Prime Minister Narendra Modi signalled on Monday he would not bow to foreign pressure to commit to cuts in carbon emissions, instead pledging to use more clean energy and traditional methods to lead the fight against climate change.
India, the world's No.3 emitter of greenhouse gases, has come under pressure to tackle its rapidly rising emissions since the United States and China committed last November to start cutting their own emissions after a "peak year".
United Nations climate talks will be held in Paris later this year to look at ways to limit a damaging rise in global temperatures. Getting India to agree to a strategy to lower its own emissions is vital if the talks are to be judged a success.
"The world guides us on climate change and we follow them? The world sets the parameters and we follow them? It is not like that," Modi said at an event in Delhi. "We can lead the world."
Delhi govt takes stock of air quality, seeks report on vehicle ban
The government has said it needs to emit more to industrialise and lift millions out of poverty.
While Modi has in the past highlighted the dangers posed by climate change, he has also argued that the world must focus more on clean energy and less on outright emission cuts.
India has set an ambitious target to raise renewable energy generation but is also expanding the mining of coal, a major contributor to its growing emissions.
Launching the first national air quality index in New Delhi on Monday, Modi said India's contribution to the pollution level in the world was one of the lowest and urged the countrymen to change their lifestyle in order to help protect the environment.
Speaking at the inauguration of a two-day conference of state environment and forest ministers, PM Modi expressed hope that the conference will prove to be a platform to hold detailed discussions which might be formulated in policies in future.
Modi suggested using traditional methods such as switching off street lights on full-moon nights to save on energy and cut emissions.
Modi also accused the world of double standards by lecturing India about the environment but refusing to sell it the fuel needed for nuclear power.
Some countries maintain a ban on selling uranium to India because New Delhi has refused to ratify the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Modi will begin an overseas trip to Europe and Canada this week and is expected to push for more help in expanding India's civil nuclear industry and easing the uranium ban.