India won’t raise climate ambition under pressure: Prakash Javadekar
Prakash Javadekar was speaking at an event organised at the Embassy of France to mark French minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit to India.
India will attempt to keep its climate commitments but will not act at the behest or under pressure from developed countries, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Wednesday, underscoring the country’s prerogative to balance development goals with obligations on climate change.
Javadekar was speaking at an event organised at the Embassy of France to mark French minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit to India. He reiterated that India will “over achieve” its commitments, a government spokesperson later said in a clarification to his remarks.
Le Drian, in his address, said countries must stop building new coal-based power plants and progressively move towards achieving carbon neutrality. Javadekar, who spoke after Le Drian’s address, offered some context. “Yes, we are suffering. We are seeing higher temperatures, unusual rain, hurricanes, frequency of such abnormal events has increased.”
But, he added, it should not be forgotten that this is not a new phenomenon. “For 150 years, this has been happening because carbon emissions remain in the atmosphere for more than 150 years, so what we are suffering today was caused 150 years ago. The countries [of] EU [European Union], US and in the last 30 to 40 years China, they emitted and therefore the world is suffering, India is suffering,” he said
Javadekar underlined that historic responsibility is a very important aspect. “We cannot just forget, and we will not allow anybody to forget it. The historical emissions responsibility today of is China 28%, USA 40%; Europe 10% and India is only 3%. We are not responsible for the climate change that is happening.” He added India is a responsible nation and will do the right thing to deal with the climate crisis.
Javadekar urged developed countries to deliver on finance commitments. “Where is the money? There is no money in sight. You have polluted, destroyed the world, and brought climate change. And now you are saying do not use coal. The alternative has to be cheaper than coal.”
“They should make technology at an affordable cost. Climate change is not a business. Fighting climate change is our duty. The world has agreed to supply anti-AIDS drugs at a lower cost because AIDS is a disaster. We should not profit from a disaster…therefore, we will walk the talk, raise our ambition but not at the behest or [under] pressure from other countries,” the minister added.
Gaurav Khare, the environment ministry spokesperson, later issued a clarification saying: “Mr Prakash Javadekar had only said that India will ‘Over Achieve’ its commitment made in Paris and not said that India will “raise its ambitions”.
In his address, Le Drian referred to the objective of the 2016 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2°C or even 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels.
“If we do not succeed in doing so, the consequences will be disastrous…That’s why it is absolutely indispensable that all countries increase their climate commitments by the time the COP26 [2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference] takes place in Glasgow, as required by the Paris Agreement,” Le Drian said.
He said this increase in ambition must include setting new nationally determined contributions by 2030 and also long-term strategies to achieve carbon neutrality. “We must stop building new coal-based power plants and it is essential that we progressively stop this mode of electricity production at a global level.”
John Kerry, the American Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, met Javadekar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week regarding increasing climate ambition ahead of COP26 in Glasgow this November. Kerry and Modi agreed that India and the US will work closely on the technology and finance for the deployment of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 to make way for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
France is co-chair of the International Solar Alliance—an alliance of 121 countries initiated by India to promote solar energy.
Ulka Kelkar, director (climate), World Resources Institute, said India has the unique dilemma of not being responsible for past climate change but shouldering the burden of the expectations of future generations and their well-being. “While a low-carbon development pathway could usher significant environmental and socio-economic benefits, it could also mean very real costs for us -- upfront capital investments that need to be made now even though the benefits accrue over several decades, depleting fossil fuel tax revenues that might affect much-needed investments in health and education, and the need to ensure a just and fair transition for our workforce, especially women.”
Kelkar said partnerships with countries like France can help accelerate the technological innovation that is needed to bring down the cost of climate solutions and give momentum to action by the Indian industry on climate change.
“India has demonstrated leadership on climate commitments and climate action. In an important year like 2021, it must step up and frame the evolving debate around climate ambition. It must speak for the planet by demanding that developed countries achieve net-zero emissions before 2050. It must demonstrate its commitments by stating that its aggregate (not just per capita) emissions will not exceed that of China, the EU or the US,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
“It must project its domestic policies on renewables, e-mobility and energy efficiency into international dialogues. And it must set a direction of travel, but declare contingent commitments so that it can revise its decisions as technologies develop and investment becomes available. The climate ambition conversation should not be about resisting international pressure. Instead it should be a narrative that prioritises the transformation of the Indian economy,” Ghosh added.