‘India could lead on Climate Change...’

A dialogue on sustainable consumption should get centre stage at the Paris Summit for combating climate change.

August 14, 2015 03:12 am | Updated November 26, 2021 10:26 pm IST

“India can show that you can be better off with basic needs fulfilled and a sustainable lifestyle,” says the Ambassador. Picture shows a solar thermal power plant in Aburoad, Rajasthan."

“India can show that you can be better off with basic needs fulfilled and a sustainable lifestyle,” says the Ambassador. Picture shows a solar thermal power plant in Aburoad, Rajasthan."

The world is gearing up for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP-21) or the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, to be held later this year, where 195 countries are expected to participate, mostly at the heads of state level. A key player, >Laurence Tubiana , the French Ambassador for >Climate Change Negotiations, spoke to Pallava Bagla on India’s role and expectations at the upcoming Paris meeting, explaining that a debate on sustainable consumption should become the keystone. A globally recognised specialist on climate change and development issues, Ms. Tubiana founded the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris in 2001.

You were in India for several days for talks. What has been the outcome?

What I learn is that at the domestic level India is very engaged; your Prime Minister has launched an enormous effort to change the energy policy, particularly with his massive programme for renewable energy which comes from his Gujarat experience — which I know. I also see a huge commitment to the future, looking at the development of an India which is clean and allows for much more access to energy to the ones who do not have it.

Clean energy has a link to local pollution and [there is a] connection between clean energy and health. This creates a different option for India’s thinking that combating climate change and development can be hand-in-hand.

India is not fighting climate change. We don’t even have electricity available to 300 million people, where are we talking about India fighting climate change? India is not a big contributor to the problem of changing climate.

No. But you can show that for a country that is so keen on making its people well off and developed and on this key issue of health, sanitation and energy, you have a very progressive understanding. So that is why I think in these negotiations India can show real leadership. India can show most developing countries the pathway, the direction and a different way of developing — both as a source of energy and the way to cleaner development.

At the same time, India should also talk about how to promote a life style that is compatible with nature.

The over consumption of meat is linked to excessive land use and deforestation.We should try going a day without eating meat.

India’s per capita emission is low and is in contrast to the West — look at the per capita emissions in the U.S. and France…

Yes, nobody contests that. On the contrary, the consumption of energy in India has to go up, that is for sure . People who don’t have access to electricity need to have that and I think that would be an achievement. At the same time, it is not my idea, but many of my Indian interlocutors also spoke about the need for a sustainable life style. India can show the way that you can be better off with basic needs fulfilled and a sustainable lifestyle. I do think that India can show the way to the West to think back on how they live, which is not sustainable.

So are you saying that the debate should now shift to sustainable consumption?

Yes, I think that on food consumption, for example, the over consumption of meat is linked to too much land use, deforestation, methane emission etc. This is something that must be considered as part of sustainable consumption. We should at least try going a day without eating meat!

So would the Paris convention be willing to tell the U.S. to cut down its consumption or even Europe?

In this process you don’t dictate. You have to make people believe that this is a better way . Nobody will dictate to India about a development model; you have to make the choice. But we can reflect together and have collective discussion on what is really suitable to the international community.

So we will not dictate to the U.S. about its consumption model but we can make the U.S., and even the Europe, see the need for transformation, which is already happening to some extent. We have now in France and in some European countries begun a campaign against all this terrible wastage of food, for example . Sometimes 20 or 30 per cent is wasted. That is totally crazy. That is where you can have leadership from India in the form of political, intellectual and spiritual leadership . People are ready to listen to that message.

What is the expectation from India at the Paris Conference?

One, India is a big power — politically, internationally — so any agreement has to have India on-board and one that supports the development model that India has chosen. And this is clearly a clean development model, on which I see no contradiction between India and others.

On the contrary I see a convergence in trying to draft an agreement that India would be comfortable with. This could be a model agreement for many of the smaller countries to emulate and who face the same problems as India. For example, countries in Africa, which are poor and deprived also face issues related to access to energy. A solution in Paris that is acceptable to India would create a basis for powerful support from these countries as well.

Pallava Bagla is Science Editor for New Delhi Television (NDTV) and he can be reached at pallava.bagla@gmail.com or on Twitter @pallavabagla .

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