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India Denies Joining Paris Climate Pact for Financial Benefit

  • Anjana Pasricha

FILE - Traffic moves as smoke emits from the chimney of a factory on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016.

India has rejected comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that it joined the Paris climate accord because it would benefit by getting billions of dollars and said it remains committed to protecting the environment.

“We did not sign the Paris agreement under pressure of any country or to get money from any country,” India’s foreign minster Sushma Swaraj said Monday in response to questions from reporters about Trump’s comments. “That is not the reality.”

While announcing his decision to quit the accord last week, President Trump had said that "India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.”

Naming India and China as countries that received preferential treatment under the accord, he said that the Paris accord "is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States."

Under the Paris Agreement, developing nations such as India are to be provided with financial assistance by developed countries to assist in the transition to renewable energy.

But Minister Swaraj said “our signature is not out of greed or fear of anyone.” Asserting that in India people worship mountains, trees and rivers as part of a centuries-old tradition of protecting the environment, she said, “that is why whether America stays in or not, India will abide by the accord.”

India shifted stance

India was initially skeptical about joining the Paris accord, fearing that it would hold back the country’s pace of development and frequently pointed out that it still needs to provide electricity to a quarter of its population.

But the strong statements from Indian leaders in recent days indicate the world’s third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions has shifted its position considerably and is prepared to tackle issues related to climate change.

At a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “the protection of the environment and the mother planet is an article of faith” and vowed that India would go “above and beyond the Paris accord.”

India has promised to slash the intensity of its fossil-fuel emissions by one-third by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. To do that it aims to generate 40 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuels by 2030.

The big focus is solar and wind energy, both of which it is trying to scale up rapidly – the target is to generate 175 gigawatts by 2022. Energy and climate experts say while India may fall slightly short, its efforts are largely on track.

“The trajectory is good,” says Aruna Kumarankandath at the Center of Science and Environment in New Delhi. “Giving that we are starting from scratch, around 2010 India had one megawatt or two megawatt of solar. So going from that in 12 years to reach even close is amazing for any country to achieve.”

The head of India’s Council on Energy, Environment and Water, Arunabha Ghosh wrote in the Times of India that although there are skeptics about these ambitious targets at home and abroad “India has demonstrated its willingness and ability to scale programs nationwide and rapidly, which serve to drive a shift towards cleaner fuels.”

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