SCP and SMEs contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation
On October 18, the SWITCH-Asia Network Facility joined hands with the SWITCH-Asia Policy Support Component for Sri Lanka to organise a one-day conference on "The role of SCP in climate change mitigation and adaptation". The event took place in the framework of "Sri Lanka Next - A Blue Green Era", a major three-day forum and exhibition organised by Sri Lanka's Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment on local, regional and global efforts addressing climate change.
The SWITCH-Asia event held in Colombo brought together more than 200 experts, policy-makers, private sector and civil society representatives as well as SWITCH-Asia projects to debate in depth how sustainable consumption and production (SCP) play a role in preventing, minimising and tackling the challenges brought about by climate change.
With SMEs being the backbone of many Asian economies and one of the main beneficiaries of the SWITCH-Asia Programme, much of the discussions touched upon the interventions at the corporate level that contribute to more resource-efficient, environment-friendly and less polluting production practices.
"The experience of our projects across Asia proves that developing the capacities of local SMEs to improve the resource efficiency of their operations is key to raise their resilience to climate change", said Dr. Uwe Weber, Team Leader of the SWITCH-Asia Network Facility.
One of the main messages that emerged from the discussion is that environment-friendly technological solutions and alternatives are very often readily available. What is still lagging behind is the mindset of many managers and entrepreneurs, and the access to investment credit. The former is key to ensure a switch to more efficient and clean production processes, while the latter is essential to enable technology upgrades.
Meanwhile, the business case for cleaner and more efficient production practices has been proven and not always does it come at the price of costly investments.
Illustrating the experience of the SWITCH-Asia project ACIDLOOP among India's metal finishing companies, Mr. Rajat Batra explained for instance that the 106 SMEs they assisted were able to cut their CO2 emissions by 25% by the end of their project, through small investments with short payback time that were financed by the SMEs themselves. It comes to the often referred upon "low-hanging fruits", such as insulation measures, that can go a long way in increasing resource efficiency and saving resource consumption. The real challenge, said Mr Batra, is that "Many SMEs do not even know how much [of a particular resource, e.g. energy] they consume and don't have proper metering systems in place." Not surprisingly then one main support provided by ACIDLOOP consisted in helping SMEs to collect data and learn how to measure them.
This resonated with the words of Mr. Manikku Leelaratne, Team Leader of the SWITCH-Asia Policy Support Component for Sri Lanka that is assisting the central government in developing a national SCP policy and improving the country's resilience to climate change. Speaking about their work on SCP indicators, Mr. Leelaratne stressed their importance in defining and implementing an effective roadmap for SCP: "[Only] if you can measure it, you can improve it", he stated.
While "low hanging fruits" can drive initial steps towards cleaner production, larger investments are needed for more substantial interventions. This applies for instance to Pakistan's sugar mills that traditionally use inefficient, low-pressure cogeneration systems in the absence of more efficient domestic technology and constrained by the credit needs to purchase more efficient, foreign-manufactured solutions. For this reason, the SWITCH-Asia project High Pressure Cogeneration for the Sugar Sector coupled their work on the technology side with dedicated work packages promoting access to finance for these business units and mobilizing public authorities in driving a conducive regulatory environment, for instance in support to renewables versus fossil fuels which are often still subsidised, hence cheaper.
As raised by both conference speakers and participants, the government also plays a key role in supporting a transition towards climate-friendlier processes, by issuing and enforcing policies and regulations related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. A concrete example was provided by the SWITCH-Asia project Sri Lankan Renewable Energy, which supports the wide-scale use of biogas in the country in terms of technology uptake, consumer education and supportive regulatory developments. Despite its potential in climate change mitigation as well as financial savings, biogas is still quite new for Sri Lanka and requires a strong policy commitment from the government. Remarkable benefits would ensue since, "if every public and private institutions producing 100 kg/day of organic waste had a bio-digester, the local government could realise a daily saving of LKR 1,000 (more than EUR 6) in waste management", as said by Mr. Hugo Agostinho, the project's Team Leader. In other words, every year more than EUR 2,200 of financial savings could be generated from each 100 kilos of solid waste produced.
For corporations to be able to switch to climate-friendlier production practices, a combination thus needs to be in place of technological solutions, education, access to green finance and supporting regulatory environments.
Push and pull mechanisms can be designed to enable the effective functioning of such factors, as exemplified by the SWITCH-Asia project ASEAN SHINE that is promoting improved energy efficient air conditioners among 8 ASEAN countries.
As Prof. Munasinghe stated in his inspiring keynote speech, "We don't have to become poor" to decarbonise and go below the safe limit of carbon emissions. Climate change, he reminded, is a "risk multiplier" to existing and upcoming challenges and more action needs to be taken to support innovation, curb unsustainable consumption and fund adaptation measures. Lastly, he reminded, "Don't forget the social capital. Social capital is neglected and under-valued but it is the most important aspect" among the social, environmental and economic dimensions of the climate change problem.
From its side, SWITCH-Asia continues supporting dozens of projects targeting SMEs, consumer associations and policy-makers and addressing the multiple dimensions of SCP, including training and awareness raising, technological upgrades and innovation, access to green finance and policy developments.
Written by Silvia Sartori
Edited by Kartika Anggraeni and Uwe Weber