Terming the United States’ pull-out from the Paris Agreement as a “major setback to an agreement that was negotiated in good faith” among 193 countries, former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh said it was in “India’s interest” to sign the climate accord.
Speaking at a talk organised by the Observer Research Foundation on ‘Paris Climate Change Pact – After Trump pull-out, who’ll save the planet?’, the senior leader said, “There is no other country in the world which has all the four vulnerabilities to climate change simultaneously – monsoons, mean sea level, deforestation and glaciers. We are still dependent on the monsoon for our agriculture, 10,000 odd Himalayan glaciers are retreating which will have great implications on the perennial rivers in the north, the mean sea levels have increased and we have a 7,500-km-long coastline from West Bengal to Gujarat and lastly most of our natural resources required for our economic expansion is in rich forest areas.”
Speaking about the US, he said, “While President Trump has walked out mercifully, other countries have said that Paris Agreement is irreversible and they will stick to their commitments. This is a major step forward.” He further said it was also in India’s political and economic interests to adopt a pragmatic position while negotiating this agreement. “We need to recognise that it is an area which opens up opportunities for strategic leadership and with the vacuum created by Trump in the international architecture, this is a golden opportunity for India. This is a time for India to stand up, to abandon its old mantras and provide leadership, not through words but through action.”
India signed the Paris Agreement on April 22 last year along with more than 170 countries, committing to moderate the increase in global temperatures in the 21st century within two degrees centigrade. India has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase production of electricity by non-fossil fuel sources and expand the quality and quantity of forest cover to absorb more greenhouse gas emissions. However, Ramesh dismissed the third claim as “bogus”. “Currently, our forests account for six per cent of the absorption of the greenhouse gases.
When forests are being cut across the country, it is highly unlikely the absorptions will improve from six to 30 per cent,” he claimed. While he believed the Paris Agreement scored on the economic and political front, he said, it was not a great achievement on the environment front. “The Paris accord is only a modest step forward. It was a great political and economic achievement, but only a sub-optimal achievement from an environmental point of view. We certainly fell short on that front and we expected that we would over the years improve the level of ambition,” he said.