Global Economics

India Celebrates Pachauri's Nobel Win


The Peace Prize, shared with Al Gore, gives the U.N.'s IPCC chairman more leverage in his quest for Indian environmental policy change

It's been work, work, and more work for energy scientist Rajendra Pachauri ever since he became chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2002. On Oct. 12, his leadership in that post, coupled with his efforts over two decades to promote alternative energy, earned him—along with former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore—the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pachauri is a familiar and influential face in India, which is jubilant over his award. Pachauri is the director general at New Delhi's The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), a dynamic research center for alternate energy, climate change, and sustainable development, funded initially by the Tata Group. Pachauri, passionate about energy and sustainable development, has molded and developed TERI into India's most credible and competent authority on energy. Today, TERI's business model—providing technical research, experimental projects, policy recommendations to government, and consulting to corporations—is self-sustaining and the only one of its kind in India. TERI's scholars and researchers sit on several corporate boards.

A Hard-Working Shoe-In

Pachauri's association with the U.N. panel on climate change began in the early 1990s. In 2002, when IPCC decided for the first time to elect rather than nominate its chairman, Pachauri stood for election and won. Executives of multinational energy companies in India say it helped that he was from India—a country the West had been trying to persuade, without much luck, to sign the Kyoto Accord, and possibly hoped that Pachauri's influence over New Delhi's policymakers would prevail. (India has still not signed the Accord.)

As the head of TERI and of the IPCC for the last five years, Pachauri has been on a punishing schedule, working India and Europe hours. He starts his day in the office by 2 a.m. and works 17 hours every day of the week, writing reports, formulating policy, and advising ministers on environmental and energy issues. His colleagues regard him as a "slave driver." But they also find his sense of humor endearing. In one instance, he walked into the office dressed like a scarecrow, scaring staff members.

International Support

With the prestigious Nobel in hand, Pachauri will likely find a more receptive audience to his crusading in New Delhi. India has been terribly negligent in addressing issues of pollution, deforestation, and climate change; even Pachauri has not succeeded in pushing the government to enforce existing legislation against polluters, unbridled industrialization, and exploiters of the country's natural resources.

He'll have plenty of international support from his co-winner, Al Gore, whose film An Inconvenient Truth is making waves in India. The two have known each other for years, before Gore was Vice-President. When TERI decided to establish a presence in Washington, Pachauri approached then Senator Al Gore for advice.

Now the two will work even closer together. When Gore visits India in 2008, Pachauri will be his special host.

Lakshman covers India business for BusinessWeek .

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