World needs transformational diplomacy, not transactional diplomacy

Climate change ought to dominate Modi-Macron meet


July 13, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

World needs transformational diplomacy, not transactional diplomacy

Narendra Modi visits France on the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron

Instead of focussing on short-term transactions on trade or defence, French President Emmanuel Macron, the host, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the guest, should put all their energies into putting climate change back on top of the global agenda, when they meet in Paris later today and tomorrow.

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A mighty military parade would march down the Avenue de Champs Elysée, the most dignified avenue in France, while fighter jets would zoom past up in French skies to celebrate ‘Fête nationale française’ –French National Day on  July 14. It is also called Bastille Day in memory of the day in 1789 when the Fortress of Bastille was stormed to free the prisoners, marking the French Revolution.

Watching the parade together on the famous avenue and in the sky would be two promising leaders of the world, both bestowed with creative diplomacy, French President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Though separated by a generation-gap and coming from strikingly different backgrounds, the two leaders have shown surprisingly common gallant traits. Macron and  Modi are  known as bold policy makers with a singular vision to prevent the impending social and economic crisis for the benefit of people.

Currency notes, finance, agriculture, military and  Uniform Civil Codes are some of the topics for major policy reforms undertaken by Modi many of which  sparked regional protests. Marcon dared to reform labour laws, taxation including carbon tax, pension reforms including increasing retirement age against which he faced severe protests and anger. Political opponents demanded his resignation. Modi faced the criticism as a Prime Minister who is ‘friend of top industrialists’  while Marcon is dubbed as “President of the rich” by political opponents and even demanded his resignation during his first years of his presidency. Opponents called Modi a thief, religious-divider, uneducated Prime Minister who fakes the university degrees. Macron was slapped in public by an irate man. Modi was downgraded in open platform on foreign soil by his political opponent and was obstructed for protracted time during his speech in the Parliament.

Macron, like Modi,  is tough and strict on anti-terror law and illegal immigrants that disrupts societal peace.  Macron’s interior minister declared that  France is “in a state of war” after a stabbing incident. Macron has got on record that numerous terror plots had been foiled by his government. Though the anti-terror law of Macron was criticised by human rights advocates, the law was finally passed that gave authorities expanded power to search homes, restrict movement, close places of worship.  Modi has ordered the deadly military attacks to destroy the terrorists  camps and suspected houses in Jammu and Kashmir, where he is criticised as violating UN Human Rights Convention. Macron faced angry crowds and mounting violent demonstrations when a young boy in Paris suburb was shot dead by French police. Modi is facing violent uprise  in far east of India. Both Modi and Macron are facing people’s anger in a balanced manner to quieten it.

Modi and Macron named UN Environment Champions for Solar Alliance and Global Pact leadership (2018)

In 2018 both Modi and Marcon were recognised by United Nations Environment Programme as Champions of the Earth

In 2018, on the other hand, both Modi and Marcon were recognised by United Nations Environment Programme as Champions of the Earth for their policy leadership and pioneering work in setting up the International Solar Alliance and Macron’s work on the Global Pact for the Environment.

At the G7 summit with French presidency was held in 2019 in France just before outbreak of Covid-19, Macron set and ambitious agenda and even tried to break the tradition of an exclusive, small group of seven leaders holding its discussions in ivory towers. He made the  gathering more inclusive by inviting other nine developing countries and even Iran in rather secret way. He sent special invitation to Modi for bilateral negotiations in Paris before the summit. Significantly, Macron’s agenda  at that time recognised that the climate crisis has its indelible link with inequality which in turn has a strong connection with terrorism. Though it touches every human being, climate change hits vulnerable populations even harder.

Four years later, in 2023, India’s presidency of G20, under Modi’s leadership, is now even more inclusive. Modi has also succeeded in inviting nine more countries, from Asia and Africa.

But in the four years since 2019, the the world has changed a lot and a lot worse in the matters of climate change. It has gone from severe climate change to disastrous climate crisis, biodiversity loss and air pollution, a triple crisis as UN defines it. Earth is getting warmer every year but world leaders are getting cooler. Temperature rise now stands to break the limit agreed in Paris Climate Agreement, while world leaders continue to break their own promises on finances to be provided to the developing countries.

Wildfires that started at the beginning of the year are still raging in Canada and North America, but the leaders of G20 are yet to show any signs of raging the much-needed and much-delayed war against climate change. Water shortages and droughts are threatening global food security, but the world leaders continue to be more focussed on their own ‘national security’. It is not just science that tells policy makers what to do, but the evidence under their nose and disasters before their eyes have long been telling them as to what is needed and how urgently they have to act.

Even climate saviours Modi and Marcon, based on their agenda for the bilateral summit declared during French National Day celebrations, seem to be engaged in trade-bound ‘transactional-diplomacy’ rather than much needed carbon-neutral ‘transformational-diplomacy’.

Unprecedented impacts of climate change seen in 2023, worsened by El Nino, require nothing less that total transformation in the way the planet does business. While Modi is rightly informing the world India’s progress in the field of renewable energy and its plans for Mission LiFE, what is needed, however,  is to steeply raise the targets of solar output from International Solar Alliance, jointly established by India and France which now has 116 signatories. The targets of bodies like ISA should be about what is needed for NetZero,  and not just number of signatory countries.

The Synthesis report of 6th Assessment Report ( AR6) of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC) released in 2023, has emphasised in its finding that the rise in temperature had to be limited to 1.5° C to avoid the disastrous consequences to costal area, island countries and global economy in general. The world had to cut its dependence on fossil fuel by 45 pc by 2030 from the 2010 levels and by 100 pc by 2050. That would need much more than just ambitious pledges by the countries and definitely more than the promises and NDCs made in the Paris Climate Agreement and revised later. The latest report from World Meteorological Organisation has stated that the so-called red line of temperature rise by 1.5° C is likely to be crossed by the planet within a couple of years or even earlier.

For the G20 Summit in India in September, Modi has set muti-dimensional topics for deliberation. Last month, Macron hosted a global consultative meeting on climate finances called ‘ The Summit for a New Global Financing Pact’ in Paris. It clearly showed that world is in spiral storm of poverty, debt, inflation, further aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and increasing climate impacts.

Nothing less than a coordinated universal action at the level and urgency deployed at the time of Covid-19 is needed. Modi’s proven skills and his transformational diplomacy is urgently needed along with Macron’s bold and game changing policy setting. If they do not avail of this opportunity to name climate change as the root cause of today’s global distress and put climate agenda on top of the global diplomatic agenda,  the world could witness start of yet another revolution.

Five years back, Macron had announced imposition of a carbon tax that triggered the nation-wide protests, while in the budget presented in same year, the Modi government increased the tax on petrol and diesel that faced severe criticism. There is however the way out to get additional climate finance by progressively abolishing subsidies for fossil fuels that run into more than USD 1 trillion each year. That would need courage and daring policy reforms that Modi and Macron can provide.

Macron has been called ‘Saviour of Europe’ and the most transformative French President ever. Modi is said to be the ‘most popular’ world leader and bold change-maker.  The ‘Saviour and Most Popular’ world leaders are coming together in Paris. They should shun the ‘transactional diplomacy’ that engages in multi-billion dollar agreements for military fighter jets and machinery, nuclear reactor and pharmaceutical products. Instead, they should embrace ‘transformational-diplomacy’ to make the planet sustainable again.

By Rajendra Shende is a former Director UNEP, Founder Director Green TERRE Foundation, coordinating lead author, IPCC that won Nobel peace prize, IIT Alumnus



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