Script by Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, Rector, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
While India is in the grip of an unprecedented health crisis caused by the COVID19 pandemic, especially the second wave of the spread of fast mutating Corona Virus, the Modi Government has actively participated in steps to combat another deadly threat to mankind—climate change.
Participating in a Leaders Summit convened by US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Modi stated that: “We in India are doing our part. Our ambitious renewable energy target of 450 gigahertz by 2030 shows our commitment. Despite our development challenges, we have taken many bold steps on clean energy, energy efficiency, deforestation, and biodiversity. That is why we are among the few countries whose NDCs are 2 degrees Celsius compatible.”
India is committed to do its part in ensuring a cleaner environment, although “India’s per capita carbon footprint is 60 per cent lower than the global average.”
While China complained that the Indian Prime Minister did not make any new commitment in his speech at the summit, the United States applauded the Indian commitment by saying, India, in partnership with the United States, is determined to deploy 450 gigawatts of renewable power and if it is done, “India is on track to hold the 1.5 degrees centigrade” of its target.
Significantly, China itself has made no new commitments. It classifies itself as the largest developing country and claims that it has the right to keep polluting by using fossil fuels for quite some time before it would start reducing the carbon emissions. It is well known that China currently is the largest polluter in the world.
It is noteworthy that India and the United States have announced the launch of a new and joint high-level “US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership” Two important components of this initiative are the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership and the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue.
India has teamed up with the United States at the right time to play its part in promoting clean energy, contributing to maintaining a sustainable temperature of the earth and combat pollution.
For about four years, the United States under the Trump Administration did everything to sabotage the global efforts to fight global warming and withdrew the country from the Paris Climate agreement. It also left no stone unturned to promote fossil fuel industries within the United States. President Donald Trump himself repeatedly challenged the scientific reports on climate change.
But in less than a hundred days of coming to power, Biden Administration not only returned to the Paris Climate Agreement but also assumed the leadership role in convening a Leaders Summit on Climate by inviting 40 national leaders.
President Biden rightly pointed out in his opening remarks that climate issues cannot be resolved by any one single country. He also announced that the US is committed to reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 52% below the 2005 level by 2030. This commitment is more than double the US commitment in 2015. By appointing John Kerry as a Special Envoy for Climate Change issues, President Joe Biden has indicated his seriousness and commitment to the cause of addressing global warming concerns.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a proponent of clean energy development and champions the need for extending its benefits to other countries. His role in international alliance for solar energy is widely appreciated. His government has taken significant steps to promote clean and renewable energy within India.
However, it is understood that climate commitments of a few major countries are not adequate to address this issue. While many developing countries have never been responsible for global warming, they are under pressure from the advanced industrial nations to contribute to a reduction of carbon emissions.
Unfortunately, there is no one to pressure the developed countries. Most of the developed countries, including the US, are victims of their domestic politics in making and implementing laws that would prevent further global warming. The need of the time is to develop a universal consensus and commitment to deal with this issue successfully.