Mixed reaction to Modi’s climate speech

Article originally published by Manka Behl for the Times of India as part of the Climate Tracker fellowship to cover the United Nations General Assembly in New York

New York – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit received a mixed bag of reaction from young climate crusaders here who had come to attend the Youth Climate Summit which was held on Saturday. While for some it was promising and positive, others expressed severe disappointment over the PM not spelling out crucial much-needed steps to reduce global warming.
The sum of Modi’s speech on Monday clarified that India is only looking at keeping its commitments made in the Paris Agreement of 2015, which is holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had asked global leaders to come with an action plan and “not just beautiful speeches”. To that effect, none of the opening leaders made any ambitious statements till the time of filing of this report.

For many climate activists, it was promising to hear from the Prime Minister that the “time for talking is over and the world needs to act now”. “But we hope this translates into real action on ground when it comes to moving away from polluting coal and safeguarding biodiversity rich forests, wildlife species and community forest rights. We hope that India will stop installing new coal based power plants. The country is already bearing the consequences of a bad fuel choice for energy needs and we should move aggressively on energy transition pathway towards renewable energy here onwards,” said Sunil Dahiya, campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

Stating that Modi’s statement at the summit reinforces the government’s commitment to renewable energy, director of New Delhi-based Climate Trends Aarti Khosla said, “By announcing a pathway towards 450GW as soon as India achieves 175GW by 2022, the PM spelt out that the country’s development won’t be separated from the climate realities. This is a well-intentioned statement.”

The industry low carbon pathways announced by the PM represents a large opportunity. Explained Khosla, “India can be the first economy to decarbonize industry sector as it develops in the next decade or so, providing a hub for low carbon tech and further showcasing climate leadership.”

On the other hand, some activists took to Twitter right after the speech to express their dissatisfaction. “Absolutely disappointing speech by Narendra Modi. He seemed more excited yesterday when he mentioned 100% FDI in coal and the LNG deal. Antonio Guterres thought empty promises and beautiful speeches were not going to be allowed. What happened,” an activist Tweeted.

Another Tweet by Ashish Fernandes from Greenpeace read, “He can’t keep pulling fantastic Renewable Energy targets out of his hat. Hopefully they will be met but it will mean nothing if India continues to build new coal as well.”