India affirms commitment to sign Paris climate accord

Delhi ready to ink UN deal at 22 April ceremony, says minister, joining US and China in push for early entry into force

By Alex Pashley  

More than 100 countries, including the largest four carbon polluters, have now signalled their intent to sign last year’s Paris climate deal at a UN ceremony this month.

In a boost for the process, India is the latest to endorse the UN-backed accord at the 22 April event in New York. It follows recent declarations by the US, China, EU and a cluster of small island states.

The support gives impetus to the political set-piece called by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to spotlight ambitious commitments to curb emissions made at a December summit.

India’s environment minister Prakash Javedekar said on Saturday the Asian country and 100 nations would take part, local media reported, in a showing of its climate action.

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“India is not part of the problem; it wants to be part of the solution,” he told a university event in comments reported by the Economic Times. “Our commitment is reflected in every programme being pursued by the government.”

And Javadekar said India would “ratify” the deal on the date. But experts suggested there may have been some confusion between signing and ratifying, which implies a lengthier legislative process.

Speaking at the same event, energy minister Piyush Goyal said India would stick to its climate targets with or without financial and technical support from richer nations.

“We are committed to our contributions,” he said. “Rather than follow the world we will lead the world in clean technology and clean energy… just like our heritage of saving the universe.”

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Still, Goyal admitted coal would be India’s main source of power for years to come, with the government investigating super-efficient and so-called clean coal technology.

Addressing government critics who say it is opening swathes of virgin lands to energy companies, Goyal said there had to be a balance between power and the environment.

“It is very easy to be evangelists in homes enjoying 24 hours’ power. For that power, somewhere down the line you had to cut a forest to get the coal.”

Delhi’s target is to bring electricity to every village by the end of 2017 and every household by 2019. More than 300 million Indians are estimated to have no access to electricity.

Comment: UN’s Paris climate deal could enter into force this year

India’s endorsement dents a campaign by a Malaysia-based advocacy group for developing nations to demand more financial assurances before sealing the deal.

The Third World Network said poor countries should not “rush” into signing the pact, in a briefing note to Arab countries obtained by Climate Home.

Wealthy nations have agreed to mobilise at least US$100 billion a year from 2020 to aid developing countries. Current flows are $10-60bn/yr, according to different estimates, and would-be beneficiaries are anxious to see this scaled up.

Outgoing US lead climate envoy Todd Stern squarely rejected the idea, saying it was not in poor countries’ interests to delay.

“[I]t’s not a question of what more do we do in order to get people to sign the thing that is good for them,” he told reporters at a briefing on Thursday.

“The best thing that can happen for countries who are vulnerable is to get this agreement going, to get this agreement entered into force, and to start moving.”

 

For the Paris deal to take effect, 55 countries accounting for 55% of global emissions need to ratify the deal.

The US and China have promised to rubber-stamp the pact this year, accounting for more than 40% of emissions. The EU, which as a bloc is the world’s third largest emitter, is ready to sign but faces a longer process to complete the formalities.

Three Pacific states vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – Fiji, Palau and the Marshall Islands – are ready to ratify, urging others to follow rapidly.

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