India ‘central to Paris success’ say small island states

PM Modi billed ‘clean energy crusader’ ahead of regional forum, but must ‘lead from front’ on climate

Indian prime minister Narenda Modi at an election rally in 2009. (Flickr/ Al Jazeera)

Narenda Modi. India, the fourth-largest carbon polluter is poised to deliver its climate pledge in the coming weeks (Flickr/ Al Jazeera)

By Ed King

Leaders from 14 of the world’s most climate vulnerable countries will urge Indian leader Narendra Modi to back ambitious greenhouse gas targets at a meeting in Jaipur on Friday.

Heads of state from the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Kiribati and Tuvalu are among those attending the second India-Pacific Islands Cooperation forum in the north-western city.

“No country is more central to success in Paris than India,” said Marshall Islands president Christopher J Loeak in a statement.

“With its booming economy, its technological ingenuity and its big appetite for clean energy, the world’s biggest democracy is well poised for strong and visible leadership on climate change.”

All emerging economies were obliged to target “responsible and necessary” levels of greenhouse gas cuts he said, adding that India’s forthcoming climate plan was a chance to “lead from the front”.

“Thankfully, there are few clean energy crusaders like Prime Minister Modi,” said Loeak.

The world’s fourth largest carbon polluter, India is expected in the coming weeks to reveal its plan to slow emissions and prepare for future extreme weather.

Analysis: What can we expect from India’s climate pledge?

A heated debate over its goals appears to be taking place at cabinet level. Last week chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian called for a radical rethink of the country’s climate plans.

India should drop demands for higher levels of financial assistance from countries deemed developed in 1992, he said, and also focus more on domestic emission cuts.

“India has a greater stake in climate change mitigation than most rich countries, which will likely be less affected and better able to cope with consequences,” he said.

His comments received support from former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, but public support from Modi or current environment chief Prakash Javadekar was not forthcoming.

India – which suffered disastrous floods in late 2014 and a blistering heatwave this summer – already has ambitious plans to develop 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2020.

But in a bid to provide electricity to 300 million without grid access, the government also plans to build over 300 new coal-fired power plants, according to the Global Coal Plant Tracker.

The forum is considered a drive by India to strengthen ties with neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region as China asserts its influence.

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