UNITED NATIONS – After skipping the United Nations Climate Summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tackled the topic in another UN event but did not announce any new action his country will take to fight climate change.
Instead, Modi said in his first ever speech before the UN General Assembly on Saturday, September 27, that developed nations should play a key role in averting the climate crisis.
“The developed countries have to fulfill their promise for funding and technology transfer. National action is important. Technology has made a number of things possible, for example, renewable energy. What is needed is we should be committed towards it and be creative,” said Modi, who spoke in Hindi.
Modi also cited the so-called principle of common but differentiated responsibility, which recognizes that developed countries have a greater responsibility to fight climate change because historically, they contributed to the problem more than developing nations did.
India is the world’s 4th biggest greenhouse gas emitter, according to the World Resource Institute’s Climate Analysis Indicators Tool. It follows China, the United States and the European Union. While it is a developing nation, India’s emissions are expected to grow in the coming years as its economy expands.
Modi said India is prepared to help other developing countries through funds, technology transfer, and aid. Yet he did not give new and specific pledges.
“India, with its technology and potential, wants to share it. We have made an announcement for a free satellite [for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries],” he said.
Modi then expounded on how lifestyle changes and even yoga can help fight climate change.
“When energy has not been used, that is the cleanest energy. This will give a new direction to our economy. In India, towards nature, we have to keep nature as a very respectable thing and we consider it very pious, very sacred and that’s part of our ideology,” Modi said.
“When we talk of climate change, we talk about holistic health care, connecting with nature. Yoga should not just be exercise for us but a means to connect with the world and nature. It should bring a change in our lifestyle and create awareness in us and it can help in fighting against climate change. Let’s come together and work towards International Yoga Day.”
Modi’s comments echo the statements of his environment minister Prakash Javadekar. The prime minister sent Javadekar to attend the UN climate summit on Tuesday, September 23, in his stead.
Speaking to the New York Times, Javadekar said India will not offer a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a climate deal in Paris next year, and it is historic polluters like the US that should make reductions. The minister said that India’s priority is alleviating poverty and improving its economy.
“Twenty percent of our population doesn’t have access to electricity, and that’s our top priority. We will grow faster, and our emissions will rise,” the minister said.
‘Troop contributors must have greater voice’
Modi discussed this as he elaborated on the development priorities of India.
“When we think of the scale of want in the world – 2.5 billion people without access to basic sanitation; 1.3 billion people without access to electricity; or 1.1 billion people without access to drinking water, we need a more comprehensive and concerted direct international action. In India, the most important aspects of my development agenda are precisely to focus on these issues,” he said.
The former chief minister of Gujarat also tackled the issue of UN peacekeeping, saying that troop contributing countries like India should have a say in decision-making.
“Their confidence will go up and in a big quantity, they are ready to give sacrifices, give the time and energy but if they are not included in the decision-making, how can we make UN peacekeeping more lively and energetic? This needs to be considered seriously.”
Modi spoke a day after the UN held a high-level summit to strengthen peacekeeping operations (READ: Biden to UN: We owe peacekeepers more). The UN will also conduct a comprehensive review of peace operations 15 years since the last one was made.
India is the second top troop contributing country to UN peacekeeping, with a total of 8,104 military and police contributions as of August.
‘Pakistan talks but not with shadow of terrorism’
Modi also said that Pakistan needs to show more “seriousness” to resume dialogue between the historic adversaries.
“I do want to hold bilateral talks with them, but it is Pakistan’s duty to come forward with all seriousness and create an atmosphere,” Modi said.
Modi questioned his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for highlighting the longstanding Kashmir dispute in his own UN speech a day earlier.
“By raising this, I don’t know how serious our effort will be, and some people are doubtful,” Modi said.
“Instead, today we should be thinking about the victims of floods on Jammu and Kashmir,” the prime minister added, using the full name of the Indian state.
Modi reiterated his offer to assist flood victims on the Pakistani side of the divided Himalayan territory – an offer unlikely to be accepted by Islamabad amid criticism by some Kashmiris over the pace of the Indian response.
This is Modi’s first visit to the US since America denied him a visa in 2005 for supposedly violating religious freedoms as chief minister of Gujarat state in anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
He will attend a grand gathering with the Indian American community at the Madison Square Garden on Sunday, and proceed to Washington DC on Monday to meet with US President Barack Obama. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
Rappler multimedia reporter Ayee Macaraig is a 2014 fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists. She is in New York to cover the UN General Assembly, foreign policy, diplomacy, and world events.