Understanding “Decoupling” With Rajendra Pachauri

In 1987, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland shared his views about how economic growth and sustainable environment should balance each other. In a book called “Our Common Future”, also known as “The Brundtland Report”, he argued that such a balance was not only possible. In fact, it was urgently required, if the world’s nations really wanted to end poverty and protect the environment. How can we achieve that goal? The answer was simple: by investing in clean and renewable energy.

A few years later, Rajendra Pachauri – a long-time chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization that won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2007 – answered to Brundtland with a new book: “Cents and Sustainability”. More than an answer, the book presented a complete strategy that proved it was possible to merge the need for economic growth with green practices and sustainability.

The book opens with a brief overview of some of the most demanding environmental challenges. At the top of the list is the threat imposed by greenhouse gas emissions. They are responsible for problems like the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice, the thawing of permafrost and an increasing acidification of our oceans.

If you desire to learn more about this subject, “Cents and Sustainability” will give you important insights.

Cents&SustainabilityThe “Decoupling” theory by Rajendra Pachauri

From chapters 2 to 5 of the book, Rajendra Pachauri explores the notion of decoupling economic growth from rising carbon emissions and the obstacles to decoupling, while reflecting on the ability of developing nations to decouple.

The term “decoupling” traditionally refers to situations when the returns on asset classes diverge from what was expected, or their usual pattern of correlation. Simply put, it happens when two different asset classes that typically rise and fall together start to move in opposing directions. For an example, look at the prices of oil and natural gas. The growth of both prices is usually in sync: when the price of oil rises, the price of natural gas follows the rise. If (as starts to happen now), gas prices were to decrease more rapidly than oil prices, it would signal a “decoupling” of the two.

Rajendra Pachauri believes that it is possible to promote a sustainable future with a growing economy if we apply the “Decoupling” theory. However, what level of decoupling do we require and in which sectors? This is answered in the second chapter of “Cents and Sustainability”, where he explains how the impact of several threats, such as the loss of biodiversity, the deterioration of natural systems, freshwater extraction, waste production and air pollution. Also, he believes that it’s possible to reduce vastly our dependence on oil and natural gas without compromising on economic growth.

From chapter 6 to 11, the author focuses on major environmental challenges linked to economic growth and presents strategies to decouple them. These main challenges are related to climate change, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, over-extraction of fresh water, growing waste production and increasing air pollution.

The book is very valuable to policy makers that are looking for strategies to limit the negative environmental impacts linked to economic growth. “Cents and Sustainability” has some very good ideas on how countries can reduce environmental pressures, strengthen their economies, create jobs and reduce poverty. The book ends with a very interesting case study of the public litigation to combat air pollution in Delhi, India.

Who is Rajendra Pachauri?

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri was born on the 20th of August, 1940, in India. Since 2002 until 2015, he was Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2007, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (while under the leadership of Pachauri).

He was also Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) for several years. Rajendra Pachauri is a prominent researcher on environmental subjects, being recognized internationally for his efforts to disseminate knowledge about the impact of human activities towards climate change.


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Gayrajan Kohli
Gayrajan Kohli
Gayrajan is a staunch solar promoter, serial entrepreneur & management consultant. He has a decade of experience in solar PV, disruptive technologies and political consultancy in USA and India. He believes that development of solar and other renewable technologies is critical to India's energy security. Gayrajan holds a Masters and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from USA. Follow him on Twitter to gain daily industry insights.
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