India Says It Will Lower Rate Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
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India is the world's third-largest carbon polluter, and it has just submitted its long-range plan to slow greenhouse gas emissions. India was the last major country to do so - the head of the Paris Climate Summit at the end of the year. India did not commit to an absolute reduction in carbon emissions, but it did pledge to ramp up renewable energy to curb global warming. From New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on the country's predicament.
JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Here in Delhi, the biggest form of pollution comes out of tailpipes. 8 million cars, trucks, buses, three-wheeled motorized rickshaws belch carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and dangerous particulates - smog so thick on a winter day, they can block out the sun. The World Health Organization says the air quality in the Indian capital is among the worst - if not the worst - in the world, but aspirational India wants cars. Residents are adding 1,400 cars a day to Delhi's already jammed roads, and it's making many people - especially children - sick. A three-year study by a Calcutta-based Cancer Institute found that nearly half of the city's 4.5 million schoolchildren have irreversible lung damage from poisonous air.
The country's reliance on coal-burning power plants and wood-burning for cooking in much of rural India, are exacerbating the health menace. Yet India is adamant to pull its huge population out of poverty and off the farm. It must transform into a manufacturing hub.
Navroz Dubash of the Centre for Policy Research says continued pollution is inevitable.
NAVROZ DUBASH: Given the pace at which the Indian economy has to grow if we are to meet the developing needs of our people, coal-fired power plants will also have to grow. There is really no way around that for the next 10 to 15 years.
MCCARTHY: For now, India says it's in no position to commit to an absolute reduction of its emissions. Rather, it will slow the release of greenhouse gases. By 2030, India expects its economy to grow sevenfold compared to 2005. Carbon emissions, they say, will grow only threefold. And in unveiling India's climate change plan today, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar stressed India's ambitious pledge to make renewable energy a cornerstone of its carbon mitigation.
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PRAKASH JAVADEKAR: We are raising our non-fossil fuel share of our energy mix by 33 percent. That's a huge thing. If somebody doesn't appreciate, I can't help. Fact remains, we want to walk cleaner energy path.
MCCARTHY: India is banking on solar playing a significant role in the next generation of renewable energy in ways that could make the country a model for others, says social entrepreneur Harish Hande.
HARISH HANDE: Today, even after so many years of independence, we still have 300 million people without electricity. And we can actually leapfrog in many ways and provide energy access through solar, micro-wind, biogas and a mixture of sustainable technology that's environmentally friendly, socially sustainable and financially sustainable for the countries themselves.
MCCARTHY: Historically, India's attitude about climate change has been to put the onus on the wealthy West, saying that its excessive consumption has brought the world to the precipice of global warming.
India released its climate plan to coincide with the anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the abstemious spiritual leader who urged his nation to reject excess and honor nature. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.