Climate Week: Missed Opportunities with a Glimmer of Hope

Minister Prakash Javadekar speaking at Climate Week 2019.
Credit: NRDC

Greta Thunberg launched Climate Week 2019 in New York with a bold call to action with the inspiring youth climatestrike and address to the United Nations. Sadly, and to the planet’s peril, most leaders missed the opportunity to be on the right side of science and history. India was a major focus of the week’s activities and one of the few countries to step up action.

Prime Minister Modi announced a scale-up of renewable energy, “India is committed to achieving 175GW by 2022. India further commits to increase its renewable energy capacity to 450GW.” Achieving 450 GW of renewable energy capacity would be more than five times the country’s current renewable capacity at around 81 GW. And, it is more than India’s total installed electricity capacity of 360 GW from all sources (including coal-fired power plants). That is a huge increase in renewable energy capacity.

During Climate Week 2019, several events featured discussions on India’s climate actions. Several key NRDC experts spoke during the discussions and released new papers. Here are three highlights from the Climate Week discussions on India:


Minister Prakash Javadekar: “Zero carbon emissions are right in front of us”

Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Mr. Prakash Javadekar continued Prime Minister Modi’s statements on great action. In a shift form earlier statements by officials in India, Minister Javadekar clarified that India is very much on a clean energy development path. He emphasized that “zero carbon emissions are right in front of us.” Reminding developed countries to keep their pledge of climate finance and technology transfer to developing countries to achieve zero carbon emissions, the Minister remarked that India will continue to act on decarbonization. Minister Javadekar spoke during a session hosted by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) on Leadership Coalition on Energy and Industry Transition.

NRDC Interim President Mitch Bernard and President Emerita Frances Beinecke also spoke during the session along with Dr. Ajay Mathur from TERI and other key speakers. Ms. Beinecke emphasized the importance of energy efficiency, electrification using clean energy, and process innovation as pathways to successful decarbonization. Globally, there is going to be an increasing market driven push for low carbon products, including embedded carbon in manufacturing. Ms. Beinecke foresees the industry leaders of tomorrow will be the ones that recognize this trend early. 

NRDC President Emerita Frances Beinecke speaking at Climate Week 2019.
Credit: NRDC

Mr. Bernard discussed India’s critical role in fighting climate change. He emphasized that while India did not create the problem, the country has a tremendous opportunity to “do it right the first time,” unlike the carbon intensive path taken by western countries, and lock-in savings for years to come.  Mr. Bernard also release a new report : A How-to-Manual: Towering Possibilities in India: Scaling up the Implementation of the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) Across States, with policy and market recommendations for states in India to advance energy efficiency implementation. The report has been jointly developed by NRDC and Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) working with the Bureau of Energy Efficiency and other knowledge partners.

NRDC President Mitch Bernard speaking with Climate Week 2019 with TERI Director-General Ajay Mathur.
Credit: NRDC

Ahmedabad’s Heat Action Plans Win International Acclaim

The city of Ahmedabad won international acclaim during Climate Week 2019 for the groundbreaking Heat Action Plan, developed with NRDC, the Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar and other local and international partners. The Honorable Mayor Madam Bijal Patel accepted the award from Sustainable Energy for All and Ashden along with six other initiatives. The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan protects its 5.5 million residents from dangerous heat waves, which are increasing with climate change.

Ahmedabad’s success has been replicated and today, with the leadership from the National Disaster Management Authority and partners, similar heat action plans exist in over 100 cities and 21 states in India covering a population of more than 700 million people. With NRDC and leading partners, Ahmedabad is also expanding its pilot cool roofs project featuring various ways to keep temperatures lower inside homes and offices to the entire city and deepening work on clean air action plans.

Mayor of Ahmedabad with NRDC team during Climate Week 2019.
Credit: NRDC

Electric Mobility and Clean Energy Jobs

India has one of the lowest motorization rates and one of the fastest growing transportation sectors in the world, despite the recent downturn. This demand for mobility solutions is a unique opportunity to accelerate transportation electrification and the integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid. Speaking at a Climate Group and Climateworks event, India | From Opportunity to Action: Industry Leadership on Electric Mobility, NRDC India Senior Director, Anjali Jaiswal highlighted the need for expanded charging infrastructure and the need for clear EV targets, modelled on India’s Solar Mission. Seven states in India have already adopted electric vehicle policies, and others such as in Telangana, Gujarat, are developing draft policies. Around 14 states in total have draft or adopted EV policies. India’s national policy on electric mobility, such as FAME-II, and state-level policies are putting India on the right track to rein in future emissions, but much more needs to be done.

Electric Mobility in India Panel during Climate Week 2019.
Credit: Kanika Chawla

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in collaboration with the Consulate General of India in New York, organized a discussion with senior state officials from India and international and domestic experts on Engaging with India’s Electrification Agenda. At the session, NRDC expert Sameer Kwatra presented findings from the latest NRDC and CEEW research on Powering Jobs Growth with Green Energy. Our research shows that solar and wind energy jobs grew an impressive five-fold in the past five years in India.

India, bearing brunt of adverse impacts of rising global temperatures, is also acting on combating the climate crisis. Despite the spotlight on India’s actions, Climate Week 2019 was disappointing. Looking ahead, there is a glimmer of hope for the UN Conference of Parties in Chile this fall, countries around the world have an opportunity to step up action and respond to the urgent call by Greta Thunberg and millions of people around the world for climate action now.