In his address at the COP26 in Glasgow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi added a couple of new elements to the global discussion on climate change. His emphasis on ‘Lifestyle for Environment’ as a global mass movement for ‘mindful and deliberate utilisation’ instead of ‘mindless and destructive consumption’ puts the onus on every citizen of every country to do his or her bit at the personal level on reducing carbon emissions. This is particularly relevant in the context that much of the climate change argument has been led by ‘privileged sections’ that, ironically, are deeply ensconced in the high consumption economies. On the other hand, Modi’s harking back to the traditional nature-friendly Indian lifestyle not only makes the common person a participant but also a stakeholder in nature’s well-being.
While committing India to a set of goals and timetable based on its capabilities and requirements, Modi did not fail to underline the hypocrisy inherent in the developed world’s demands from others. This is what led leaders of high emission nations like China and Russia to not be personally present at the summit, if being lectured at was going to be the only purpose of the meet. Modi, however, took the fight into the other court pointing out the obvious fact that India’s per capita emissions are very much lower than those of almost all developed countries. Adopting the strict measures being prescribed unthinkingly by certain lobbies would only plunge entire populations into poverty and actually lead to an increase in consumption of fossil fuels.
The promises made by Modi are based fundamentally on the development path charted out by the Indian government for the betterment of the people, which includes the need for clean and green energy. Green ‘activists’, for instance, who drive fuel guzzling SUVs to ‘tree-hugging’ events, while at the same time demanding lowering of taxes on petrol and diesel in the name of the poor, are quite representative of the developed world’s attitude to the problem. Not just Modi but also other world leaders pointed out the hollowness and ineffectiveness of this approach.
It is important that the rich back up their words with actions. Modi has demanded a trillion dollars and low cost technology transfers to the developing world. Instead of corporate investment in the traditional manufacturing processes established in low cost economies such as China and elsewhere, cutting edge technology and industry should be provided to bypass the present carbon emitting manufacturing sector. Hopefully, not just the leaders but also the ordinary folk of nations around the world will adopt the ‘adaptive’ process recommended by India.