A Green Beginning in New Delhi

Posted by Anne Seshadri
July 22, 2009
Secretary Clinton at ITC Green Center

Interactive Travel Map | Text the SecretaryAbout the Author: Anne Seshadri serves as the American Center Director in New Delhi, India.

From the outside, the ITC Green Centre isn’t much to look at. For one thing, it’s not even green. Nor does it have greenery on the roof, or even solar panels. So when a major television station called to ask, “What’s so special about this building?” I launched an inquiry. I had to look no further than my colleague at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr. Padmanabhan, who has been supporting and championing the green building movement in India for many years.

Padmanabhan explained that the ITC Green Centre has a platinum rating as a green office building, as certified by the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This rating, secured with the help of USAID, is extremely hard to get. When it was built in 2005, it was the largest completed platinum rated green office building in the world. To understand why, you really need to tour the building with the expert.

This is exactly what Secretary Clinton did this afternoon when she visited the site, the first stop on her visit to New Delhi. Executives from ITC showed Clinton around, pointing out its various features. These include extensive use of natural lighting (the glass allows the light in but not the heat), use of recycled materials in things such as carpets and furniture, water management and conservation (the pool outside is actually wastewater!) and a white roof with reflecting coating. All told, the building has a 30% smaller carbon footprint than similar sized buildings and uses half as much energy.

After the tour and a private discussion with NGO and corporate leaders on climate change issues, Secretary Clinton emerged downstairs in the lobby with the Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and Indian Minister for Forests and Environment Jairam Ramesh. Secretary Clinton described the ITC Green Centre as a “monument to the future,” that could stand alongside India Gate and the Taj Mahal as India’s achievements. She said the Green Centre not only represents the promise of a green economy, it demonstrates the importance of partnership between India and the United States in the 21st century. Her honesty clearly hit home, when Clinton forthrightly acknowledged U.S. contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, but also highlighted steps to improve our position, including an $80billion stimulus bill to invest in clean energy technology. Even more popular to the Indians was her statement that the U.S. would do nothing to impede economic development in India; that progress for India was progress for the whole world.

On the other hand, Secretary Clinton did not let India off the hook, reminding them that their greenhouse emissions were projected to increase by 50% in the next 20 years, and emphasizing their vulnerability to rising sea levels and melting glaciers.

Neither she nor Minister Ramesh shied away from the controversial topic of mandating carbon emission caps, proposed recently at the G8 summit in L’Aquila. The issue for a time dominated the Q&A, which then inexorably moved back to Pakistan.

Secretary Clinton stayed longer than scheduled, a fact appreciated by her doting hosts at ITC. And they were pleased to accommodate her delegation’s last-minute request for some of ITC’s organic goodies, made with ingredients produced within a 100 kilometer radius of Delhi (part of a movement known as locavore). At this event, even the food was green!

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