India’s promises collide with reality

Four days after Narendra Modi’s surprise promise at COP26 in Glasgow (Scotland) to achieve carbon neutrality by 2070, the Indian capital is like every winter experiencing extreme pollution. On November 5, the day after the major festival of Diwali, during which residents light millions of candles and wick firecrackers, residents of New Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital city, woke up with a quality index looking like 462 on a 500 scale, the worst in five years.

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The level of fine particles measured averaged 706 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air. A brutal return to reality: all the air in northern India has become poison and the inertia of public authorities is evident. Delhi’s main sources of particulate emissions come from power plants and large coal-fired refineries, vehicles and hay burning, pollution damaging India’s health and the fight against climate change.

The results were amazing: plans to improve air quality were ignored

For Indians suffocating and losing hope of life for years, or for those facing devastating droughts or floods, the 2070 horizon for achieving carbon neutrality is too far away. They need immediate action. In this area, however, the results have been remarkable: plans to improve air quality remain a dead letter and recent steps taken by the government to try to revive the country’s economy, which has been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic. climate ambitions. The government has started a race for major infrastructure projects and auctioned off dozens of new coal mines.

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“Relaxing standard”

“The prime minister’s big announcement in Glasgow is one thing, but what matters is action at the national level,” judge former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, member of Congress, main opposition party. However, he gave an example, “all laws on the environment and forests have been diluted, standards have been relaxed, particularly pollution from thermal power plants, and bodies for implementing standards have been weakened”.

India’s prime minister has no doubt succumbed to pressure from the West, who asked him to embark on a path of carbon neutrality, without trusting him. At home, his ministers have repeated for weeks that net zero is not a relevant goal.

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Cheryl Tenny

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