Interview with Prakash Javadekar
Minister of State for Environment & Forests and Climate Change, India
Indo-French Partnership Led to COP21 Success
The success of Climate Change Summit in Paris in December owes a lot to a strategic partnership between India and France and the outcome has further strengthened this bond, says Javadekar.
How would you look back at the Paris Climate Change Meeting ?
Hundreds of media persons from the entire world had gathered to report on the intense negotiations that went into making of the historic Paris agreement that was reached by environment ministers of over 190 nations gathered at Le Bourget airport on the outskirts of the French capital, Paris, for the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).
Right from the outset it was expected that the negotiations would be tough, complicated and conducted under tremendous pressure as the people and governments from all around were seeking a landmark agreement that would prevent further global warming and save the earth by keeping the rise in mean sea temperatures to below 2°C by the end of this century.
The French President, Francois Hollande, has done a wonderful job in overseeing a highly successful COP21 by listening to all views and accommodating the main concerns of all countries, especially the developing nations. He put a special focus on India, which was always seen by the French as a key partner for success in Paris.
For nearly a year before the meeting began in Paris, the French government, notably its foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who was also the President of the COP21 meeting, had been touring around the world, visiting key capitals in order to drum up support for a common text for the Paris meeting.
How was India engaged with them in the process before the Paris meeting ?
In March itself, we had informed the French that we had 4-5 major concerns which needed sorting out before the Climate Change Meet began. In order to help resolve our issues as well as create a common consensus, the French President organised three informal meetings in Paris before COP21. These meetings were extremely crucial and proved to be very useful in helping the nations develop a mutual understanding and a common approach to resolve some of the most complex issues facing us before the meeting in Paris.
I must congratulate President Hollande and Minister Fabius for the manner in which they reached out to various countries, representing all the groupings. They also accommodated all views and made the draft agreement acceptable to all. Initially, the Europeans and the Americans were extremely rigid in their position and were not willing to move at all, which was necessary in order to reach an agreement. It was the skill of the French President which got the EU and the US to understand and agree to the views of the developing countries.
Can you talk about the launch of International Solar Alliance during COP21 ?
Another very important development, which again showcased the excellent Indo-French partnership at Paris, was the very successful launch of the International Solar Alliance (ISA). This alliance comprises countries between the Tropics of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, with tremendous solar energy for 300 days. Though the idea was mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was embraced with enthusiasm by President Hollande, who helped ensure that more than 100 countries were part of the alliance at the launch, which was attended by more than two dozen heads of state and heads of governments and nearly 100 corporate leaders from around the world. This event was one of the highlights of the Paris meeting and the ISA aims to create a fund of USD 1 trillion for production of 1 tera watt (TW) of solar power in over 100 nations.
On the occasion, the French President also joined hands with Prime Minister Modi to release a book of quotes by the two leaders. In addition, Hollande also participated in the Innovative Initiatives drive of India.
Do you think Indian concerns had been accommodated in the final text ?
Before finalising the Paris agreement text on the night of December 16, President Hollande called Prime Minister Modi and went through the draft agreement with him in order to take him in confidence and to get his support for the move.
Another significant move by President Hollande was that in his opening statement, Hollande spoke of the importance of the final agreement at Paris to include the sense of climate justice, a point which had been raised by India and which is very close to the heart of Indian prime minister. Initially, a lot of rich countries were against the idea of talking of Climate Justice at COP21 as it alludes to the responsibilites of the developed nations to the current problems and how they need to bear the consequences, rather than squeezing the Indian businesses any more.
How was India’s participation at the meeting ?
What also cleared the way at COP21 was the proactive and pragmatic approach by India, which had begun long before the Paris meeting. The first sign was seen when India submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs), which outlines the efforts India would make to curb carbone missions.
India’s INDCs are comprehensive, practical and pragmatic. We arrived at these INDCs after great deliberation within the central government and with the state governments. We involved private sector industries, agriculture sector, and forest sector. It covers not only mitigation but also adaptation, finance, technology support, capacity building, reporting and other aspects.
One of the three main features of the Indian INDCs is 35 pc reduction in emission intensity by 2030 – it is a 75 pc jump over 2020 goals. This means more energy efficiency and reduction in energy intensity.
Another major policy decision that sent a clear message from India to other nations was the decision to ensure 40 pc energy capacity from non-fossil fuel energy. This is a 50 pc rise over earlier goals. Another comprehensive target was the creation of 3 billion tons of CO2 carbon sink in afforestation.
Our actions will save carbon emissions to the tune 3.2 billion tons of CO2 per annum. This is a big contribution over 2005; even bigger if calculated on the backdrop of business as usual. Our progress further from business as usual and towards comprehensive targets is being welcomed. Our Prime Minister is passionate about climate change. He thinks that we need to act more, so he shared three ideas before the world. First is for climate justice towards poor countries and sections of the world.
Second is lifestyle change, for we have only one planet. Mahatma Gandhi said that the earth can provide for the need of everyone but not for the greed of anyone. The unsustainable consumption pattern of western countries is definitely an issue. The earth report says that such consumption will need five planets. The third idea was the ISA.