India vows to 'go beyond' Paris accord

Modi's pledge to save 'shared heritage' adds to sharp backlash against Trump's pullout

French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Arc de Triomphe last Saturday as Mr Modi ended a two-day visit to France.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Arc de Triomphe last Saturday as Mr Modi ended a two-day visit to France. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to go "above and beyond" the Paris Agreement on climate change, as he met French President Emmanuel Macron following the controversial decision by the United States to quit the deal.

Two days after US President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw from the pact to curb carbon emissions, Mr Modi said India would "continue working... above and beyond the Paris accord", calling it "part of the world's shared heritage".

The agreement signed by 195 nations in the French capital in 2015 "can protect future generations and give new hope", he said after two hours of talks with Mr Macron at the presidential Elysee Palace.

Mr Macron said his discussions with the leader of the world's fastest-growing major economy focused mainly on the environment.

"I want to restate here France's full commitment to the fight against climate warming," said Mr Macron. He has led Europe's defence of the Paris accord, endearing himself to opponents of Mr Trump's stance.

Reacting to Mr Trump's announcement on Thursday, Mr Macron issued an appeal in English to "make the planet great again" - a play on Mr Trump's pledge to "make America great again", which has been retweeted a quarter of a million times. Mr Trump has accused China and India of getting an easy ride compared with the US.

Mr Modi said last Saturday that protecting "Mother Earth" was part of Indian culture. "For Indians, environmental protection is a profession of faith because we learn it in the vedas (ancient Hindu scriptures)," he said, in remarks translated from Hindi into French.

India, which accounts for 4.1 per cent of global emissions, has not agreed to cap or cut its emissions outright as other countries have, but has said it will massively increase its use of green energy.

Arriving at the palace, the 66-year-old Indian nationalist hugged the 39-year-old French centrist in a scene that contrasted with the clenched-jaw handshake that Mr Macron shared with Mr Trump in Brussels last month. Mr Modi said Mr Macron's election had "encouraged the whole world".

Mr Macron said he would visit India, the world's third-largest polluter, by the end of the year for a summit on solar power - an area where the two men plan greater cooperation and for which they hope to rope in "many other countries".

Mr Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris deal has left him isolated on the world stage and prompted a backlash at home.

Several US state governors, city mayors and powerful companies are already drawing up plans to meet the pact's emission targets - with or without Washington's backing. At least two Republican governors announced last Friday they were partnering with Democratic- run states to combat climate change.

Billionaire climate advocate Michael Bloomberg paid Mr Macron an unannounced visit in Paris last Friday to discuss bolstering the pact. "Today, I want the world to know the US will meet our Paris commitment and, through a partnership between cities, states, and businesses, we will seek to remain part of the Paris Agreement process," he said.

He pledged US$15 million (S$21 million) to support the agreement's coordinating agency in the event that the US refused to pay its share.

Last Saturday, the African Union joined the chorus of disapproval at Mr Trump's decision, expressing its "full and unconditional support" for the Paris Agreement. It called for the issue to be addressed at the Group of 20 summit in Germany next month, "to raise US President Donald Trump's awareness of the issues of global warming".

The White House has hit back at the criticism of Mr Trump's decision, accusing Europe in particular of trying to "shackle" the US economy and refusing to acknowledge climate change is real.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline India vows to 'go beyond' Paris accord. Subscribe