Need to shift climate change narrative from total emissions to per capita emissions of each country: R K Singh
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Need to shift climate change narrative from total emissions to per capita emissions of each country: R K Singh

Once the global South starts controlling the narrative, the world will be a much fairer place

  • By ICN Bureau | August 26, 2023

Union Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy R. K. Singh has called for a change in the global climate change discourse and narrative, shifting from a focus on total emissions to per capita emissions of each country. “India’s per capita emissions are one third of global average, one of the lowest in the world; despite that, the developed countries until recently had been putting pressure on large countries like India, to reduce emissions. Their per capita emissions remained 3 – 4 times the global average. The narrative was on total emissions of each country.”

The Minister asserted that the narrative and discourse should not be about total emissions. “If we talk about total emissions, the country with minimum emissions could be an island nation with small population, even though they may be consuming huge amounts of energy and emitting huge quantities of carbon dioxide per person. Hence, the point of comparison has to be per capita emissions. This is the change in discourse which is needed, and I want institutions like TERI to talk about this.”

The Minister said this, during his Presidential Address at the Twenty-Second Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture, held in New Delhi today, August 25, 2023, in memory of Late Shri Darbari Seth, the founder of TERI.

Noting that developed countries would talk about phasing out of coal, but not about phasing out of natural gas or other fossil fuels, the Minister exhorted TERI to come out with studies on climate actions by various countries. Once the global South starts controlling the narrative, the world will be a much fairer place, said the Minister, adding that India has been insisting on phasing out of all fossil fuels.

Speaking about India’s actions towards reducing carbon emissions, the Union Minister said that India has achieved its NDC target of 40% of our installed electricity capacity coming from non-fossil energy sources nine years ahead of schedule, in 2021 itself. “Today, 43% of our capacity is from non-fossil fuel sources. No other country has added renewable energy capacity at a rate at which we have done. We pledged at COP-21 in 2015, that we will reduce our emissions intensity by 33% by 2030; we did this by 2022, eight years in advance. So, in Glasgow, we have said that by 2030, we will have 50% of our capacity coming from renewables and that we will reduce our emission intensity by 45%. We will achieve that too well before time.”

Singh said that the developed countries have reached their peak of development; so, their emissions will either remain static or come down. “However, the building stock of developing countries will multiply, since we are developing; we will need more cement, steel and aluminium to construct those buildings and plants. This will lead to more emissions. So, we need space to grow. This point needs to be made by think tanks like TERI, that this is the space which is required by developing countries to grow.”

The Minister said that the nation is not going to compromise on the availability of energy for our growth, adding that the country is responsible for only 4% of legacy carbon dioxide load in the environment, whereas our population is around 17% of world population.

The Minister said that this discourse needs to be changed not at only at the level of world leaders, but also among the people around the world in the developed countries. “The truth needs to be told, I want institutions like TERI to step up and change the discourse.”

Paying tribute to Shri Darbari Seth, the founder of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Singh, “can you imagine someone thinking about climate change in the year 1974?” The Minister said that this occasion serves to honour Shri Seth’s unwavering determination, entrepreneurial spirit, and strength of mind. “As a towering figure of his era, Shri Seth moulded Tata enterprises' destiny, dedicating his time and effort fervently to the noble cause of sustainable development. This commitment steered TERI's journey, propelling it toward a future committed to fostering a greener world and a safer planet.”

The Minister said that the organization which Shri Seth founded has grown and spans the total spectrum of issues which affect sustainability. “TERI has done well. It has earned reputation for probity and publications which we can rely upon.”

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