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Gujarat goes California way on climate

Times of India , New Delhi, 1st March, 2009
Correspondent : Staff Reporter
Chief Minister Narendra Modi recently formed a new department of climate change. This demonstrates both foresight and courage on part of the government, and the CM needs to be congratulated for this bold measure. Gujarat can show the world and, especially other developing countries, how we can be responsible global citizens.
The climate change crisis has perhaps been unique in the way that it has started to change certain basic rules of political leadership. The US signed the Kyoto Protocol but the Bush administration never ratified it. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, though a Republican like Bush, cut across partisan lines and showed his leadership in his 2005 executive order on climate change.
Welcoming the move, former vice-president Al Gore, who had played a key role in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol, said California's steps on climate change set an "extremely important" national precedent. He praised the move saying it "provides the kind of leadership that the federal government in Washington has for the time being abdicated."
California is a western state on the US coastline. It's geography like that of Gujarat, makes it particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It too is a very prosperous, industrial state. As it's climate change portal states, California produces 6.2 per cent of the total US green-house gases (GHG). The landmark California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 established the first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of GHG.
We in Gujarat need to move towards a new paradigm of sustainable development, one which is also carbon-neutral. This requires bold leadership and good science. We need to take decisions like the BRTS but we need to equally curb cars. We need to realise that building evermore flyovers and widening roads for more cars is no solution to the problem, it is only postponing it by a few years. Good efficient public transport is the only viable option for urban transport. We need to build cities of the future. We need to move from SEZs to what we call SDZs sustainable development zones.
For all this to happen we will need good professionals. The launch of Gujarat University and CEE Management Education Centre for Climate Change (MEC-CC) will play an important part. The climate change department will need to have the clout to influence policy as a whole. It has a mandate to co-ordinate among departments of government but in order to succeed it also needs to be inclusive, involving greater public participation and active co-operation with business and NGOs. The department is a timely first step; one which we hope will have for reaching consequences on the direction of development taken by the state.