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India has set the tone at Glasgow

Prakash Javadekar writes: Besides making five big-ticket announcements on the country’s climate goals, PM Modi also underlined issues of climate justice and advocated for low-cost technology transfers

Written by Prakash Javadekar |
Updated: November 4, 2021 8:26:27 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives for the COP26 summit at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow (AP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at Glasgow CoP26, the major event of its kind after the Paris climate summit in 2015, has put India in a leadership role. The PM displayed supreme confidence and outlined India’s climate actions. He urged the world to act now and put forth the views of developing nations, outlining the concepts of climate justice and lifestyle issues.

He made five big-ticket announcements. First, India will produce 500 GW of non-fossil fuel energy. Second, India will have 50 per cent renewable energy in its energy mix. Third, India will reduce its emissions intensity from 35 per cent to 45 per cent. He also committed to reducing India’s carbon emissions by one billion tonnes. These four actions will be done by 2030. And, finally, he made the historic announcement for which the world was waiting: India will achieve the net-zero target by 2070.

In 2014, our renewable energy capacity was just 20GW. The PM decided to increase it to 100GW by 2022. The cost of solar power, which was Rs 16/unit has now come down to Rs 2/unit. Tremendous investments are flowing into solar, wind and bioenergy. We are on course to generate 100GW of solar power next year. Last year, PM Modi raised the bar and set a new target of 450GW of renewable energy at the UN General assembly. At Glasgow, he has increased the target to 500GW. This is a tremendous commitment. India is only the fourth country to achieve renewable energy at such a scale.

The International Solar Alliance initiated by India is also progressing rapidly. India is probably the only country that has flown a commercial aircraft on biofuel. We already have 40 per cent renewables in our energy mix and we are sure to achieve the new 50 per cent target set by the PM by 2030. The problem with solar energy is battery storage and transmission. Here, the role of invention, investment and low-cost technology are important. India is also making progress in these areas. It is also experimenting and promoting solar-wind combine plants.

The target of reducing emissions intensity from 35 per cent to 45 per cent is also ambitious. Fortunately, the Indian industry has plans to achieve the net-zero target by 2050 and they are investing in clean technologies. Indian Railways will also be net-zero by 2030, which will reduce 60 million tonnes of carbon emissions. Two billion LED bulbs are also reducing carbon emissions to a large extent. Thus, the Prime Minister’s announcement of reducing carbon emissions by one billion tonnes is feasible and will definitely be achieved.

PM Modi’s speech was straightforward. He raised the issue of finance, technology, adaptation, lifestyle and climate justice. In 2009, the developed world committed $100 billion per year as a grant to the developing world to achieve their climate targets. The Prime Minister told the summit that this promise proved to be empty. Therefore, he urged the developed world to pay what is due. He emphatically told the world that this is a part of climate justice.

He also advocated for low-cost technology transfers. The truth is that every climate mitigation action has a cost and the poorer sections should not be burdened with that cost. Therefore, technology transfer is important. He also talked about providing finances for climate adaptation, as agriculture and farmers in the developing world are suffering due to climate change. He emphasised the CDRI (Coalition For Disaster Resilient Infrastructure) initiative by India.

PM Modi talked about lifestyle issues effectively. He was forthright in telling the world that destructive consumption has to be stopped and we have to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. With my experience of earlier climate summits, I can proudly say that PM Modi has set the tone at Glasgow and the outcome will also be influenced by India’s actions and appeals. He emphasised that the commitments of the Paris Agreement are not just empty talk, but a commitment made to the world. He said that India is the only big economy that has fulfilled its commitments under the agreement.

Let us understand the cause of climate change, which is resulting in erratic weather patterns, floods, droughts, hurricanes, ice caps melting, sea levels rising and changes in cropping patterns. The countries that used fossil fuels for their progress emitted a huge quantity of carbon into the atmosphere. India’s contribution to historical emissions is just 3 per cent and even now, India’s contribution is just 5 per cent, as mentioned by Prime Minister Modi. Developed countries prospered because of emissions, but the developing countries are suffering because of these emissions and the resulting climate change. If the developed world fulfilled its commitment, there is hope for the world. I have always stressed that the developed world should not profit from disaster.

This column first appeared in the print edition on November 3, 2021 under the title ‘Setting the tone at Glasglow’. The writer is member, Rajya Sabha and former Union environment minister.

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