In the News, Water / Climate

Samir Saran in MINT discussion on “Making sense of sustainability”

Mint conclave on the ways to promote sustainability in business
New Delhi, 16th of July 2012
Please find here the original link to the article

New Delhi: Ravi Narain, managing director and chief executive of National Stock Exchange of India Ltd; Rajat Kathuria, economist and in-coming director, Icrier; Sivasubramanian Ramann, executive director of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi); Seema Arora, executive director at CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development; and Samir Saran, vice-president at Observer Research Foundation, were the panellists who took part in a Mint debate on sustainable development. The panellists discussed the ways to promote sustainability in business. Mint’s deputy managing editor Anil Padmanabhan moderated the discussion. Edited excerpts:

Padmanabhan: Sustainability is not possible without inclusion. Environment has to be seen holistically. Is there a business case for sustainability?

(Left) Ravi Narain, Managing director and CEO, NSE and Seema Arora, Executive director, CIIITC Centre of Excellence. Photos: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

(Left) Ravi Narain, Managing director and CEO, NSE and Seema Arora, Executive director, CIIITC Centre of Excellence. Photos: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Arora: There is certainly a case for sustainability. As the minister (M. Veerappa Moily) said, it is not that business has to do it for anyone else. Business has to do it for its own survival. And that’s how we advocate it. That’s why mainstreaming sustainability into corporate decision-making. Sustainability here includes social and governance issues. Corporates need to look at it from this lens as well as from long-term perspective. Typically businesses look at it from short-term lens because they are driven by certain rewards they get. For this movement to actually succeed, that reward mechanism has to have a long-term lens. This is what we are trying to do with different stakeholders. Coming back to your question, there is certainly a business case, that is why we see many corporates already doing it. They are creating value for themselves and their stakeholders.

Saran: I am not sure about there being a business case for sustainability because there is no agreement on how we define sustainability. You saw Rio +20, there was no agreement among various nations on what sustainability is. But governance is something that can be measured. We have tried to create a method where we measure energy and emissions. We see these two as a proxy for governance. Any company with good governance will be efficient with its fuel consumption.

Padmanabhan: If we look at the guidelines laid by the (ministry of corporate affairs) ministry, they are more holistic.

Saran: Here again, we have to separate sustainability from social enterprise. If you were to tag your social ventures as corporate social responsibility, CSR, then I think you are confusing the cost of employee with CSR and that’s not right. That’s what most of the companies do. They try to project workforce infrastructure development as giving back to larger society. I think, these two have to be segregated. Up to the 90s, companies were hiding that they were making profit. Because the companies were projecting themselves as not profitable, they didn’t have to do much for others. Post 90s, profit became the mantra and then inclusion didn’t matter. And until 2007-08, it was the mantra. Only in 2009, social inclusion was introduced in the budget by UPA (United Progressive Alliance). The issue is, social transformation and growth are not linked.

From Left to Right: Samir Saran, VP, Observer Research Foundation; Rajat Kathuria, Economist, Icrier and Sivasubramanian Ramann, Executive director, Sebi

From Left to Right: Samir Saran, VP, Observer Research Foundation; Rajat Kathuria, Economist, Icrier and Sivasubramanian Ramann, Executive director, Sebi

Narain: There is a very clear business case, but it is not explicit enough. The so called enlightened businesses see it as a business case, but it is not out there in all our faces. We need to help bring out the cases of successful businesses who managed to see it as a business case and that has the ability to move it forward. There is empirical and anecdotal evidence that companies can get a premium if they are able to demonstrate good governance. It gets fuzzier when you come to non-governance part of sustainability. That’s about markets and investors. The other half is funders. I think the banks need to do a lot more to align their interests with corporates in making a business case.

Padmanabhan: As a regulator, how do you see it?

Ramann: I agree there is a business case in this whole move towards sustainability. If inputs are costed correctly, that is where a company is going to go forward, and make the best of whatever inputs are available and discard the expensive one and take on what is cheaper. We should bring that out more clearly.

Padmanabhan: You mean include the environment and social cost in the price?

Ramann: We are talking about moving ahead, looking clearly ahead at cost, which is real. One good thing that happened was the BSE green index. So, why not put out a simple number on which companies could be graded. That would certainly be good step forward.

