India’s climate change policy: Creating a better future

Children wave Indian flags during a full-dress rehearsal ahead of Republic Day celebrations in Amritsar. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

India’s climate change policy: Creating a better future

As a populous, tropical, developing nation, India faces a bigger challenge in coping with the consequences of climate change than most other countries.

Climate change is a global phenomenon, but it is one that has local consequences. 

There are both external and domestic dimensions to India’s climate change policy, which has been articulated in two key documents. 

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was adopted on Jun. 30, 2008, while India’s Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDC) was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Oct. 2, 2015.

The focus of the NAPCC is essentially domestic, while the INDC is a statement of intent on climate change action.

The NAPCC incorporates India’s vision of ecologically sustainable development and the steps that need to be taken to implement it. 

It is based on an awareness that climate change action must proceed simultaneously in several closely interrelated domains, such as energy, industry, agriculture, water, forests, urban spaces and the fragile mountain environment.

This was the backdrop to the eight “national missions” that are detailed in the NAPCC. This need for interrelated policy and coordinated action was recognized, several years later, by the UN with its adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

India’s national missions focus on: Solar energy, enhancing energy efficiency, creating a sustainable urban habitat, conserving water, sustaining the fragile Himalayan ecosystem, creating a green India through expanded forests, making agriculture sustainable, and creating a strategic knowledge platform to serve all the national missions.

The NAPCC acknowledged that climate change and energy security are two sides of the same coin — that India has to make a strategic shift from its current reliance on fossil fuels to a pattern of economic activity based progressively on renewable sources of energy, such as solar, and cleaner sources, such as nuclear energy. Such a shift would enhance India’s energy security and contribute to dealing with the threats posed by climate change.

Therefore a co-benefit approach underlies India’s climate change strategy. The NAPCC constitutes India’s response to climate change based on its own resources, but also recognizes that it is intimately linked to the parallel multilateral effort, based on the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC, to establish a global climate change regime.

It was India’s hope that the ongoing multilateral negotiations under the UNFCCC would yield an agreed outcome based on the framework’s principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities. This would enable developing countries such as India to accelerate its shift toward a future of renewable and clean energy through international financial support and technology transfer.

While India has made significant progress in implementing several of its national missions, its expectations of a supportive international climate change regime based on equitable burden sharing among nations have been mostly belied. It is in this context that one should evaluate the INDC, which was submitted to the UN on the eve of the crucial Paris Summit on Climate Change in December 2015.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the world leaders who has taken a keen interest in climate change issues. Under his leadership, India decided to adopt a more proactive, ambitious and forward-looking approach to the issue in the run-up to the Paris summit. This is reflected in the INDC, which links India’s commitment to ecologically sustainable economic development with its age-old civilizational values of respecting nature, incorporating a sense of inter-generational equity, and common humanity.

The targets India voluntarily committed to are unprecedented for a developing country. The energy intensity of India’s growth will decline by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 compared with 2005. This means that for every additional dollar of GDP that is generated, India will be using progressively, and significantly, lesser amounts of energy.

There is confidence, based on the achievements of the National Mission on Enhancing Energy Efficiency, that this target will be met. Given that India is one of the world’s largest emerging economies, with a large energy footprint globally, this constitutes a major contribution to tackling global climate change.

The INDC set a target of generating 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by the year 2030. Based on the strength of the outstanding success of the National Solar Mission, it has been reported that this capacity could be achieved 10 years ahead of schedule, and the government might raise India’s target for 2030 to 227GW.

The target of obtaining 40 percent of power from renewable sources by 2030 is also likely to be achieved several years earlier, as the figure already stands at 21 percent.


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the world leaders who has taken a keen interest in climate change issues.

India is actively reducing the component of coal-based thermal power in its energy mix. It is not widely known that the country has a very high cess (additional tax) on coal, of the order of 400 rupees a ton, the proceeds from which go into a Clean Energy Fund. India has also committed to not building any new thermal plants that are not in the most efficient, ultra-supercritical category.

The nation played a major role in assuring the success of the Paris Climate Summit, and Modi’s personal intervention in the adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement was acknowledged by several world leaders. His initiative to set up an International Solar Alliance for the promotion of solar power worldwide was welcomed.

