Twenty young women from Chennai are up against a steep challenge: Stopping a juggernaut, an impersonal force that we have unleashed on ourselves: Climate change.
Recently, in an online session, these home-grown ambassadors of climate action were put through their paces by Supriya Sahu, additional chief secretary, environment, climate change and forests, Government of Tamil Nadu.
The exercise marks the beginning of a ten-month mentorship programme, in where they will get to work with senior officers in the department. The objective is to help them understand climate change and effect initiatives in their areas of influence and communities. The programme is also aimed at ensuring “gender balance in climate action”.
The genesis of this effort lies in a request from C40 Cities (c40.org), which is “a global network of mayors taking urgent action to confront the climate crisis and create a future where everyone can thrive”.
C40 Cities has launched what it calls “women for climate” (wfc.org) programme, one requiring participation of women from these 40 cities in climate action.
“They (C40) have been working with the Greater Chennai Corporation and various sectors in the Government of Tamil Nadu for a long time. So, we have partnered with them closely, and this initiative — women for climate — is something they wanted us to take up. We found a novel way of doing it, deciding that we would take women from across the sectors, especially young women who have a mind of their own and will be willing to take up this ten-month mentorship programme where they would basically be mentored on several (climate action) initiatives by senior officers in the department,” explains Supriya. “The process of selection was stringent: We had advertised and people applied, and the selection was made by a committee consisting of the chairperson of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and other eminent people, and C40 people were also part of it.”
The programme is entirely voluntary, with no commitment from the department, and none is expected from the participants either.
“If they like it, they can continue with the 10-month mentorship; and if not, they can move on,” says Supriya, adding a back-up is in place in case any participant opts out of the programme.
She elaborates: “It can turn out to be a forerunner. If this ten-month mentorship programme succeeds, we would take it to other cities in the state, the big cities like Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchirapalli. The idea is to organise mentorship of young people, especially students and young entrepreneurs and create a cadre of green-thinking individuals. This has the potential to become a great movement.”
The larger picture
Supriya Sahu, additional chief secretary, environment, climate change and forests, Government of Tamil Nadu, notes the 10-month mentorship programme for the 20 women from Chennai is an organic outcome of a multi-pronged approach to climate action being undertaken by her department.
“In the last few months, a lot has been happening in the climate arena. We are the first state to set up a special purpose vehicle, Tamil Nadu Green Climate Company, a not-for-profit company registered under the companies act. There is so much happening in the climate arena, and different stakeholders are at work, and it is important that we bring it all together, and provide it a certain direction in a converged fashion so that the impact of these actions is felt. Otherwise, so many partners doing too many things does not lead us anywhere. The second thing we did in the climate arena was start the climate change mission. It is yet to be launched, but we announced the climate change mission, and issued the government order for that. The work is already going on, and the launch is only a formality, and it would happen in December.”
Supriya continues: “It is again the first climate change mission in India at a state and sub-national level. If you look at the state climate mission, it has a framework. Every district has a climate change mission, which is headed by the district collector, and the district forest officer functions as the climate officer.”
Supriya also draws attention to the recently-constituted Tamil Nadu governing council on climate change, which has many heavyweights on board. The governing council includes Montek Singh Ahluwalia, economist; Nandan M Nilekani, chairman of Infosys Board; and Erik Solheim, the sixth executive director, United Nations Environment Programme.