New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday emphasised that a clean and green environment was at the root of his government’s policies, as he was presented the UN’s Champions of the Earth award by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Mr Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron were jointly awarded the UN’s highest environmental honour for their pioneering work in championing the International Solar Alliance and promoting new areas of cooperation on environmental action, according to a statement from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
In his address, Mr Modi said climate and calamity were linked to culture, and it will be difficult to avoid calamity as long as concerns for the climate do not become a part of culture.
From agriculture and industrial policies to building houses and construction of toilets, the need for a clean environment has driven his government’s programmes, Mr Modi said.
India’s commitment to the environment has only gone up, he said, adding that his government was working to bring down “emission intensity” by 20-25 per cent in the next two years against its 2005 figure and by 30-35 per cent by 2030. “We have also pledged to get rid of single-use plastics by 2022,” he said in his speech.
Citing ancient Hindu shlokas and texts, the PM also referred to India’s traditions to assert that respecting nature had always been part of Indian society. The PM added that his government had succeeded in changing people’s behaviour accordingly, an apparent reference to the “Swachhta Abhiyan” (cleanliness mission).
The honour bestowed on him is a recognition of Indian tribes living in forests who respect trees more than their lives, its fishermen who capture only as much fish as they need to earn their living and farmers whose lives are entwined with the cycle of seasons, he said.
The poor are the worst victims of climate change, he said, adding that his government had been pursuing policies to further quicken the rate of economic growth to give them a life of dignity. Cutting-edge technology and renewable energy were the basis of his government’s Smart City project, while “per drop, more crop”, the soil health card and organic farming were a priority in agriculture, he said.
Mr Modi reminded the audience that he had spoken about “climate justice” during the Paris climate pact signed in 2016, with the aim to dealing with climate change. The whole world had committed to it but a lot needed to be done to execute it on the ground, he added.
The UN Secretary-General said technology was on the side of those who believe in a green economy. “We are recognising a statesman who embodies true leadership. In PM Modi we have a leader who realises the issue of climate change and understands the benefits of climate action. He knows the problems and also works to solve them. A green economy is a good economy. Technology is on the side of those who believe in a green economy. Those who believe in a grey economy have a grey future,” Mr Guterres said.