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PM Modi has shown real leadership on Climate Change: COP26 President Alok Sharma

PM Modi has shown real leadership on Climate Change: COP26 President Alok Sharma

The visiting President of COP26 or Conference of Parties Alok Sharma has said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown “real leadership” on climate change with initiatives like ISA or International Solar Alliance and the CDRI or Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. 

Speaking exclusively to our Diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Sharma, who was on a two-day India visit, said, “The PM made really great commitment at COP26 to have 500GW of renewable energy by 2030. That is a big-big commitment, and it is a bold commitment PM Modi made.” 

This is the third visit of Alok Sharma to India as COP26 chief. During the visit, he visited the International Solar Alliance (ISA) headquarters at the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) campus in Delhi. He also spoke about the prevailing heatwave in the UK, pointing out that it “was unbearable for a lot of people”. 

Sharma, who is a Cabinet minister, also spoke on the ongoing leadership race for the next British PM. He said, “Both candidates Rishi Sunak as well as Liz Truss are really good people, they are really committed,” adding, in response to a question that “history will in time judge” outgoing British PM Boris Johnson well. 

WION: What has been the key focus of your India visit? 

Alok Sharma: Great to be back in India. This is my third visit in a year and a half and shows the level of importance that I attach to India and India’s own commitment as well. I want to roll back to 8 months ago at COP26 in Glasgow last November and what we collectively managed to get was a historic agreement, the Glasgow climate pact and the last 200 countries agreed to it because they understood that it is in their self-interest to act on as you say climate change is the biggest challenge the world is facing right now. And what I am doing is I am travelling around to different countries, talking to different governments, speaking to them about the commitments they made and how we can work together to make sure that those commitments are achieved.

WION: We have seen a deadly heatwave in the UK. How much is Climate Change responsible for it? 

Alok Sharma: You can’t say that is directly entirely to do with climate change. But we can see climate is changing, we know science is telling us we are already anywhere between 1.1 to 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels in terms of temperatures. And you see the impact of that, and it is not evenly spread. Absolutely, in UK, we have hit record levels of temperatures, over 40 degrees and I can tell you it was unbearable for a lot of people. We also had fires breaking out, wildfires in the UK and here in India in the last few weeks, you have gone through a terrible heat wave. I can’t start to imagine what it is like for the very many people across the world who are facing extreme heat for a large part of the time. I had an opportunity to meet some people in some of the communities who are working outside, working in these conditions, and it is exactly why we need to address this issue because it is impacting many millions of lives across the world.

WION: We have seen heat waves in the UK and India. Is it the new normal and what can be done?

Alok Sharma: What sadly we are seeing is that global warming is on the rise and in the past 18 months I had an opportunity, and it has been quite humbling, to meet communities up and down the world, the front line of the climate change. People who have been driven out of their homes because of flooding, because of drought, because of rising sea levels and I am afraid to say that science tells us that this is going to get worse unless we act now and that is why the commitments we got in Glasgow, it’s so important that every country implements the commitments that are made. One of the key issues we had at Glasgow was to be able to say as a global community that we have done enough in terms of our commitments to keep alive the prospect of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. I think coming out of Glasgow, we were able to say that, but that is only on the basis that all commitments that are made by the countries are delivered. You asked me what I was doing in India, it is talking about those commitments and that is what I have been doing, going around the world since COP26, ensuring that countries understand that they made these commitments and at the end of the day world leaders made commitments at Glasgow. At Glasgow, we had 120 world leaders who came including PM Modi. All the world leaders made impassioned speeches, why it is so important to act on this issue. What we now need is the global community is to see same world leaders deliver on the commitments they made.

WION: How do you see the Russian Invasion of Ukraine impacting the consensus on dealing with climate, given when it comes to energy option, the focus is now shifting? Countries are now looking for a new way of getting energy, especially coal. 

Alok Sharma: We have seen this terrible and illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia and that of course has sparked lots of other issues as well in terms of energy security, in terms of inflation rising, debt levels rising across the world, food security issues. All of that is in play and of course, all world leaders need to deal with these immediate issues right now. As governments and world leaders, you need to be able to do one thing at a time. We know that the chronic threat of climate change is getting worse, we see that in science, we see this with our own eyes, we see that what has happened in the UK, you see what is happening here in India, across Europe, across Australia and Americas as well and therefore it is vital and important that we continue to act on this issue of climate change. You talked about the impact of invasion of Ukraine, what you are seeing is many countries looking to wean themselves off Russian hydrocarbons and I think what they understood is that if you rely on fossil fuels, particularly those owned by hostile actors, it makes you very vulnerable. So that the same time as countries are trying to meet the immediate energy needs, as they wean themselves off the Russian hydrocarbons, they are also making a very clear commitment to accelerate amount of clean energy, the home-grown clean energy. You are seeing those commitments across Europe, UK. UK has published our own Energy Security strategy. It is about doing long term in terms of solar, in terms of wind power, nuclear, hydrogen. Of course, here in India the PM made really great commitment at COP26 to have 500GW of renewable energy by 2030. That is a big-big commitment, and it is a bold commitment PM Modi made and that has been part of my discussion over last 3 days as well, the progress India is making on the path to that target.