Kathuria: One of the classic reasons for market failure has been that the externalities. It is not the inability but the complete dissociation from firms’ point of view to include those costs, those externalities into cost of production, which gives rise to market failure issue. The question is how to get firms to do that. There are two ways, one is voluntarily, or force companies to include those costs and therefore get the desirable results. The world is experimenting with carbon credits and standard for environmental sustainability and jury is still out there. But the problem is market failure and addressing that market failure, culture is also important. Do we have the culture of compliance in our country or not. So getting the firms to do it is a long road ahead. One of the ways in which compliance happens is through a strong institutional structure. Nor are we that sanguine about market any more, that the market is going to lead to the outcomes that are desirable, neither is the world. The way, to get the market to achieve the desirable outcome, is the institution structure that has sound enforcement and the right market incentives.

Padmanabhan: Samir you said growth and social inclusion are delinked at this point of time. Do you think these incentives can be a bridge?

Saran: I am not a believer in carrots. I think sometimes sticks are needed too. Now, I am not saying that should be done. The Greenex is a good way of doing it, you are listing good performers. Then, like Ravi (Narain) mentioned, hopefully we can ensure that funds flow to these performers. What is not happening today is that you are creating institutions and standards, but funds are not necessarily being driven to those performers in that framework. I completely agree with Ravi, unless bankers start backing good performers, good governance and social practices, you are not going to see companies either hurt enough or incentivize enough to change.

Padmanabhan: It is clear that we need incentive structure. Now the big debate is whether you follow stick approach or a carrot approach.

Arora: In our country pressures and dilemmas are completely different at the moment. I don’t think we can say that this is the only route by which we will get the results we really want. Also, culture has to play a major role here in a way we change the behaviour and the way industry responds to certain things. There is certainly a case in providing some kind of incentives for good performances. They could be different types of incentives, market-based incentives, financial incentives or recognitional incentives, we can start and experiment with. The important point is the entire ecosystem at this moment is rewarding corporate performance on quarterly performance. If that is going to be the main metrics, then obviously the ecosystem is not rewarding anything else the corporates do in terms of value creation on sustainability. So, the system has to work together to make that happen. We need to bring consumers on to the table. We need to have mix of incentives and gradually move to disincentives. But we are not mature enough to start immediately with it.

Ravi: Can we ask every institutional investors to put out in public domain what their assessment is for each corporate they have invested in, on their ESG (Environment, Social and Corporate) view, ESG action and sustainability.

Padmanabhan: Raman, as a regulator, can the disclosure be expanded to include these?

Raman: Most certainly. The facts is the initiative of ministry of corporate affairs has given the way forward for regulators like us. And it is something that is probably going to come out soon on how to get companies to make better disclosures. It is active work in progress, be it a listing agreement or any other form, the companies will be bound legally to bring out disclosure with regards to ESG.

Padmanabhan: What can be the collaborative mechanism that can be put in place, which will incentivise whether through carrot or stick, or its combination.

Rajat: It can’t be either carrot or stick approach. It has to be both. What works better is a carrot approach. A stick approach would work well in trying to establish culture of compliance if you have credible enforcement. Unless you are going to be able to enforce standards on whether environment or carbon, the stick approach is going to be difficult. But it can’t be either-or approach. Some good case studies show that carrot approach is a good approach, but a stick, enforcement and penalizing the non compliers is going to create compliance culture in the future.

Columns/Op-Eds, Water / Climate

Column in DNA INDIA: “Climate change meets global hypocrisy”

by Samir Saran and Vivan Sharan
Mumbai, 2nd of July 2012
Please find here the link to the original article

And so the saga concludes. A tired, weather-beaten group of States have retreated from Rio de Janeiro after a half-hearted attempt to rescue the world from a host of unsolved problems including climate change and unsustainable development. What unfolded was largely predictable. The Rio+20 declaration, ‘The Future We Want,’ is punctuated with old rhetoric around action and responsibility, laden with sweet murmurings on change, some affectionate recognition of imminent apocalypse and defined by absence of commitment.

The highly contested Kyoto Protocol remains the last substantial effort at the global level on environment. With developed countries lacking resolve to agree and/or act to achieve the set of common goals at the recent Durban Summit, and now, at Rio+20, it is becoming clear that global action is illusory, utopian and certainly less efficient.

It is ironic that at the same time as we dither on committing finance and technology to save the Earth, nations have, with great alacrity and commitment, pumped in trillions of dollars in concert to save wanton banks and financial entities that have failed to meet even basic regulatory and supervisory norms. The US alone has doled out $1.5 trillion to save its financial institutions following the financial crisis created by the same entities, while the developed world collectively put forth around $3 trillion for the same.

