South Asia and Beyond

‘An Indian Narrative On Climate Change Is Urgently Needed’

NEW DELHI: There’s a need for India to build its own narrative on climate change, says Dr Arvind Gupta, director of the Vivekananda International Foundation. Answering questions on Talking Point along with his colleague and Associate Fellow RK Hangzo, Gupta believes India needs to develop ideas and technologies rooted in its soil.

Hangzo gave the example of homes in rural India that tend to be built out of mud, thereby ensuring no need for artificial cooling. Mass adoption of this could enable India to cut down on fossil fuel emissions and meet its climate change targets.

Dr Gupta believes India also needs to challenge the West on issues like agriculture, which they say is highly emissions intensive. While this maybe partly true, the West needs to understand that the emphasis on meat in their daily diet is highly damaging to the environment. Unfortunately, the West is not prepared to give up its lifestyle.

Dr Hangzo and Dr Gupta both underscored the importance of coal in India’s development. Over 70% of India’s power is generated through coal and this country cannot afford to give it up. There was a move to stop funding including private sector funding for coal plants but that fell through.

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Although has already met its renewable energy targets, a lot more needs to be done in areas like nuclear power, which is among the lowest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions.

Unfortunately, India’s nuclear power industry has lagged behind and the stranglehold of government means it is slow to take advantage of new innovations, such as small modular reactors that are of lower power but can generate enough electricity to power whole villages and towns. The solution would be to open the market to private sector players but the government is yet to take a decision on it.

On the key matter of funding for climate change, the West is yet to make good on its pledge to provide $100 billion every year in climate finance. A Loss and Damage Fund has been set up but one waits to see how it functions, what are the terms and conditions and so on. More than anything else, the need is for grants but the West is pushing loans that may carry onerous conditions.

What’s clear, says Dr Gupta, is the hypocrisy underlying the climate negotiations. All countries are looking to their interest and their security and everything has been politicised. It explains why the climate negotiations have dragged on for so many years. There is little political will for those hard decisions that governments need to take.