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Opinion India emerges global leader in fight against the climate change
Live Mint  |  July 24, 2019

Hardeep S. Puri

2015 was a landmark year for climate action. In September of that year, the international community adopted the comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals at UNGA. In December, 197 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate change.


Even as the fault-lines of international politics played out during the negotiations of these two historic summits, one thing remained clear—the government of India led by Prime Minister Modi is a global leader in the fight against climate change. In fact, India’s global leadership on climate action predates the adoption of the 2030 development agenda. In May 2014, when Prime Minister Modi took office, he stated unambiguously that India’s development trajectory will be green.


More recently, at a meeting of BRICS leaders on the sidelines of G20 summit in Japan, Prime Minister Modi stated: “&hellipthere is an estimated deficit of $1.3 trillion for investing in infrastructure development of emerging market economies," adding: “The second major challenge is to make development and progress inclusive and sustainable." In the five key recommendations, he remarked: “India’s initiative for Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure will help in the development of appropriate infrastructure to face the least developed and developing countries with natural calamities. I invite you to join this coalition."


Estimates suggest that the demand for urban living requires 700 to 900 million square meters of residential and commercial space (equivalent to Chicago) to be built every year from now till 2030. Further, given the scale, scope and pace of urbanization, these missions place a premium on sustainable and climate-resilient infrastructure.


According to estimates, buildings contribute 30-40% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To ensure the under the government’s flagship Housing for All scheme homes are at the very least energy neutral, the mission has identified 16 technologies that will ensure the building design, construction processes, and the final home built, all follow the best sustainable practices. Nearly 1.3 million homes have already been built using the latest technology on offer.


Even in the case of the ambitious Smart Cities Mission (SCM), sustainability and climate resilience lie at the heart of the programme.


In February 2019, SCM launched the Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework—a first-of-its-kind public assessment framework on climate-relevant parameters. The rationale for developing this framework was to (a) ensure urban development is in consonance with India’s declared Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and (b) create a repository of all climate-related data, across all departments, programmes, terminologies and indices. The measurement framework thus created is objective, contextual, functional to purpose, and implementable.


It is clear then that PM Modi’s embrace of urbanization is not a mindless thrust of infrastructure investment.


On the contrary, it seeks to strike the perfect balance between growth and development it simultaneously addresses social progress and environmental conservation. The achievements in the urban space not only reaffirm India’s stature as a global leader around the normative frameworks on sustainability, but also indicate that India is walking the talk on climate action and setting global benchmarks vis-à-vis climate resilience and green growth.


(Hardeep S. Puri is Union minister for housing and urban affairs (independent charge) civil aviation (independent charge) and minister of state for commerce and industry.)