In stark contrast, the mightiest leaders of the world gathered at Copenhagen nearly three years ago and pledged, very proudly, a meagre $100 billion a year from 2020 as a collective financial response to climate change. A commitment to provide ‘new and additional’ resources approaching $30 billion for 2010-2012 was also made as part of a ‘fast start’ process. As of now, the fund has still not been capitalised and even the physical location where the fund will be hosted remains uncertain.

The message for Joe the plumber and the aam admi is unambiguous. Saving the banks is a multi-trillion dollar effort requiring action today. Saving the planet will cost only a fraction and can wait for 10 years. So it is hardly surprising when surveys reveal significant decline in interest on matters climate.

And the hypocrisy continues. Most recently, at the G20 Summit at Mexico, BRICS nations, including India, collectively pledged $75 billion through the IMF, to save the failing Eurozone economy from imminent collapse. That developing nations’ policymakers and economists rely on the unsustainable consumption of the western economies for their own obsession with perverse growth makes us willing accomplices. India, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, China are no victims, they just seem eager to sustain the lifestyles of the rich. Lifestyle emissions today account for nearly two thirds of total emissions.

According to the seminal Stern Review on ‘The Economics of Climate Change,’ global atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide equivalent gases must stabilise in the range 450-550 parts per million (ppm) by 2050. Anything higher would ‘substantially increase risks of very harmful impacts.’ Arctic monitoring stations reported this year that the concentration of these gases has already reached 400 ppm and the global average is predicted to reach this level in a few years (2016).

Developed countries currently occupy approximately 80% of the greenhouse gas (carbon) stocks. Developing countries like India need room to grow and per capita energy consumption will have to rise to enable this economic growth and development. Even to rise above the energy poverty level prescribed by the UN, India and Africa will need to increase their energy production by at least three times.

Carbon space will be a natural requirement. This space is now being denied. Hypocrisy becomes malafide now.
The alchemists of capitalism have turned the sparse carbon into ‘carbon real estate,’ available for sale to the highest bidder. The weak and poor have been priced out. And at the G20, we have just offered to subsidise the rich to buy more.
The core issue of equity still eludes all debates and was missing at Rio+20 as well. Mitigation commitments being discussed are just not enough; they are deceitful as they undermine the sovereign rights of other nations. Developed countries will need to vacate their holding of carbon stocks.

One sixth of humanity cannot continue to hold 80% of the total carbon space that is available if western science is to be believed. This is what needs to be negotiated. The time lines and specific action by which these countries have carbon negative footprints must be sought.

It is unfortunate at the very least, if not downright conspiratorial, that countries like China and India have not been able to see through the haze created by the multilateral discourse and identify the real priority: to evict the developed countries who are squatting on carbon real estate that does not belong to them rather than negotiating the partaking of what is left.

Samir Saran is a vice president and Vivan Sharan an associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.


Samir responds to the The Hindu “Who governs the high sea?”

by Samir Saran
July 2nd 2012, New Delhi
Please find here the original link to the article.
Please find here the original link to the article, Samir responded to.

At the outset it is misplaced to suggest the original opinion in any way lauded the use of firearms or the actions of the Italian Marines. It expresses apprehension that such incidents are likely to recur as armed response to threats on the high seas is seen as a viable one.

The reference to SUA is entirely misplaced. SUA was enacted pursuant to a U.N. Convention to contain acts of terrorism. The application of SUA requires sanction of the Union government. The Kerala government has for this reason made a statement in the Kerala High Court that it will withdraw the charges of SUA against the Marines.

However, one fact may clear the air further and that is the reality that St. Antony (the vessel from Kerala) is a fishing vessel and Enrica Lexie is a merchant vessel with Military Vessel Protection Detachments deployed to protect against piracy in accordance with U.N. Conventions and other laws.

“Incidents of navigation”, should not be misread as the term is interpreted in accordance with the scheme of UNCLOS, especially Article 94(7) which describes various “incidents of navigation” and includes within its fold instances such as the present one. While Article 97 applies to the High seas, Article 58(2) of UNCLOS pertaining to the EEZ specifically incorporates and extends Article 97 and others to the EEZ.

The flag state jurisdiction under UNCLOS is based on the floating territory principle viz., a ship under the flag of a state is under the protection of that state and is subject to the laws of that state. The Indian Merchant Shipping Act excludes fishing vessels from flying the Indian flag. St. Antony is not registered under the Merchant Shipping Act and was not flying the Indian flag. St. Anthony in fact is registered as a mechanised fishing boat and was authorised to ply only within Indian territorial waters, i.e. within 12 nautical miles. Thus the fact that the incident occurred outside Indian territorial waters is not in dispute. Thus there is absolutely no dispute about the jurisdiction of the flag state.

