Perspectives on the ambition and vision required to solve for the scale of our challenges

Our team interviewed Mirik Gogri, Sustainability Investor, Spectrum Impact — Family Office of Aarti Industries Ltd.’s Promoters, to understand his journey as a climate philanthropist, and approach to investing in mitigation solutions. The following is an excerpt from the longer interview:

 

1.How did your journey as a climate philanthropist begin — what triggered your interest in climate? Would you like to share any learnings from this journey with our community?

 

Mirik Gogri: As a family, we have practised philanthropy for many years, even demarcating a certain amount of our wealth for philanthropic purposes. However, our efforts were largely focused on health, education, and disaster relief. Around 2019, my personal awareness of the magnitude of climate change and its impacts began to grow. I started diving deep into the complexities of both the challenges of climate change and potential solutions, and realised that philanthropy could play a crucial role as catalytic capital in many upcoming solutions.

 

Since we had already set aside certain capital for philanthropic purposes, we decided to focus more on climate change-related solutions — and this is our biggest focus area today. One key learning I’d like to share is that the universe of climate change solutions is vast — and, while a number of solutions won’t be mature today, they will require philanthropic support to progress.

2. Why is investing in climate crucial today, and how does Spectrum Impact approach large-scale societal problems, such as climate change? Does investing in climate require different considerations from investing in other development spaces?

 

Mirik Gogri: Climate change is a cumulative problem. As greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increase, our climate impacts will only get more acute, further exacerbating the risks vulnerable communities face. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor additional GHG emissions as we progress in our journey towards net-zero. The sooner we reduce our emissions, the lower the future impact — reducing our adaptation costs as well. This shows that climate is not just a long-term, but a near-term priority as well — it is crucial to invest in climate for the present and immediate future. We must invest in mitigation today to reduce the need to invest in adaptation in the future.

 

At Spectrum Impact, we look at a large-scale societal problem like climate change with a geographically agnostic lens. Since this is a global problem, we look at solutions that have been invented across the world, and that are also applicable globally. Our philosophy is to identify areas where capital is scarce and try to bridge the gap. The Indian ecosystem is working to innovate and solve difficult technological problems across the climate solutions spectrum, from innovation in clean energy and water management, to sustainable livelihoods, and we are keen to work with such organisations.

Mirik Gogri, Sustainability Investor, Spectrum Impact

3. What kinds of support do climate tech start-ups seek, and how can philanthropy better aid innovation?

 

Mirik Gogri: One of the important phases in a start-up’s journey is the pilot phase, during which technological challenges and optimisation possibilities are identified. The key differences between a software-based solution and a hardware-based solution are the higher time and cost required for the pilot phase of the latter, and, so, philanthropic capital can be very important to help fund pilot projects of hardware-based solutions. Once this initial hurdle, that is the pilot phase, is crossed, larger capital can then flow in to scale the solution.

 

4. Why does India need bold climate leadership? What does this mean to you, and how can philanthropists embrace such roles in the climate ecosystem?

 

Mirik Gogri: India is the 3rd highest emitter of GHGs. However, its emissions per capita are far below the world average, and thus emissions will grow before they begin to reduce. With India’s climate risks and increasing extreme weather events, climate impacts also present a huge adaptation challenge. These factors underscore the scale of India’s climate challenge. Without bold leadership, the scale of this climate problem will become overwhelming. For me, personally, being a part of the ecosystem that is trying to make a dent in solving this massive issue is a humbling experience. I believe that philanthropists should look at this as a problem that defines our species’ trajectory, and build leadership that solves for that scale and vision.

5. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, how can we ramp up our climate mitigation ambition? What mitigation solution areas are promising, and, what are funders yet to pay attention to?

 

Mirik Gogri: The climate crisis has already begun, and it will only increase in its impacts. For mitigation, it is very important that we look at big emitting sectors. I see people sometimes spending time and effort working on solutions that may not have the highest impact. To really increase our mitigation ambition, we must channelise the ecosystem’s energy to find, pilot, and implement solutions in big emitting sectors. Solutions in hard-to-abate sectors, like cement, food, steel, ammonia, etc., are still not mature, and, hence, may require the catalytic capital that philanthropy can provide, to accelerate their development and adoption journey.

 

6. How do you envision Indian philanthropic engagement at the global level, including at future COPs?

 

Mirik Gogri: I believe that, at future COPs, Indian philanthropy should approach our climate issues with a lens that envisions both global and Indian development. It is important to encourage global solutions to our challenges, and simultaneously look at ways to accelerate their deployment in India. In the future, I also see India playing a significant role in the transfer of innovative solutions to other developing countries, which can adopt such technology in a regionally appropriate manner. It is imperative that philanthropists play a part in creating such a thriving ecosystem.

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