Chennai floods, Delhi smog… Climate change impact couldn’t get more urgent

Chennai floods, Delhi smog… Climate change impact couldn’t get more urgent

Whatever said and done, India cannot afford to not take decisive steps on the world stage and rise up to what is expected of it.

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Chennai: People wade through flood waters in rain-hit Chennai on Thursday. (Source: PTI photo)

By Priyanka Chaturvedi

The floods in Chennai are yet another reminder of the deadly impact of climate change. The reminder couldn’t be starker as the world attempts to reach a climate deal in Paris. In the backdrop of Delhi’s air pollution levels reaching unsafe limits, Chennai facing worst floods it has seen in a century and large parts of the country facing a drought the need to address the issue of climate change impact couldn’t get more urgent.

A global climate change agreement becomes a necessary outcome of COP21, it is necessary to understand how it impacts us. The Paris Climate deal of course is not the only solution to the real time challenges we as a nation are facing. India needs to take care of its own environment, not through words but actions as well. The reaction of China to Beijing’s smog versus our indifferent attitude to the issue in Delhi shows how apathetic we are with regards to the environmental urgency. Diluting environmental laws in the garb of infrastructure development will only make us susceptible to more man made tragedies that we see around us in the form of nature’s fury. It is more about the future than the past. To balance our need for development and our commitment to environment, we need to find efficient ways of producing energy. The developed countries should help India do so, but it is the Indian government which will have to take the lead too.

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Kerala Assembly offered complete support to the people of rain-hit Chennai. (Source: PTI photo)

As a nation India is committed to rising up to the challenges of climate change and reducing its dependence on fossil fuels for its growth requirements. If we look at an average Indian’s coal consumption we are still behind the developed world- it is around 20 percent that of the average US citizen, and 34 percent that of the average OECD citizen. India’s Integrated Energy Policy in 2006 set a roadmap for harnessing renewable energy sources. Despite having a a poor population of 800 million people, with not enough finances to spare yet India has taken giant strides in ushering green growth and clean energy – the country is already the world’s largest biomass, third-largest solar and fourth-largest wind energy producer.

In fact the average Indian spends about one and a half times what the average Chinese spends, between 2.2 and 4.3 times what the average Japanese spends, and around 2 times what the average American spends, on renewable energy. Over the next 7 years until 2022, India has set itself an ambitious target of renewable energy capacity of 175 GW. India has to balance and base its decision so as to ensure growth for its population and also fulfill its responsibility towards adopting greener solutions as it also is the 3rd largest emitter of CO2.

India’s role will be decisive to reach an agreement but at the same time it is disingenuous of some nations to put the onus on India as the maker or breaker of this climate deal by setting unreasonable targets for it and attempting to dilute their own commitments to the deal.

The developing countries don’t have the option of taking the development route that its predecessors took which caused damage to the environment at large but will have to undertake the ‘expensive’ path to reach its development goals. So how do these developing and poor nations make this expensive transition? The developed countries need to agree to reduce their ‘carbon space’ so as to make space for nations that would have higher emissions till the time they move to cleaner energies and also as they move from developing to developed nation.

Also as per the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, only developed countries have legal commitments to provide funds to poor countries to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. In 2009, the developed countries committed to give $100 billion annually by 2020. But they have fallen far short of that mark and are now also expecting developing countries to start contributing funds. This situation would go against the spirit of the UNFCCC and could lead to a stalemate.


Whatever said and done, India cannot afford to not take decisive steps on the world stage and rise up to what is expected of it. Its environmental policies back home also need to match up considering the country is taking a big hit on its GDP besides the quality of life. The world leaders need to come up with a deal which is equitable to all, a deal that accommodates the needs of all member nations. To remind the world what Mahatma Gandhi said “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Let that be the guiding principle, the hope for the planet. We owe our children a better tomorrow.