India is advancing on a broad front to ensure a future of clean energy for its people. To do this, it is drawing upon its ingrained civilizational attributes and putting in place a wide range of policy interventions under the legal framework of the Energy Conservation Act, covering 15 energy-intensive industries, and the Energy Conservation Building Code, covering all new urban infrastructure.

Thirty-two states of the Indian Union have formulated and started to implement their own State Action Plans on Climate Change. There is also an active and vibrant civic society that is promoting public awareness of the threat posed by climate change and what each of us can do, as individuals, to tackle this threat.

It is hoped that the work of India’s leadership to deal with the challenges it faces as a result of climate change and energy security will act as a spur to other countries to raise the level their own contributions to the efforts to tackle this global and existential challenge. 

Failure to do so will condemn humanity to an uncertain, and possibly catastrophic, denouement.

• Shyam Saran is a former foreign secretary of India.

AS IT HAPPENED: Trump, Biden in heated and chaotic presidential debate

Updated 40 min 15 sec ago

AS IT HAPPENED: Trump, Biden in heated and chaotic presidential debate

  • Trump and Biden arrived in Cleveland hoping debate would energize their bases of support
  • Exchanges were marked by angry interruptions and bitter accusations

CLEVELAND: Marked by angry interruptions and bitter accusations, the first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden erupted in contentious exchanges Tuesday night over the coronavirus pandemic, city violence, job losses and how the Supreme Court will shape the future of the nation’s health care.
In what was the most chaotic presidential debate in recent years, somehow fitting for what has been an extraordinarily ugly campaign, the two men frequently talked over each other with Trump interrupting, nearly shouting, so often that Biden eventually snapped at him, “Will you shut up, man?”
“The fact is that everything he’s said so far is simply a lie,” Biden said. “I’m not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he’s a liar.”
Trump and Biden arrived in Cleveland hoping the debate would energize their bases of support, even as they competed for the slim slice of undecided voters who could decide the election. It has been generations since two men asked to lead a nation facing such tumult, with Americans both fearful and impatient about the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 of their fellow citizens and cost millions of jobs.
Over and over, Trump tried to control the conversation, interrupting Biden and repeatedly talking over the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News. The president tried to deflect tough lines of questioning — whether on his taxes or the pandemic — to deliver broadsides against Biden.
The president drew a lecture from Wallace, who pleaded with both men to stop interrupting. Biden tried to push back against Trump, sometimes looking right at the camera to directly address viewers rather than the president and snapping, “It’s hard to get a word in with this clown.”
But despite his efforts to dominate the discussion, Trump was frequently put on the defensive and tried to sidestep when he was asked if he was willing to condemn white supremacists and paramilitary groups.
“What do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name,” Trump said, before Wallace mentioned the far right, violent group known as the Proud Boys. Trump then pointedly did not condemn the group, instead saying, “Proud Boys, stand back, stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not right-wing problem. This is a left wing problem."
The vitriol exploded into the open when Biden attacked Trump's handling of the pandemic, saying that the president “waited and waited" to act when the virus reached America's shores and “still doesn’t have a plan.” Biden told Trump to “get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap” and go in his golf cart to the Oval Office to come up with a bipartisan plan to save people.
Trump snarled a response, declaring that “I'll tell you Joe, you could never have done the job that we did. You don’t have it in your blood."
“I know how to do the job,” was the solemn response from Biden, who served eight years as Barack Obama's vice president.
The pandemic’s effects were in plain sight, with the candidates’ lecterns spaced far apart, all of the guests in the small crowd tested and the traditional opening handshake scrapped. The men did not shake hands and, while neither candidate wore a mask to take the stage, their families did sport face coverings.
Trump struggled to define his ideas for replacing the Affordable Care Act on health care in the debate’s early moments and defended his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, declaring that “I was not elected for three years, I’m elected for four years.”
“We won the election. Elections have consequences. We have the Senate. We have the White House and we have a phenomenal nominee, respected by all.”
Trump criticized Biden over the former vice president's refusal to comment on whether he would try to expand the Supreme Court in retaliation if Barrett is confirmed to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The president also refused anew to embrace the science of climate change.
As the conversation moved to race, Biden accused Trump of walking away from the American promise of equity for all and making a race-based appeal.
“This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division,” Biden said.
Recent months have seen major protests after the deaths of Black people at the hands of police. And Biden said there is systemic racist injustice in this country and while the vast majority of police officers are “decent, honorable men and women” there are “bad apples” and people have to be held accountable.
Trump in turn claimed that Biden’s work on a federal crime bill treated the African American population “about as bad as anybody in this country.” The president pivoted to his hardline focus on those protesting racial injustice and accused Biden of being afraid to use the words “law and order,” out of fear of alienating the left.
“Violence is never appropriate,” Biden said. “Peaceful protest is.”
With just 35 days until the election, and early voting already underway in some states, Biden stepped onto the stage holding leads in the polls — significant in national surveys, close in some battleground states — and looking to expand his support among suburban voters, women and seniors. Surveys show the president has lost significant ground among those groups since 2016, but Biden faces his own questions encouraged by Trump’s withering attacks.

