December 5, 2022
To celebrate the occasion of World Competition Day, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) organised a panel discussion on “Competition Policy and Climate Change”, in partnership with CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition (CIRC) and Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), in New Delhi.
Speaking at the conference, Jyoti Jindgar Bhanot, Secretary (I/c), Competition Commission of India (CCI), highlighted that innovation and competition are the two most important pillars, which support and foster growth in the economy, however, these pillars need to be supported by sustainable development for safe, secure and a liveable future. She opined that while sustainable goals are the need of the hour, competition compliance is of equal importance and the challenge for the competition authorities is balancing these seemingly conflicting objectives.
She opined that although the Commission’s experience in dealing with matters having interface between environment and market competition has been limited, going forward competition cannot remain insulated from such matters. She said that the Competition Act is flexible enough to factor-in sustainability issues and the guiding principles of necessity and proportionality, used during COVID-19 by CCI, could assist in issuing advisories.
Chairing the panel, Kirit Parikh, Chairperson, Committee for Reviewing of Gas Price Formula, Chairman, Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe), New Delhi and former Member, Planning Commission, Government of India, highlighted that action by all is the need of the hour for combating climate change. This means adapting and adopting new technology which requires skills and a high upfront cost. While stressing on the urgency of action and asymmetry of knowledge and resources, he highlighted that free market does not necessarily lead to welfare. As the way forward, he opined that small interventions by the government may help in driving sustainability, as was done by government’s mass procurement of LED lights. He also flagged the importance of carbon taxation and incentivisation of carbon mitigation.
The panel also saw participation from former members of the CCI who lauded CUTS’ consistency in celebrating World Competition Day since 2010. Dhanendra Kumar, former Chairperson, CCI shared many international instances wherein sustainability and competition law are being read together and recommendations to integrate mitigation of carbon emissions in company operations are being ideated. From an implementation perspective, he highlighted, that imposition of costs for carbon emissions and making technology available for those who cannot afford the same, is necessary. He also recommended that the CCI can come up with a guidance note which may serve as a good reference point for companies collaborating or working together to achieve green goals.
Former member of CCI, Augustine Peter, opined that the role of the competition authority may be limited in the burning issue of climate change, as competition law is pure and pristine. Such issues in his view could be targeted through an array of policies and ex ante regulations such as labelling and other standards. He cautioned that on the pretext of environmental friendly practices, all anti-competitive agreements or combinations cannot be allowed. He also felt that there is a need for a strong multilateral competition regime in order to tackle such a global problem.
Abha Yadav, Assistant Professor of Law, National Law University Delhi, added an international perspective to the discussion by citing a Dutch example and the jurisprudence developed therein. She opined that India may have to follow suit. Further, she highlighted that greenwashing is happening in India and Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has already come up with recommendations in this regard. In her view, CCI would also have to deal with the issue appropriately.
Delivering the welcome remarks, Arvind Mayaram, former Finance Secretary of India and Chairman, CIRC felt that a balance has to be achieved between IP-lead exclusivity of green technology and competition in order to achieve technology transfer and diffusion.
Satyaki Roy, Associate Professor, ISID, in his remarks, pointed out that climate change is result of market failure and that there is a need to redesign markets using proper government regulations.
Beena Saraswathy, Assistant Professor, ISID, in her presentation argued the need for collaborative efforts by market players to deal with increasing pollution and some form of exclusion under competition law for such collaborations.