King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden just wrapped up their hectic week-long visit to India. The King and Queen planned their itinerary between Delhi, Mumbai and Uttarakhand based on a clear mission. The aim of the visit was to boost good relations between India and Sweden, affirm Sweden’s willingness to be a key partner for India to tackle common social challenges like climate/environment, infrastructure and health, and to boost trade and investment for Swedish and Indian companies in both directions. The coterie of government bodies, businesses, and social impact enterprises participating in the discussions and activities was large! India and Sweden should spread the awareness of climate change to the grassroots level to help create a front to meet the global challenge, said King Carl XVI Gustaf on Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Hindu.

But first, a stark and unplanned lesson in humility that was displayed by the royals for the world to see.  It embodied the meaning of Sustainability in its most holistic and basic sense. The King and Queen arrived in India on an Air India flight, economy class, after their own aircraft was grounded due to technical snags. The King delighted crowds and royal watchers by carrying his own luggage. India Today reports, “The King and Queen preferred to carry their own hand bags which led to surprised reactions from the Twitterati and won their hearts. What made this simple act by the royals even more surprising was their sheer act of humility and non-celebrity behaviour”.  It was all about being “grounded” in the right values and setting a glaring example on the meaning of “coexistence”.  This is something we at BuzzOnEarth value deeply, and are delighted that the world took note!

Clearly, issues of climate change and environment conservation are very close to the King’s heart. So it’s no surprise that dialogue on climate change and climate action played a central role on the royals’ India tour.

Talk about being “in the thick of it”! On Tuesday, 3rd December, the King participated in a round-table discussion about Swedish and Indian efforts to reduce emissions and air pollution. These discussions were held in Delhi, at a time when the city has experienced air pollution levels that are seriously hazardous to health. The Swedish king expressed concern about stubble burning in the agricultural fields in northern India and proposed that farmers should be trained in the new ways of disposing off agricultural wastes in a profitable manner.

On Wednesday, 4th December, they took part in the world’s largest beach clean-up process in Versova in Mumbai. On Thursday, 5th December, they headed to Uttarakhand to visit the banks of Ganges from Rishikesh. The royals lead by example! Here they spoke to both young and experienced climate activists. They helped inaugurate a sewage treatment plant that is meant to clean the river Ganges – a project that sits high on PM Modi’s agenda, and we all know about the PM’s seriousness and passion for cleaning up the environment.  Later in the day, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, met with experts on nature conservation and sustainable forest management.

Given how passionate the royal couple is about sustainability, it was a thrill for BuzzOnEarth to interact with them. The Swedish Institute hosted a luncheon where the King and Queen with their team met and engaged in discussions with select Sustainability experts.  Gender equality and sustainability were prime conversation themes for the Luncheon. Though they may seem like separate issues, gender equality is very closely linked with sustainable development.

In the evening there was a glittering reception hosted by the Embassy of Sweden. The eco-friendly theme of the royal visit was on full display, with no single use plastics in use and the majority of the dishes being vegetarian. How’s that for walking the talk!

Our founder, Ms. Gayatri Chauhan, participated at these events and had a memorable time discussing climate change and gender equality with the esteemed guests gracing the well-organized events. On her participation at the reception, Ms. Chauhan said, “It was a humbling and enriching experience to share ideas with their majesties and other colleagues from varied backgrounds and nationalities to discuss issues pertaining to Sustainable Development and Gender Equality from a global perspective. The collective passion and acumen displayed on these vital issues was immensely heartening.”

Sweden and India have enjoyed cultural connections since the Viking age because of spices. Viking sailors ferrying across the Indian Ocean had been bringing spices back home for their brethren to enjoy and thus was born a cultural connection that’s still going strong. Going forward, we hope to see the climate talks held between our two great nations bear fruit and result in immediate constructive action. Sweden is set to become a carbon neutral country by 2045 and has already set high standards in battling the climate crisis. We can’t wait to see the new milestones that it achieves in the future.  The groundswell of support and energy that was demonstrated by leading Swedish and Indian businesses and the respective government representatives was palpable, and augurs well for positive outcomes on climate change.