PARIS -- In a blunt warning to rich nations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today told developed countries which powered their way to prosperity on fossil fuels that it would be "morally wrong" if they shift the burden of reducing emissions on developing countries like India.
"The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities should be the bedrock of our collective enterprise. Anything else would be morally wrong," he wrote in the Opinion section of today's 'Financial Times'.
He asked the developed nations to fulfil their duty to shoulder the greater burden of the fight against climate change.
In the article in the UK's leading financial daily, timed to coincide with the launch of COP 21 conference on climate change here, Modi said, "Some say advanced countries powered their way to prosperity on fossil fuel when humanity was unaware of its impact."
"Since science has moved on and alternative energy sources are available, they argue that those just beginning their development journey bear no less responsibility than those who have reached the zenith of their progress. New awareness, however, should lead advanced countries to assume more responsibility. Just because technology exists does not mean it is affordable and accessible."
"Justice demands that, with what little carbon we can still safely burn, developing countries are allowed to grow. The lifestyles of a few must not crowd out opportunities for the many still on the first steps of the development ladder," he added.
Modi reiterated his plans to launch an alliance of 121 solar-rich nations in the tropics aimed at bringing affordable solar power to villages that are off the grid.
"We expect the same from the world with respect to responding to climate change," he said.
Modi along with nearly 150 world leaders are here to attend the opening of the climate summit with a central aim of the new agreement to keep global warming below 2 C over pre-industrial temperatures.
Modi, with a reference to Mahatma Gandhi, said, "We look forward to Paris with the sense of duty that Mahatma Gandhi called us to assume: We should act as trustees' and use natural resources wisely as it is our moral responsibility to ensure that we bequeath to future generations a healthy planet. India will do its part for success in Paris."
His assertion came days after US Secretary of State John Kerry said India could be a "challenge" at upcoming climate change talks in Paris beginning November 30 as it "has been more cautious, a little more restrained in its embrace of this new paradigm".
Modi also highlights the Indian culture's conservative instinct and spells out the country's own environmental pledges.
"Democratic India is among the world's fastest-growing economies. We are striving to meet the aspirations of 1.25 bn people, 300 million more of whom will soon have access to modern sources of energy while 90 million gain running water," he writes.
"The instinct of our culture is to take a sustainable path to development...This idea, rooted in our ancient texts, endures in sacred groves and in community forests across the land.
"India is also experiencing the impact of climate change caused by the industrial age of the developed world. We are concerned about our 7,500km of coastline, more than 1,300 islands, the glaciers that sustain our civilisation and our millions of vulnerable farmers," he wrote.
"We will play our part. We have pledged that, by 2030, we will reduce emissions intensity by at least 33 per cent of 2005 levels, and 40 per cent of installed power capacity will be from non-fossil fuel sources.
"We will have 175 GW of renewables by 2022, and have imposed levies on coal and rationalised subsidies on petroleum products. Additional forest and tree cover will absorb at least 2.5 bn worth of carbon dioxide. We will clean our rivers and create smart cities. We are replacing diesel with clean energy, and building 50 new metro railways.
"We should meet our need for clean energy and healthy habitats in a spirit of partnership, not put nations on different sides. India will work with governments, laboratories and industry to facilitate a natural transition to a clean energy era through affordable and accessible renewable energy," he said.
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