Waiting on the world to change

World Environment Day - the day we celebrate the environment. But what exactly is different on this one particular day of the year? Do we for one day not pollute? Do we stop cutting down trees to make paper? Do the carbon emitting transport systems around the world stop functioning? Do we cut down on our extensive energy intake by even a fraction?

The total world carbon emission amounts to over 29 billion tones a year; do we, for one day, magically make this footprint disappear?

Unfortunately, we know the answer. Each one of us has necessitated the birth of this day. It is a reminder that our planet is getting very sick - we have used too much of its non renewable resources and replaced it with nothing to continue functioning on. Realization of the fact is just the first step - not the solution. We could celebrate the day by turning off the lights for an hour and say that we have done our bit. Or we could even assume that for one single day we shut down all our processes, all our operations, all actions that are in any way harmful to the environment - would that make a difference? No - it would not even make a dent in recovering from the damages we have subjected our planet to.

I am not undermining the importance of this day. In fact, I hope for the year where each day will be proudly celebrated as an environment day.

The answer to a greener future, a greener today, lies not in decreasing our energy consumption; that would just halt growth. It's a common argument that emerging economies like India and China are the biggest threat to the world environment. A growth rate of seven to eight percent means an increase in energy intake by at least as much. Now does that mean we stop their development? Can we take away their right to a better standard of living - a better future? Of course not.

But a solution exists and it's all around us. It is in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the sun that nurtures our existence. They are natural abundant renewable resources that the world is blessed with.

The average global power consumption currently stands at 15 terawatt (TW) - and the global wind power capacity alone is 72 TW. To add to it, a single average sized wind turbine prevents the emission of 1,500 tons of CO2 each year. Renewable sources are not only the solution to our depleting fossil fuels, they are the also the way towards a healthier planet.
World leaders, politicians, think tanks, and environmentalists all over the world over are meeting to devise targets, set up policies and search for the best way to change world energy consumption patterns. All these are helpful, national-level policy changes and macro economic views are certainly needed. But they are not enough. Every business and each individual needs to go through an attitude change. The escapist route of employing accessible, convertible and rich power density energy sources is conventional and thus easier. But we have enough reason to make the change to more technology-driven and research intensive clean-energy sources. And that is possible. I work towards that reality every single day.

My company, Suzlon Energy, is both a business and the champion of that cause. We are not only providing the world with sustainable green energy solutions - we are employing them in our own backyard. One Earth, our newly opened 10.13-acre global headquarters in Pune, is a campus powered 100 percent by renewable energy. We have used a combination of solar and wind power, a hybrid system to power a workplace for 2,300 employees. Honored recently for achieving platinum LEED certification, 'One Earth' can serve as the actionable model every business should employ.

In 1973, World Environment Day began as "a day that stimulates awareness of the environment, enhances political attention and public action." Nearly four decades later we are now all adequately aware of the dangers to the environment and to man's very existence. It can also be said that environment issues have garnered considerable political attention. What remains now is public action.

This year let's take the oath to bring green and clean energies into our everyday lives. Let 2010 be the turning point which leads to a year in the future when we can truly celebrate the environment, the year when every day is the World Environment Day.

Tulsi R Tanti is founder, chairman and managing director of Suzlon Limited. Suzlon is the majority shareholder in German-based REpower and the largest shareholder in Belgium engineering firm Hansen.