In the wake of climate change talks held in Paris, calls have been made for legislation to reduce air pollution to be introduced, in a number of countries, with India being one of them. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that Delhi had become the most polluted city in the world, overtaking Beijing, which previously held the top spot. Also, out of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world, 13 of them are found in India. Clearly something needs to be done to tackle this problem.

Between 30th November and 12th December 2015, the 21st annual Conference of the Parties (COP21) took place in Paris, France. Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi was in attendance, along with parties representing 195 other countries from around the world. Such great levels of attendance shows the commitment of countries worldwide to the protection of our planet through combating climate change. The main aim of the conference was to negotiate The Paris Agreement, which will initiate global actions and agreements to reduce climate change.  

In Modi’s addresses to the attendees of the conference, he assured his commitments to combating climate change. Together with President Hollande of France, he launched an International Solar Alliance, which will help to boost the production and use of solar energy in developing countries around the world. The alliance aims to make solar energy cheaper and more reliable, so that it can be accessible to more homes and public buildings, and can be used more effectively as a power source. The alliance focuses on countries that are located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, as these have a greater abundance of sunlight hours to harvest into solar energy. Modi stated at the launch of his alliance with President Hollande that India currently has a capacity of 4 gigawatts (GW) of solar power, and is now setting a target of 100 GW of solar power by 2022.

Despite being the country with the third largest carbon emission levels in the world, Modi is keen for others to take on the main burden of reducing carbon emissions and improving climate change. He believes that, as developed countries have made bigger contributions to climate change over the years, that they should have a greater responsibility than developing countries when it comes to reducing emissions. Modi is obviously willing to invest more in renewable energy in order to contribute toward the global effort, but India is still a developing country with around 300 million inhabitants currently living without electricity. Because of this, limiting the country’s use of coal and other fossil fuels would be seriously detrimental to the development of India’s economy, depriving many Indians of basic living standards and quality of life.

He wrote before the Paris conference in The Financial Times that he hopes the negotiations there will “reflect a collective global commitment balancing responsibilities and capabilities on one hand with aspirations and needs on the other.” This does not mean, however, that India is not willing to play its part in improving climate change. This is clear from Modi’s commitment to renewable energy, solar power in particular, but he has also claimed that India will reduce their emissions intensity by 33% – 35% by 2030, compared to what these levels were in 2005. These are amongst other promises, including the pledge to expand their forest cover, which will help to decrease carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere.

Narendra Modi’s spirituality also plays a part in his desire to help protect the planet, and he attempted to spread this message at COP21 in Paris. During the launch of the International Solar Alliance at the Paris conference, he talked about how, in India, the sun is worshipped as the source of all energy, and the fact that many Indians pray to the sun every day. This is why renewable energy is something that he truly believes in. Throughout the conference he also made several references to Mahatma Gandhi, quoting him in his talks, for example, and posting on his Twitter account that “Together, we shall live up to Mahatma Gandhi’s call to care for a world that we shall not see.”

Throughout his time in office as Prime Minister of India, Modi has shown commitments to protecting the environment in several of his other initiatives. For example, his Clean India Mission has grand plans to clean the streets and infrastructure of more than 4,000 cities across India. Modi’s aim is to accomplish this by 2019 out of respects to Gandhi, as that year will be the 150th anniversary of his birth. Also, one of the core principles of his Make In India scheme is to minimise the effect their manufacturing processes have on the environment as much as possible.

So, as you can see, Modi is more than willing to make commitments towards fighting climate change and promoting the use of renewable energy, but he asks that developed countries will help to support developing countries through these changes.