Confronting Climate Change in South Asia: The Harvard Mittal Institute Launches a New Climate Change Platform Initiative

Climate change is affecting South Asia in devastating ways. The region is experiencing some of the world’s worst climate impacts, from drought and floods to dangerous heat waves. Last month, the Harvard Mittal Institute convened leading experts, policymakers, Harvard faculty, and practitioners in New Delhi, India to confront those challenges and launch a new Climate Change Platform Initiative focused on South Asia.
Apr 10, 2023

Confronting Climate Change in South Asia: The Harvard Mittal Institute Launches a New Climate Change Platform Initiative 

On March 30 and 31, 2023, leading experts, policymakers, Harvard faculty and practitioners convened in New Delhi for the Mittal Institute’s inaugural workshop on climate change. This workshop was co-sponsored by the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability and the Confederation of Indian Industry.

In the run-up to this inaugural event, Professor Tarun Khanna, Director of the Mittal Institute, spoke to the scale of the climate challenge in South Asia – and the need to convene around these issues:

“Climate change has become an essential issue for everybody, but particularly so for six of the eight billion people who live in less-advantaged settings. And we’ve seen South Asia become sort of “ground zero” for a lot of these issues. You saw the floods that swept through Pakistan a few months ago, and last year the scorching heat waves that impacted India. These events have raised consciousness among policy makers, academics, and among society in South Asia to be more cognizant of climate change’s effects.

Tarun Khanna, Director of the Mittal Institute

At the workshop, the Mittal Institute launched a new Climate Change Platform Initiative focused on South Asia, hosted at their New Delhi office. The new platform encompasses research projects, training programs, and exchange fellowships for senior and junior scientists and policy makers. Workshop participants worked to identify key challenges in climate mitigation and adaptation, and to seek inputs on research and academic priorities for this collaborative platform.

The Mittal Institute kicked off its workshop with opening remarks from Mr. Tarun Kapoor, Advisor to the Prime Minister’s office; a plenary address by Dr. V.K. Saraswat from NITI Aayog; special remarks by Professor Dan Schrag from Harvard University; and a keynote by Reema Nanavaty from Self Employed Women’s Association. In a panel discussion moderated by Professor Tarun Khanna, leading green tech innovators from across India shared how their work is addressing the climate challenge. The panel had discussants from the International Finance Corporation, Sequoia Capital, and HeroMotocorp Ltd.

Professor Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Faculty Director of the Mittal Institute, moderates a panel with leading green tech innovators from across India.

This workshop featured members of a new interdisciplinary research cluster funded by the Salata Institute focused on climate adaptation in South Asia. This research cluster, led by Caroline Buckee, Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, seeks to advance climate adaptation research and implementation in South Asia, particularly in the context of climate-driven migration.

Professor Satchit Balsari of Harvard University addresses the workshop. Professor Satchit Balsari co-leads the Mittal Institute’s Climate Initiative and is a co-investigator in the research cluster on Climate Adaptation in South Asia, funded by the Salata Institute.

Bringing together a broad range of experts and leaders from across government, business, academia, and civil society in events like this one is crucial to meeting the climate challenge. Director Khanna spoke to the significance of this effort. “This is just the latest in a long line of multi faculty interdisciplinary projects that tackle big issues,” said Khanna. “We are bringing together academics—since we are a research institute—but also policy makers, activists, the government, the private sector, etc. It’s quite unusual to have everybody under the same roof, learning from each other and communicating with each other.”

A snapshot from an interactive session on Day 2 of the Mittal Institute’s Climate Change Workshop in New Delhi.

Read more about the Mittal Institute’s new Climate Change Platform here.