The reliance on the Lotus case is erroneous. The evolution of international law after the 1927 Lotus case has eluded the authors and UNCLOS, 1982 specifically derogated from the principles laid down in the Lotus case and gives exclusive jurisdiction to the flag state (Italy).

Italy is on thin ground on the high seas

Please find here the original link to the article.

Samir Saran and Samya Chatterjee have argued in their article “Who governs the high seas?” (June 26) that India is wrong in prosecuting the two Italian marines aboard the tanker Enrica Lexie for shooting two Indian fishermen. Italy’s contention — which Saran and Chatterjee have echoed — is that Enrica Lexie was under its flag. Hence, in accordance with the U.N. Convention of Law of Seas (UNCLOS), Italy should try the two marines. India’s position is that St. Anthony, the fishing vessel aboard which the two fishermen were killed, was an Indian vessel; and under Indian law and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention), India has jurisdiction. India and Italy are signatories to both these conventions. But while Italy needs to show exclusive jurisdiction, India only needs to show that it also has jurisdiction.

Saran and Chatterjee do not discuss a larger question that provides a context to this case. This is the issue of Somali piracy and the danger of putting armed guards on board merchant vessels. In their view, the Italian marines were doing something laudable — controlling Somali piracy. What they overlook is the complaint of Somali fishermen that trigger-happy armed guards have been preventing them from fishing.

The collapse of the Somalian state meant that it was no longer able to protect its waters. To a great extent, the present problem of piracy has its origins in the complete collapse of the fishing industry. This collapse can be clearly linked to illegal fishing in Somali waters by foreign fleets and the dumping of toxic wastes.

For the rest of the world, the collapse gained importance only because the consequence — Somali piracy — threatens the trillion-dollar maritime industry. International piracy caused an estimated loss of about $7 billion in 2011 globally. As against this, the total annual illegal fishing losses worldwide is between $10 billion and $23.5 billion. This is the other “piracy” to which the international community is turning a blind eye.

The trial question

In the Enrica Lexie imbroglio, the controversy is not about the facts of the case, but about the question of who has the right to try the two Italian marines. The Italian side — which Saran and Chatterjee endorse — has invoked UNCLOS to assert its jurisdiction. Article 97 of UNCLOS, which Saran and Chatterjee quote, refers to a “collision or incident arising out of navigation” on the “high seas”. The shooting of Indian fishermen was not a collision; nor was it an incident arising out of navigation. It also did not take place on the high seas. At best it took place in India’s economic zone, which under UNCLOS is not defined as “high seas”. Italy is on thin ground here. Even if UNCLOS were applicable, the question of which is the flag state under UNCLOS remains. This requires a legal examination of where the “incident” occurred — on the Enrica Lexie or on the St. Anthony.

A case similar to the Enrica Lexie one was previously adjudicated by the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1927. In this case, a French steamer, the Lotus, collided with a Turkish vessel, the Boz-Kourt, on the high seas, killing eight of her crew and passengers. Upon the French vessel’s arrival in Istanbul, the French crew was tried by the Turkish authorities. France adopted arguments similar to those used by Italy in the present matter.

Holding against the French, the court, inter alia, observed that:

“What occurs on board a vessel on the high seas must be regarded as if it occurred on the territory of the State whose flag the ship flies. If, therefore, a guilty act committed on the high seas produces its effects on a vessel flying another flag or in foreign territory, the same principles must be applied as if the territories of two different States were concerned, and the conclusion must therefore be drawn that there is no rule of international law prohibiting the State to which the ship on which the effects of the offence have taken place belongs, from regarding the offence as having been committed in its territory and prosecuting, accordingly, the delinquent” (Emphases added).

India has also claimed its jurisdiction under the SUA Convention. Dennis Hollis, who writes a well-known legal blog Opinio Juris, writes that under Article 6 read with 3 of SUA, India can claim jurisdiction — an opinion also endorsed by a number of experts in international maritime law.

What remains of Saran and Chatterjee’s argument is that the Italian marines are in the service of the Italian state and so have “sovereign immunity”. If we accept that Indian courts have jurisdiction over the matter, then we should leave it to the courts to decide on this claim.

Prabir Purkayastha is with the Delhi Science Forum. Rishab Bailey is a lawyer.