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~ By Kavita Ogale

How India and China are gearing up for the only war that counts

The recently held United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 brought 200 world leaders together on a common stage, urging them to curb their greenhouse gas emissions, reduce their carbon footprint and cut down on the unchecked use of fossil fuels. Building tremendous pressure towards this cause was the worldwide climate strike held between September 20 and 27 that witnessed 7.6 million people being mobilised to generate a global emergency against this manmade disaster. As the largest consumers of coal, India, China and the US have an enormous responsibility to address the climate crisis and exemplify best practices to continue growing their economies without furthering the decline of natural resources.

Together India and China, the world’s third largest and largest emitters respectively have called upon climate finance amounting to $100 billion per year by 2020 from richer countries to support their move towards emission reduction, green initiatives, advanced technology and a sustainable renewable energy plan.

Rising temperatures, frequent droughts, flash floods, receding coastlines and food scarcity are just some of the realities that stare us in the face, as per a scientific report by the United Nations in as close as the next two decades. While commitments made in the 2015 Paris Agreement are still to be inked or implemented, temperatures are expected to peak at  over 3 degrees more than existing levels even if 200 nations rise up to the challenge of curbing carbon emission and meet their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN General Assembly continued to show a steadfast resolution to supporting the fight against global warming as evident in his proposed Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), that seeks to unite UN bodies, the finance and private sector to strengthen infrastructure against potential climatic catastrophes. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) allies nations between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to harness solar power while reducing costs borne to fund it. Part of the agreement is to invest a trillion dollars to get solar energy installations up and running by 2030. India is to also move towards a goal of 450-gigawatt (GW) renewable energy.

As Xi Jinping’s government leads the People’s Republic of China into its 70th year, the second largest economy in the world has significantly alleviated its carbon footprint through economic restructuring, reduction in energy consumption through coal from 74% in 2006 to 58% in 2018, rapid urbanisation, emphasis on energy efficiency and adoption of electric vehicles. Spearheading the need for speed when it comes to reforming its approach to climate change, it has passed over a hundred policies to promote renewable energy like vast wind and solar power, sourcing non-fossil fuels and curbing air pollution. Its biggest challenges now remain restricting carbon dioxide emissions, finding alternatives to emission in other countries through coal exports and aligning its environmental targets with the local and industrial governments.

While the writing is on the wall as far as acting on their pledges is concerned, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping will have plenty to discuss when he meets his Indian counterpart Modi in India at the second informal Modi-Xi summit after Wuhan from October 11-13. Their joint stance and determination to check the ecological degeneration of the planet will set the tone for the UN COP25 conference in Santiago, Chile in December.

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