Organised on: 29th November, 2020 

We, at LexQuest Foundation (LQF), organized the second edition of the Symposium on Public Policy, with the theme Climate Change Mitigation Policies, on the 29th of November 2020. Considering the pandemic and the limitations it has put on our mobility, the Symposium was held on a virtual platform. It aimed to reflect on aspects that are affected by climate change or have been an outcome of it. The Symposium comprised four sessions that facilitated the exchange of ideas and experiences of different speakers with the participants. The event was moderated by our Co-Founder & Executive Director, Tanya Chandra.

The Symposium kicked off with Shalu Agrawal from CEEW, who spoke about the Status of Energy Access Patterns In India. She highlighted the importance of access to clean energy, as in the absence of clean energy, we end up using polluting fuels which have major implications for climate change. She also spoke about access to energy in India, specifically about electricity. According to a survey done by CEEW, wherein 14850 households were surveyed in 21 States, 96.7% of houses have access to grid electricity, while 4.4% of houses are unelectrified; these houses belong to those who are multidimensionally deprived. 0.5% of the households have been disconnected from the electricity supply due to non-payment. She also addressed issues of the status of the access to reliable energy supply in India, as an average home receives only 20.5 hours of daily supply while 2⁄3rd of rural populations and ⅓rd of urban houses face power outages at least once a day.  

The key barriers to reliable electricity were also discussed- the main reason being the high losses that AT&C (Aggregate Technical and Commercial Losses) faces as the consumers are unable to pay the bills and the inability of transmission companies to efficiently meter the electricity and recover revenue. People are either unable to pay these bills due to financial problems or owing to the distance they need to travel to pay these bills. People often do not pay the bills and are not penalized strictly- this incentivizes people to not pay their bills, which results in more losses for the companies. The way forward to this problem was also addressed by the speaker. She suggested that access to electricity can only be enhanced when the means of payment are accessible and when the system of the monthly payment is removed and replaced with one that allows payments in installments, as the poor cannot afford such high payments in one go. Lastly, the speaker discussed the reason behind us not being able to shift to clean energy, as a nation; lack of awareness about clean energy appliances and the lack of affordable appliances are the major culprits.

Session Video:

The second speaker of the day was Kanchi Kohli, Senior Researcher at CPR, who spoke about the Policy Challenges of Urban Environmental Resilience. The key takeaway from her session was that policymakers fail to understand that we are in a “lived environment”. Ecologies exist in every environment which we neglect and destroy and rebuild on the pretext of “development” and urbanization, as a result of which there are consequences that we need to face due to the destruction we cause in this “lived environment”. She also spoke about how policies fail to take into consideration the social stratification which determines the access to a clean and healthy environment, which is the reason why certain classes, castes, gender, and religious groups are often neglected in the policies addressing environmental changes. More so, there is always a resistance to public participation which voices the issues of the environment. To address all these issues, we need to consider the environment and the interrelationship we have while implementing master plans and creating policies. We must have an ecological understanding of a lived environment and we must encourage public participation in urban projects.

The third session was about the Significance of Gender in Efficient Energy Consumption and was conducted by Shaily Jha, a Research Analyst at CEEW. She emphasized on how the debate on access to energy does not just include women’s empowerment in driving energy adoption but also energy adoption which empowers women. The salient point of her session was that different genders have different usage patterns which must be acknowledged during policymaking. Her focus was on access to clean cooking energy and she used the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to support her claims. With the use of her quantitative data, she depicted how there are disparities in access to cooking fuel not just within the household but also within communities that the government is incognizant of. There is a gendered role in acquiring LPG as well; while women decide on when the LPG gets refilled, men go out and get the cylinder filled. Hence due to mobility constraints, women are forced to be dependent on men to get clean energy. Shaily argued how such gendered activities need to be considered in policies. The speaker further suggested that if manufacturers change the product designs, business model, and improve the end-user financing, such disparities may reduce. She highlighted the need to create a policy ecosystem that enables women, as the current policies either only focus on energy and neglect women (e.g. MUDRA) or only focuses on women and neglect energy (e.g. KUSUM). Furthermore, we need to not just address energy which is concerned with cooking but also livelihoods. Lastly, we also need to work on gender-disaggregated data and gender-responsive budgeting for energy access, as both aspects are usually male-dominated.

The last speaker at the event was Rashee Mehra from IIHS who addressed the Heeding Social Inequalities for Sustainable Urbanization Strategies using her project ‘Main Bhi Dilli’ to bring out examples to support her arguments. She began by addressing how the pandemic exposed our very weak system and questioned the inclusiveness in cities, and thereby argued that India needs to map the intersections of gender, religion, caste, and move beyond the practice of tokenism to make cities inclusive. She moved on to talk about how urban planning policies in India ignore the population that needs assistance and criminalizes the poor, which should be stopped. She concluded by suggesting the concept of migrant houses or hostels which the governments should look into so that the unfortunate events which happened during the pandemic don’t happen again.

Event information can be found here.

You can access our Environment Advocacy work here.

By Anuja Prasad, Research Associate, Policy, LexQuest Foundation (LQF)