PARIS -- In his first remarks at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for India's line of negotiations over the course of the next two weeks: "India's progress is our destiny and right of our people. But we must also lead in combating climate change."
Modi said that India would approach the climate change talks in a "spirit of partnership, which must be based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities."
On Monday, over 150 world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping gave speeches to affirm their political commitment to combat climate change.
Modi's first remarks were made at the inauguration of the India pavilion at the Le Bourget Conference Centre, which has created quite a stir. He shared the stage with Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Power Minister Piyush Goyal. His speech to over 200 countries attending the conference is scheduled for Monday afternoon here.
The main objective of this conference is for nations to reach an agreement on how to stop global temperature from rising above two degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels, and avert the worst consequences of climate change. But combined CO2 emissions reduction targets submitted by developed nations, so far, will limit temperature rise to 2.7 degrees Celsius.
India is contending with a huge challenge to combat poverty and accelerate its economic growth, which will largely be powered by fossil fuels over the next two decades. Meanwhile, the world expects India, the fourth largest emitter of CO2 after China, the U.S. and the European Union bloc, to take on weightier obligations to counter climate change.
While the world is worried about India's plan to majorly ramp up its use of coal could derail the global plan to combat climate change, New Delhi has ruled out any compromise on its developments which includes providing electricity to 304 million people (24 percent of the global population) who live without power.
In view of these concerns and its own vulnerability to climate change, India's action plan is to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, and produce 40 percent of electric power from non-fossil fuel based energy.
In his initial address today, Modi talked about what India's plans to meet these goals.
"We have a target for renewable generation of 175 Gigawatt by 2022. We have got off to a good start, with nearly 12 GW likely to be installed by 2016, more than three times the current capacity," he said. "Like cellular phones before, we can use renewable energy to bring power to our 18000 unconnected villages quickly and cleanly."
Modi also discussed investing in supercritical technology in thermal plants, imposing taxes on coal and reduced subsidies on petroleum products, raising fuel standards for automobiles, and introducing tax free bonds for renewable energy.
"In the past few months, millions of households have switched to LED bulbs and we have plans to replace diesel by fuel cells to power the thousands of our telecom towers," he said.
Modi laid down two principles: "zero defect, zero effect" for the manufacturing hub, and "more crop per drop" for agriculture.
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