I am honoured to deliver the 19th Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture.
Darbari Seth was a climate action pioneer.
He stressed that India must end its reliance on polluting, financially volatile and costly fossil fuels and instead invest in clean, economically resilient solar power.
Today, as we endure the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change, this effort has never been more important.
Worldwide, the pandemic has exposed systemic fragilities and inequalities that threaten the basis of sustainable development.
A rapidly heating world threatens even more disruption and exposes even further our world’s deep and damaging imbalances.
Today’s young climate activists understand this.
They understand climate justice.
They know that the countries most affected by climate change have done the least to contribute to it.
As we look to recovery from the COVID pandemic, we must commit to doing better.
That means transforming our economic, energy and health systems – to save lives, create stable, inclusive economies and stave off the existential threat of climate change.
I want to talk to you today about how to bring that vision to life – and about India’s role in that vital effort.
Ladies and gentlemen,
India has all the ingredients for exerting the leadership at home and abroad envisioned by Darbari Seth.
The drivers are poverty alleviation and universal energy access – two of India’s top priorities.
Scaling up clean energy, particularly solar, is the recipe for solving both.
Investments in renewable energy, clean transport and energy efficiency during the recovery from the pandemic could extend electricity access to 270 million people worldwide – fully a third of the people that currently lack it.
These same investments could help create 9 million jobs annually over the next three years.
Investments in renewable energy generate three times more jobs than investments in polluting fossil fuels.
With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to push many people back into poverty, such job creation is an opportunity that can’t be missed.
India is already pushing ahead in this direction.
Since 2015, the number of people working in renewable energy in India has increased five-fold.
Last year, the country’s spending on solar energy surpassed spending on coal-fired power generation for the first time.
India has also made significant progress towards universal access to electricity.
Yet despite an access rate of 95 per cent, 64 million Indians are still without access today.
There is still work to do, and opportunities to be grasped.
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