Climate change already impacting India: UN

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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United Nations
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The subsidies provided to India’s fossil fuel industries are seven times that of what is offered to renewable energies, said United Nations’ (UN) General Secretary António Guterres.

He was speaking at the 19th Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture where he stressed the importance of investing in clean energy.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) organizes the annual lecture series in memory of its founder, Darbari Seth.

He stressed that India must end its reliance on financially unpredictable, expensive and polluting fossil fuels. Invest in economically resilient and renewable solar power instead, he said.

He pointed out that there is still no access to electricity for millions in India, and this problem can be resolved by investing in renewable energy, which also creates three times more job opportunities than fossil fuel industries.

The UN Secretary-General also addressed how India is already witnessing the impacts of climate change. Floods and droughts have become more frequent and severe — they have caused serious harm to food systems, local economies and human health in recent years.

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Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General,
United Nations.

“I have asked all G20 countries, including India, to invest in a clean and green transition as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. This means ending fossil fuel subsidies, placing a price on carbon pollution and committing to no new coal power plants after 2020. These decisions could either propel climate action forward, or set us back by years — which science says we can not afford.”

Even though India showed a positive trend by developing its renewable energy strength during the pandemic from 17 percent to 24 percent, many G20 countries are continuing to open new coal power plants and conduct coal auctions, says Guterres.

He emphasized that operating existing coal plants is more costly than constructing renewable energy plants. Hence, in the near future, most of the world’s coal plants are most likely to become noncompetitive.

The need for an effective climate change decision-making, particularly as countries are looking to recover from the suffering inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be stressed enough, he said.

Despite the many obstacles it faced, he also praised India’s efforts to adopt clean energy technologies. He found inspiration in the fact India has taken the decision to increase its renewable energy capacity to 500 gigawatts.

He noted that in 2019, spending on solar energy for the first time exceeded spending on coal-based power generation and since 2015, the number of people employed in renewable energy in India has increased five-fold.

“If it speeds up its shift from fossil fuel to renewables energies, India can become a true global superpower in the fight against climate change,” said Guterres.