OPINION: India and Canada can fight the climate battle together


India’s High Commissioner to Canada


AS India celebrates the 75th year of its independence, it has again reaffirmed a commitment to strong climate action. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a target for the country for its centenary in 2047: self-reliance in energy production through a mix of solar energy, electric mobility, a gas-based economy and as a global hub for green hydrogen.

India is not alone in the quest for a greener future. At Cornwall in June, leaders of the world’s largest market democracies marked a recognition that while humanity battles a devastating global pandemic, the grave threat of climate change continues to gather. Extreme climate events and warmer weather this summer have underlined the immediacy of the climate challenge. Interacting with G7 leaders, India’s Prime Minister reiterated India’s strong commitment to climate action. At an earlier climate summit of global leaders in April, he had pointed out that climate change was already a lived reality for millions around the world, as he called for concrete action with speed, scale and global scope.

With this challenge before the world, Canada and India have an opportunity to effect positive change. Together.

In 2015, at the Paris Climate Summit, our two countries played a crucial role in forging a consensus, delivering one of the most significant international agreements the world had seen. Six years in, India has not only achieved – but exceeded – most of its Paris commitments (pre-2020) targets. According to the 2020 Climate Transparency Report, India was the only G-20 nation that would meet its climate commitments. A UNEP Emission Gap Report confirmed that India’s per capita emission remained 60 per cent below the global average and a recent report submitted to the UNFCCC points out that India has reduced its emission intensity by 24 percent. With the massive addition of renewable energy capacity, India is just short of its 2030 target of 40 percent installed non-fossil fuel electric capacity.

Drawing inspiration from a traditional ethos of living in harmony with the environment, India is committed to a path of sustainable development with low carbon and climate-resilient practices. Scaling renewal energy fixes and implementing practical solutions – such as LED lighting which led to energy saving of more than 47 billion units of electricity per year and a reduction of more than 38 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually; providing clean cooking fuel to 80 million rural households; implementing a clean energy cess on coal production akin to carbon tax since 2010; building greener and cooler buildings in new Indian smart cities; enhancing tree cover by over 76,000 hectares under a greening India mission; and structural changes to make India’s farming practices more sustainable – tell the story of a nation determined to effect change.

Canada reflects this will too. This vision for ‘A healthy environment and a healthy economy’ displayed Canada’s ambitious goals for reducing energy intensity, enhancing energy efficiency, reducing pollution, and using technologies to create resilient and sustainable communities. Canada has set itself an unambiguous goal to exceed its 2030 Paris agreement emission reduction target.

Our leaders have repeatedly matched actions with deeds, in their belief that climate change cannot be fought from silos of domestic or international issues. It requires a holistic approach, complementary policies, and teamwork among nations and sectors. India has called for further research and innovation in new, sustainable technologies and support for developing countries. Canada can be a natural partner for India in this quest for technology-based solutions.

As a climate-responsible developing country, India has welcomed partners to create templates of sustainable development in India. These partnerships will also help other developing countries who need affordable access to green finance and technology. U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Modi launched this April an India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership, that will help mobilize investments, demonstrate clean technology and enable green collaboration.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA), launched in 2015, is an expression of India’s vision to bring clean and affordable energy within reach of all and to enhance international collaboration with countries with solar potential. So far, 98 countries have signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA, with 79 of them ratifying it. India has also announced the launch of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) to help less developed countries enhance their capacities to build climate change and disaster-resilient economies and infrastructure. India has been delighted to welcome Canada as the latest member of this coalition. We hope Canada joins the ISA too, particularly given its strengths in solar infrastructure.

India and Canada are the world’s largest democracies – by population and by area – united in our common values and shared aspiration for a sustainable and prosperous future, backed by strong domestic consensus for climate action. In February, Prime Ministers Modi and Trudeau agreed to continue close collaboration in fighting global challenges, including through climate action. The leadership commitment is matched in both our countries by corporate and societal resolve to beat back climate change.

If we are to build back better and greener, as world leaders have committed to do, we must recognize that while our individual voices carry weight, our two countries can jointly spark an engine for economic growth and scaled climate innovation. We could define together the story of how humanity acts in the face of this perilous challenge to our only planet.