WION: But how do you see Europe being okay with the use of coal given the fact that Russians have invaded Ukraine, because of the energy crisis? Last year, we saw coal being the biggest issue at the Glasgow climate change summit. 

Alok Sharma: Coal was one of the issue, but as I said what every country is looking to do is to ensure that they are able to keep the lights on, able to heat people’s home, keep the factories and offices running and that every country and every government needs to do that but what I am saying to governments across Europe and indeed across the world when I talk to them is what that should allow to do is to have the space to accelerate in terms of clean energy growth, in terms of renewables. In UK, as an example that by 2035, a 100% electricity will come from clean energy sources, and you are seeing this commitment made by other countries as well.

WION: How India and UK can collaborate, one of the showstoppers at Glasgow was green grids initiative? 

Alok Sharma: We have an excellent cooperation between our 2 countries, and we have a 2030 roadmap, climate is a very big part of that and that has been part of my discussion here as well in terms of how we advance our cooperation on renewables, on financing. As you said we have got the green grids initiative, the one world one sun initiative as well and what I have been discussing is how do we further accelerate that cooperation between our 2 countries. I have to say, India has shown real leadership, PM Modi has shown real leadership with the work on international solar alliance, the work on the CDRI which I had the privilege of co-chairing the governing council for 2 years . So, there is a lot on which India is leading on and it’s worth pointing out that what India does, because of its size, because of its size of its economy, what India does absolutely matter for the world and India taking this leadership position on the climate is so vitally important if we going to tackle climate change.

WION: At the opening statement of COP26, you said lights are flashing red at the climate dashboard. You said that 8 months ago and we look to be moving towards worse?

Alok Sharma: So what I said in the Glasgow was that because of the commitments that were made, we were able to say with credibility, we kept 1.5 degree alive, the prospect of limiting global warming to 1.5 degree but I also said that the pulse of 1.5 is weak and the only way we strengthen that is to ensure that countries deliver on the commitment they made. One of the big commitments we got out of Glasgow was for every country to look again at the 2030 emission reduction target and that has been major theme that I have been discussing with countries around the world. We had some big economy that have come forward that they will revise there 2030 emission reduction target, G20 countries particularly have been making those commitments but we need everyone to step up to the play and I think the other side of this is on finance. I think it’s really important for develop countries to step up support to developing nations with finance. I don’t think we can ever ask developing nations to curb the growth, we need to make sure we support them with clean growth, and this is one of things we are doing through energy transition partnership.

WION: The UK is witnessing the weight of migrant origin leaders including you. From Rishi Sunak to Zahabi or Suella Braverman or Priti Patel, Sajid Javid. You see a churn in UK politics?

Alok Sharma: I think it tells you a lot about the UK and what kind of country UK is, it is a multi-racial, multi-cultural country and at the end of the day it’s great as people because of the talent to move on, of course we have a contest at the moment to be our next Prime minister, both candidates Rishi Sunak, as well as Liz Truss, are really good people, they are really committed but I think the fact that in this race we had so many people, we had women, we had people from ethnic minority community standing and putting themselves forward for leadership of our country, I think is a fantastic thing and it is really great advert for what kind of country UK is.

WION: So, it’s Rishi Sunak Vs Liz Truss finally. While Rishi has the MP majority backing him, but a survey shows Truss in a much more comfortable position. Where will you put your bets on?

Alok Sharma: I am not a betting person; what I can tell you is both of them are incredibly talented colleagues and I think we will be in very good hands whoever wins. One of things I have been very keen to emphasize is that whoever leads our country, shows leadership on the issue of climate change as well. PM Johnson has been absolutely brilliant on this issue of climate change, on the issue of bio diversity laws, he has shown real leadership on this and what I want to make sure is whoever ends up being our next PM, shows that same commitment to the issue as a result of COP26 ,the UK has shown international leadership, we have shown domestic leadership and it’s absolutely vitally important, whoever leads , whoever is the next PM continues with the commitment.

WION: How will history judge Boris Johnson

Alok Sharma: Well, I am very sorry that Boris Johnson is leaving. I think history will in time judge him well, he did many very good things for our economy, he got the big calls right and as I said I am sorry he is leaving as our PM, but we have 2 talented individuals who are in the race to take the role and I think we will do well with either of them. 


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