India today signed the historic Paris climate agreement here along with more than 170 nations, marking a significant step that has brought together developing and developed nations for beginning work on cutting down greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar signed the agreement in the UN General Assembly hall at a high-level ceremony hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The ceremony was attended by heads of government, ministers, corporate leaders and artists.
“This is a moment in history. Today you are signing a new covenant with the future,” Mr Ban said, adding that, “We are in a race against time.”
The opening ceremony included music from students of New York’s Julliard School and a short video bringing the “gavel moment” from Paris to the signature ceremony.
At 171 nations, the signing ceremony for the climate agreement set the record for the most countries to sign an international agreement on one day, previously set in 1982, when 119 countries signed the Law of the Sea Convention. The signing is the first step toward ensuring that the agreement comes into force as soon as possible.
After the signing, countries must take the further national (or domestic) step of accepting or ratifying the agreement.
The agreement can enter into force 30 days after at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC, accounting for at least 55 per cent of global emissions, ratify the agreement.
India has maintained that the burden of fighting climate change cannot be put on the shoulders of the poor after decades of industrial development by the rich nations.
It has announced plans to quadruple its renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022 as part of the government’s plan to supply electricity to every household.
India seeks to add 100 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity, 60 gigawatts of wind power, 10 gigawatts of biomass and five gigawatts of hydro projects.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in an address to a city- based think tank earlier this week, had said that notwithstanding its development need, India is completely committed to protecting the climate.
“The level of development we have reached is far, still the hard reality is we have a lot of distance to cover. We need more housing, power, toilets, roads and factories,” Mr Jaitley said.
“Therefore our requirements of fuel is certainly going to increase. Notwithstanding that our own standards of protecting the environment are very rigid,” he added.
“There is a method in each one of the steps we are taking” like taxing oil, cess on coal and emphasis on alternative renewable energy, he had said. “We are conscious of our responsibilities,” the minister said.