’s largest freshwater lake

It was a tough shoot but very redeeming as we got to witness Kashmirs intense beauty come face to face with planet earths worse crisis. We have tried in this film to not paint a dooms-day scenario of the issue of climate change. But rather provide solutions which include preservation of Kashmirs wetlands which act as carbon sinks.

Post by – © Ajay Bedi & Vijay Bedi. 

UKEFF
Ajay Bedi & Vijay Bedi are youngest Asian to win Green Oscar.

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