Solar energy to be chief weapon against climate change: PM

June 30th, 2008 - 5:07 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 30 (IANS) India will put solar energy generation at the forefront of its battle against climate change, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced here Monday while releasing the national action plan on climate change. The thrice-postponed and much-awaited release of the action plan came with the prime minister reiterating the necessity for rapid economic growth but saying that ecologically sustainable development need not be in contradiction to it.

The plan is up for debate, the prime minister said, but the government will immediately start to implement it.

Eight national missions form the core of the plan. They are on solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, water conservation, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, creating a “green India” through a large tree-plating programme, sustainable agriculture and establishing a knowledge platform on climate change.

Emphasising the primacy of developing solar power, Manmohan Singh promised to “pool our scientific, technical and managerial talent, with sufficient financial resources, to develop solar energy as a source of abundant energy to power our economy and to transform the lives of our people”.

India’s plan to combat climate change has been keenly awaited around the world as many industrialised countries have said they will not commit themselves to reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if India and China do not do so.

China announced an action plan last year but did not make any binding commitment to cap GHG emissions. India’s plan is similar. GHG emissions, mainly carbon dioxide, are warming the atmosphere and leading to climate change.

The effects, through reduced farm productivity, more frequent and more damaging droughts, floods and storms, glacier retreat, sea level rise, coral die-out and the melting of polar ice are already taking their toll around the world, but mainly in the tropics and sub-tropics.

Most of the extra GHG in the atmosphere has been emitted by industrialised countries. Countries like India and China have argued that capping their GHG emissions will affect their energy generation plans, mostly based on coal, the biggest GHG source.

With the issue likely to generate more heat at the G8 plus summit in Japan next week, the prime minister indicated a more nuanced approach from India, saying “we must have a broader perspective on development. Our people want higher standards of living, but they also want clean water to drink, fresh air to breathe and a green earth to walk on”.

Manmohan Singh called for “a graduated shift from economic activity based on fossil fuels to one based on non-fossil fuels and from reliance on non-renewable and depleting sources of energy to renewable sources of energy”.

He felt success in developing solar energy “will change the face of India. It would also enable India to help change the destinies of people around the world. The plan intends to go beyond government to draw upon these assets”.

Referring to the fractious climate change negotiations in the international state, the prime minister said: “Climate change is a global challenge. It can only be successfully overcome through a global, collaborative and cooperative effort.

“India is prepared to play its role as a responsible member of the international community and makes its own contribution.

“We are already doing so in the multilateral negotiations taking place under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The outcome that we are looking for must be effective. It must be fair and equitable.”

Reiterating India’s position, Manmohan Singh said: “Every citizen of this planet must have an equal share of the planetary atmospheric space. Long-term convergence of per capita emissions is, therefore, the only equitable basis for a global compact on climate change.

“In the meantime, I have already declared that despite our developmental imperatives, our per capita GHG emissions will not exceed the per capita GHG emissions of the developed industrialised countries.

“This should be testimony enough, if one was needed, of the sincerity of purpose and the sense of responsibility we bring to the global task on hand.”

Referring obliquely to the need for more financing and technology transfers from industrialised countries to combat climate change, the prime minister said: “We would welcome international cooperation to supplement and support our national effort.”

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