Follow the debate as it happened below, all times GMT:

02:25 - As we near the end of the debate, fair elections and the integrity of the election comes up. Trump calls the expected widespread voting-by-mail a "fraud" and says we may not know the result of the election "for months."

Biden tells Americans they have the power to choose the direction the US will take for the next four years, and whether they want four more years of Trump's lies.

QUOTE: “Show up and vote. You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote, vote, vote,” Biden said.

02:15 - The next segment of the debate moves onto climate change, Trump outlines his supposed achievements in the sector during his term in office, but the big takeaway is Biden saying he would rejoin the Paris accord on climate - which Trump pulled the US out of - if he’s elected president.

Biden also admits that he would not support the Democratic plan known as the “Green New Deal” - which critics have said goes too far and is too expensive - and instead says he backs his own “Biden Deal.”

02:05 - 

QUOTE: In rebuttal, Trump tells Biden: “In 47 months, I’ve done more than you’ve done in 47 years.”

01:55 - Trump goes for a personal attack, aiming for Biden's son Hunter for business dealing in Ukraine. Biden steers conversation away back toward coronavirus pandemic and its ravaging of US families, debate should not focus on his family.

QUOTE: Facing interruption from Trump and told to offer up his word, Biden says: “It’s hard to get any word in with this clown -- excuse me, this person.”

01:45 - When quizzed on his approach to the shutdown of the American economy, Trump quickly blames what he calls the “China Plague” for forcing him into the shutdown of a self-proclaimed “greatest economy ever built”...

01:35 - Trump is asked to qualify why the American public should trust him on COVID-19 - Biden uses his segment to say that Trump could not be trusted, and that the public's trust should be placed in the scientists. Trump asserts that Biden would have "lost way more people" had he been in power.

QUOTESTrump to Biden: “You didn't think we should've closed our country (to China) because you thought it was terrible... We've done a great job. But I tell you, Joe, you could never have done the job we've done. You don't have it in your blood.”

01:25 - As Trump takes a question regarding his policy on healthcare, the segment descends into a shouting match between the two candidates - who throw insults at each other - but the thrust of Trump's argument is "Obama-care doesn't work, and is too expensive to run." Biden ends the segment by saying "Keep yapping, man..."

QUOTES: Biden, told by Trump that he has adopted former Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders “socialized medicine” proposals: “Everybody here knows he's a liar ... you picked the wrong guy on the wrong night at the wrong time.”

“Folks, do you have any idea what this clown's doing? I tell you what, he is not for anybody needing healthcare.” After Trump explains his health proposal, Biden says: “He has no plan for healthcare. ... The fact is this man has no idea what he's talking about.”

01:15 - Trump fields his first question and it regards his Supreme Court nomination - in an election year - of Amy Coney Barrett. Trump justifies the nomination - saying “elections have consequences,” and saying Barrett would be “as good as anybody that has served on that court. We won the election, and therefore we have the right to choose her.”

Biden responds by saying results of the upcoming election should determine who nominates the justice to fill the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “We should wait and see what the outcome of this election is,” Biden said.

01:05 - With both candidates on stage, we're under way...

01:00 - With the First Lady Melania Trump and the rest of the Trump family in place, moderator Chris Wallace of FOX News lays down the ground rules of the debate. Seconds away...

00:45 - We are minutes away as Trump and Biden are all set for the much anticipated first  presidential debate. Millions across America are on the edge of their seats...

*With AP