I Will Be 70 in 2070 – India’s COP26 Promises Will Determine My Future

At COP26, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi said that “the West cannot micromanage funds allotted to developing countries”.

I agree with the Prime Minister’s wish for developed countries to ensure climate financing in India and developing countries. His speech asserted India’s potential of being a climate justice leader, but does the PM’s idea of “climate justice” and “life” in India include social justice and human rights?

India will achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. India will reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the total projected emissions by 2030.

Indians witness and experience the climate crisis on a daily basis and will continue to do so, especially young people.

Dear Prime Minister, what policies and goals are you implementing and putting in action today or in the coming year to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis? I appreciate these long term aspirations  – but what are your short terms goals?

Prime Minister, I will be your age in 2070. At the rate at which we auction coal mines – instead of investing in alternative local climate solutions that work – I am afraid that my future looks more polluted than ever. I’m afraid I will not have a future at all. India is currently facing a coal shortage. We are the second-largest importer, consumer, and producer of coal and have the world’s fourth-largest reserves. The coal and energy that the country consumes come at the cost of the deaths and oppression of indigenous people like the Adivasis in Hasdeo, Chhattisgarh, and across India, who are protecting their natural resource-rich land, water, forests – and life itself.

India will bring down its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030. India will fulfil 50% of its energy requirement through renewable energy by 2030.

Dear Prime Minister, I look forward to India divesting from fossil fuels and investing more in renewable, ethical energy. I hope as your government pushes to meet this goal of non-fossil energy capacity to 500GW and 50% of electricity through renewable energy by 2030, they will not allow corporations to grab lands and displace Adivasis to build solar parks like how they did in Nagaon, Assam, or Nedan, Rajasthan. I hope the issues associated with creating and managing new nuclear energy power plants in the past can be avoided, as we have seen how in Jadugoda, Jharkhand, the health, environment, and lives of the Adivasis who live in the region has been impacted for decades due to the water contamination by uranium mining, and the trauma caused by the Kudankulam nuclear power plant which led to the Thoothukudi massacre.

India will bring down its carbon intensity of the economy to 45% by 2030.

Dear Prime Minister, I think this is a great goal, and I look forward to our country achieving it. I resonate with your vision of India being a self-reliant economy and a global sustainability leader. Still, I hope we retain our local economies and cultures in the process. They will also contribute to reducing the economy’s carbon intensity as they are sustainable and eco-friendly.

Sir, I love your idea of “revolutionary change in areas like agriculture, fishing, housing, packaging, hospitality, tourism, fashion, water management and energy.” To catalyse this process and reach our goal faster, I hope your government listens to the farmers protesting, Adivasis resisting, children and youth taking actions across the country for climate justice, despite putting us in jail to scare us. I hope your government listens to handloom workers and fisherfolk of the country – who are some of the most affected by the climate crisis – before starting large-scale port expansions, factories or mines. If we all work together, we can have a thriving low-carbon intensity economy without violating land and human rights!

Sir, I hope you understand that we cannot have climate justice without social justice, especially ensuring people’s rights in the world’s largest democracy. I look forward to your government listening to and working with young citizens and communities most impacted by the climate crisis. I hope that together, we can protect the environment, as well as develop and implement measures to adapt to and mitigate the effects of the global climate crisis.

And sir, by protecting our vast biodiversity and ensuring a peaceful, equitable, and just quality of life for everyone who calls India home, we can uphold your vision of “life” for all.

Featured image: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he makes a statement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Alastair Grant