On the sidelines of COP26 or the United Nations climate meeting at Glasgow, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) signed a host country agreement with India. With this, the lead UN body on Environment cooperation will open its India office and get legal treatment at par with other UN bodies that enable close cooperation with the government and the region.

The agreement was signed between Indian Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and executive director of UNEP, Inger Andersen. Paving the way for the signing, the Indian Cabinet cleared the proposal in September itself before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic speech at COP26.

At the global environment summit, the Indian Prime Minister changed the dull pitch after announcing five key agendas and commitments by India. One of the key promises made by the Indian PM was Net Zero Emissions pledge by India by 2070. The promising pitch was accompanied by four 2030 commitments including 500 GW non-fossil fuel energy, carbon intensity reduction to less than 45% with a billion tonnes to be shed in a decade, and half of India’s energy requirements to be sourced from renewable energy by 2030.

These highly promising yet ambitious pledges from a developing country with a billion plus people emitting only 5% of global carbon emissions and still at the beginning of its high growth journey encouraged many national leaders to rethink their commitments to climate action. UNEP’s India homecoming is evoked from its intentions to coordinate even more closely after India’s delivery of its commitments made in previous climate summits.

Speaking at the signing event, Andersen said, “India plays a hugely important role in global action on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste. We at UNEP look forward to deepening our partnership with India, towards strengthening the country’s ability to deliver on the environmental dimensions of sustainable development.”

Highlighting the need for close cooperation, the Indian Environment Minister said, “the presence of UNEP would enable a more effective delivery and coordination of UNEP’s programme of work in India.” The local office will be essential to coordinate further in UN sustainable development goals by 2030 and broaden cooperation for international commitments. It will lead to greater scientific and technological inputs by the UNEP body to the country for the mitigation of key environmental issues. Cooperation with ministries of India is essential to navigate the vast diversity that requires unique innovations to accelerate sustainable development without handicapping the vast needs of the population.

One of the objectives of UNEP formation was to become a voice for the future generations in shaping the decisions of the many countries in our world towards an inclusive sustainable future. India with a median age of only 27 years and a billion plus population is the biggest asset of youths to target any futuristic climate adaption attitude.

With a very aggressive leadership that believes that India’s cultural heritage has a direct bearing on making the country environment friendly, UNEP’s role will be a welcome presence in India. India’s commitment to climate is also highlighted by the fact that it is the only G20 country that has progressed rapidly to meet its climate goals including a rapid shift to renewable energy. The presence of a significantly high tribal population who share a symbiotic relationship with forests, along with their valuable indigenous knowledge can be crucial in mitigating key challenges in modern lifestyles.

India has played a key role in United Nations since its foundation. The topic of climate change is the most complex and challenging human issue on Earth today. Together with various UN bodies in India, climate challenge can be addressed on a war footing. This is because India has a vast indigenous population, fast growing economy, high presence of start-ups, an electorate that is educated on climate woes and cultural affinity with environment that is considered divine in most parts of country. The Indian story will be a beacon of hope for both the developing and developed world.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava

Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Environment_Programme#/media/File:UNEP_logo.svg