India in no rush to deliver UN climate pledge, says minister

Delhi is “not in the habit” of taking pressure warns Prakash Javadekar, but says country will play its part in Paris

(Pic: Flickr/MM)

(Pic: Flickr/MM)

By Ed King

India will not be rushed into delivering its contribution to a proposed 2015 global climate change pact, its environment minister has said.

Prakash Javadekar told the Times of India he wanted to see what further climate policies developed countries were proposing before making any commitments.

“Developed countries need to act and take ambitious targets for 2015-20,” he said.

“Our plan will also be reflected in our Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – but before the world discusses our INDCs, we will discuss their pre-2020 action plan.”

He added: “You must remember what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said about climate change when he was asked about any such pressure – he said we were not in a habit of taking pressure.”

So far only the European Union and Switzerland have submitted their plans to contribute to a UN deal, which is due to be signed off in Paris this December.

The US is expected to release its target for greenhouse gas emission cuts by 31 March, a loose deadline set for developed countries to reveal their goals.

UN officials want all major economies to submit their plans by 1 October, so they can work out whether they will be enough to avoid levels of dangerous warming.

Extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding and rising sea levels are expected to become more severe if global temperatures rise beyond 2C above pre-industrial levels.

India is the world’s fourth largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, at 2.1 billion tonnes in 2013 (excluding land use). This figure is expected to triple by 2030.

But spread across the country’s 1.25 billion people, this equates to far lower personal emissions levels than in Europe, China or the US. Around 300 million Indians still lack access to electricity.

India will never hit the level of personal emissions of the US and China, Javadekar argued, which he said are likely to converge on 12 tonnes of CO2 per person by 2030.

“The world’s already warmed since the pre-industrialisation phase. We are not responsible for this. We were never a player there,” he said.

“Now, we are growing. We need to grow to eradicate poverty – however, we will never cross the world average.”

He rejected claims India’s chronic air pollution problems had left it on a “weak wicket” ahead of Paris, with some suggesting this is proof the government lacks the will to tackle energy and transport emissions.

An estimated 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India, led by the capital Delhi. Thousands are believed to die each year from associated illnesses.

Instead he pointed to plans for 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, the “largest” target of any emerging economy he claimed, as well as the government’s “zero defect, zero effect” aspiration for manufacturing, under which products have a minimal impact on the environment.

“Taking action to deal with climate change is the prime minister’s top priority. It’s an article of faith,” he said.

“Therefore, he’s come out with ‘zero defect, zero effect’ – he wants to make products in India with zero defects, so these can be sold all over and be competitive.

“But this will be done through ‘zero effect’ on the environment, so we can care for our mother earth.”

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