COP26: Calling for foresight of collective consciousness in energy transition


“Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

The COP26 at Glasgow has successfully spotlighted the commitment required to stay on Trajectory 1.5. The Glasgow Climate Pact has extracted commitments from the countries for revision of their national targets for emissions by 2030. It has been able to frame the rulebook for the deliverance of the Paris Agreement and establish a process for the formal exchange of carbon credits between nations. It has set the tone that action to restrict global temperature rise within 1.5 deg. C and rein in the associated climate change needs to be undertaken sans the luxury of geo-segregation. 

Realization for energy transition 

“We do not inherit the earth and its resources from our ancestors, instead we borrow the earth and its resources from our children,” an age-old quote full of wisdom and thought. The onus to repay the debt of borrowing rests on us too in this present lifetime of ours.  

The seventh UN Sustainable Goal (SDG7) to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all will effectuate on our conscious mindset collectively. This goal is envisaged to be a major contributor to limiting the global temperature rise. 

The COP26 also set a new milestone by agreeing on action for phasing down fossil fuels. While the visible awakening of the collective global consciousness towards this is encouraging but actual realization may still take many more years of absolute belief in the cause. It is pertinent to note that net-zero commitments are now available for around 90% of the nations. This is also backed by declared targets of zero-emission vehicles by the automobile sector over the next two decades.

Most nations are yet to equip for contributing to the cause equally. This is due to their stratified socio-economic-demographic combinations and undoubtedly, the present energy source is predominantly sourced through fossil fuels. 

But while we are depleting these resources causing adverse environmental impact, equal measures are not evident for erecting a backup source for energy. Energy must be provisioned for the continual existence of human civilization; our past activities are making us experience the changing planet and has put a question mark on our own sustainability. While the readiness and vibrancy for change is evident, what is lacking is that existing efforts demonstrated by the countries are much below the projected trajectory of commitment.

Turbulence and foresight 

The ongoing pandemic has accelerated turbulence, while the existence of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) in the segment of fossil fuels starting from coal/crude oil extraction (upstream) to the final marketed products (downstream) has been experienced down the history. Wars, geopolitical situations, etc. have only tested this sector to the extremes and emphasized on the requirement of its consistency and continuity even at a very high cost to the environment. 

In the Indian context, evidence can be found that after the armed conflicts in the 60’s with neighboring nations, the government brought in state-controlled public sector units in the energy industry segment. Self-reliance on the energy front to ensure the integrity of the nation’s borders became paramount. 

The term foresight has always been rightfully associated with strategic management. Actionable engagement to bridge the open spaces being laid out by decisive shifts in the structural ecosystem has been the precursor to foresight. Beyond an iota of hesitation, it can be said that these transformational shifts have only been upping their pace over the timelines. The level-up for vigil and awareness discerning the emanating signals of future is today’s need. Foresight, as such, is not concerned with future prediction. Instead, it requires tomorrow’s stakeholders in today’s action to make a conscious effort to carve out and shape up the intended pathways to reach the multiple scenarios of the future to be arrived at. 

Strategic foresight aids anticipation of events before they occur and requires dynamic capabilities from actors-players to respond to the challenges as they emerge and evolve. Silo-based stakeholder responses or that as coherent amalgamated array will thus forge the linkages in the ecosystem of the energy transition. 

Transition is the absolute Truth  

We, the human beings, lack the divine foresight of Lord Krishna as depicted in the epic Mahabharata, but we too are strategists, like Chanakya, everyone at the level of existence deploys some foresight to chalk out the path to keep going and take care of issues requiring attention.

The modernization and transition of energy sources towards environment-friendly options jointly exercised with the capacity to conserve the proven available reserves is an action fraught with foresight. The emergence of the future scenarios and how it will all play out in the long term remain unknown to the human consciousness. However, the foresight emanating through the intertwining of the collective consciousness of human existence shall undoubtedly provide us with a potent armory to articulate our response to the emerging scenarios. 

It is interesting to note that transition is perennial in nature. In his discourse to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (illustrated in the Srimad Bhagwad Geeta), Lord Krishna, through his various articulations, stressed that transition is the only constant. Transition is not just change; it is a process of continuous change. We the humans need to arrive at this realization during this lifetime of our existence so that we can orient our present karma for continuance of future mankind.   

Deepmalya Datta is working with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, a Fortune 500 Company, broadly as a researcher, interested in strategic studies in energy transitions due to VUCA challenges posed by depleting fossil fuel reserves and emerging alternatives.

Manoj Joshi is a Fellow-Institution of Engineers, Professor of Strategy, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Director, Centre for VUCA Studies, Amity University, with 30+ years of experience in industry & research.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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