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.

Sanders attacked for past praise of communist regimes

Updated 34 min 45 sec ago

Sanders attacked for past praise of communist regimes

  • Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg all seized on visits Sanders made to the USSR, the Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua and Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the 1980s
  • Joe Biden: He (Sanders) seems to have found more inspiration in the Soviets, Sandinistas, Chavistas, and Castro than in America

WASHINGTON: Bernie Sanders’ past praise of communist regimes like Cuba and the Soviet Union has come back to haunt him, his rivals for the Democratic White House nomination seeking to paint the frontrunner as a friend of left-wing dictators.
Fellow Democratic hopefuls Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg all seized on visits Sanders made to the USSR, the Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua and Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the 1980s as evidence he is a threat to the US democratic and capitalist system.
Sanders, who describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” was pressed on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program on Sunday about positive comments he made three decades ago about communist states, particularly his statement that Castro had vastly improved education and health care in Cuba.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” the 78-year-old politician said.
“When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?“
Biden, who Sanders has edged out as the 2020 Democratic frontrunner, fired back:
“Make no mistake: Bernie Sanders’ comments on Fidel Castro are a part of a larger pattern throughout his life to embrace autocratic leaders and governments across the globe,” the centrist former vice president said in a statement.
“He seems to have found more inspiration in the Soviets, Sandinistas, Chavistas, and Castro than in America.”
Buttigieg compared Sanders to President Donald Trump who he said has “cozied up to dictators,” adding the country needs a leader “who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad.”
With Sanders in pole position heading into South Carolina’s primary this weekend, the controversy offers his rivals a precious chance to halt his momentum when they clash on the debate stage later on Tuesday.
Sanders’ alignment with the far left in US politics has always left him vulnerable to attack; Trump and other Republicans have branded him a “communist.”
But his Cuba comments have come to the forefront in the fight for voter support in Florida, home to a large Cuban-American population strongly opposed to Castro’s regime and holding substantial political sway in the southern state.
Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor, targeted that electorate as he tweeted that Castro “left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people.”
“But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program,” Bloomberg said.
Sanders’ denies any support for dictators. Critics say his record suggests otherwise.
As mayor of the small city of Burlington, Vermont, he visited Nicaragua in 1985 and afterward hailed Daniel Ortega’s revolution against the Central American country’s landowner elite.
That was a view commonly held among the American left, especially as the administration of Ronald Reagan supported the right-wing Nicaraguan Contra fighters accused of numerous terror-like atrocities.
In 1988 Sanders visited Russia seeking to establish a sister-city pact with Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow.
It was hardly unique: there were several dozen US-USSR sister city relationships at the time, according to Sister Cities International.
Upon his return, Sanders applauded Russian gains in health care, while adding they were 10 years behind the United States.
He said his hosts were friendly and spoke honestly about problems, especially in housing and struggling industries.
He offered no praise of the government and communist system, and noted Russians very much liked Reagan, who had just days earlier held a summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which Sanders called “a major step forward for humanity.”
Likewise after visiting Cuba in 1989, Sanders praised its achievements in education and health care, calling Castro’s revolution “profound,” but also noting the lack of political freedoms.
“The question is how you bring both economic and political freedom together in one society,” he said at the time, according to the Rutland Daily Herald.
Sanders’ position echoes that of president Barack Obama, who reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015, with Biden as his vice president.
Obama said on a landmark 2016 Havana visit that the government “should be congratulated” for its achievements in education and health care — while criticizing its human rights violations and communist-rooted economy which he said was “not working.”
Sanders told “60 Minutes” that his support for certain achievements in communist countries did not make him a friend of repressive leaders.
“I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator,” he said, referring to Trump’s friendship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Whether that carries with Cuban voters in Florida remains an open question.