India Prime Minister Modi revamps his climate change team ahead of COP20 talks in Peru

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11 November 2014

NEW DELHI: Before a major rejig in his union cabinet last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revamped his high-level climate change panel ahead of the next round of UN climate negotiations that take place in Peru next month.

R K Pachauri, Chairperson of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), head of The Energy and Resources Institute and chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), remains on the government panel along with economist Nitin Desai and retired diplomat Chandrasekhar Dasgupta, under an 18-member Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, according to Indian media. Well-known environmentalist Sunita Narain and top industrialist Ratan Tata are no longer part of the panel.

Throwing more ministerial strength into the council, Prime Minister Modi has clearly put climate issues high on the agenda by further fortifying the panel with Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Coal Minister Piyush Goel as members, both of who represent ministries that were not present in the former council.

Additionally, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh are included in the Prime Minister's new team.

Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister has been made the member-convener of the panel. Climate experts including former Bureaucrat J M Mouskar and Ajay Mathur, chairperson of Bureau of Energy Efficiency among secretaries of External Affairs and Environment Ministries, have also been slotted into the restructured council.

Welcoming the formation of the new climate council, Krishnan Pallassana, India Director, The Climate Group commented: “The newly reconstituted Climate Change Panel is rich in experience and expertise and will no doubt be a strong voice in the ensuing global negotiations. It is widely understood and agreed that Paris 2015 will be a watermark year in climate politics and India has a huge role to play as a growing economic and political power.

"While government agrees that climate is an economic issue, I would have personally preferred to see a stronger presence of business leadership in the committee thereby sending out clear signals that the government means business.”

India has been under some pressure from the US and EU in the run up to the Peru talks to revise its INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions), which would push the country to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Aware of the global expectations, the Modi-government has commissioned a study to asses India’s current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory, the results of which will be out by December. These results, along with the internal assessments of the government, will be used to prepare India’s new voluntary targets to the international community under the new pact to be signed in 2015. 

The council, which was set up in 2006 under the erstwhile UPA government, had not met in the past three years due to differences in the government ranks over climate policy. However, the present government has put much emphasis on expanding solar power deployment in India in the lead up to climate negotiations in Lima this year and Paris 2015.

By Shuvait Koul

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