Asserting that the burden of sustainability cannot be put on the shoulders of the poor, India has said poorer nations must be given space to address their "development deficit" as they end up suffering the worst impacts of climate change while contributing the least to it.
Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations Amit Narang said the international community cannot address climate change if it fails to address the "unsustainable consumption and lifestyles, particularly in the richer countries".
Addressing the National Model UN Conference here on Tuesday, Narang cited research estimates that at least a third of human deaths annually, almost 18 million can be attributed to poverty related causes.
"It should be obvious therefore that addressing this ‘development deficit’ is the first and necessary condition if we have to achieve a sustainable world," he said adding that there can be no sustainable development with such alarming and widespread levels of poverty and hunger.
"You cannot tell millions living in shanty towns along the coasts that building concrete homes for their families will lead to emissions. You cannot tell a child studying in the dark or a woman cooking on wood and dung that providing modern energy to them will be bad for the planet. In other words, the burden of sustainability cannot be put on the shoulders of the poor," Narang said.
He stressed that ensuring a life of basic human dignity to everyone on the planet is the first step in addressing climate change.
"For global efforts to halt climate change to succeed therefore, our collective efforts must be sensitive to our different starting points, responsibilities and capabilities.
In their effort, the poorer countries must have the space to address their ‘development deficit’," he said.
Emphasising the "stark climate inequality" in addressing climate change, he said, "the travesty of climate change is that the poor end up suffering its worst impacts, even though they contributed the least in causing the problem."
"The richer countries need to step-up to the plate and urgently take steps to transition their societies towards sustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns," he said.
India, which is often referred to as the world’s third largest emitter, has among the lowest per capita emissions in the world and India’s per capita emissions are also a mere one-third of Chinese per capita emissions.
Narang stressed that poorer countries are acting against climate change and a majority of developing countries including India and China have made mitigation pledges that exceed or broadly meet their fair shares.
Narang said the problem of climate change must be situated in the wider template of sustainable development with its overarching objective of ending poverty.
"Without ending poverty, hunger and deprivation, without ensuring a life of basic human dignity to every human being, we cannot meaningfully address climate change," he said.
Narang further stressed on the need to "look beyond quick-fixes and adhoc approaches" and to take the holistic and long-term solution based on ensuring robust inclusive economic growth, industrial development, job creation, investment in infrastructure and technological innovation.
Narang emphasised that the international community’s approach to climate change must be one which balances the twin imperatives of development and sustainability.
"One that is able to distinguish between lifeline emissions and lifestyle emissions and ensure space for bridging the development-deficit," he said.
Narang also highlighted the ambitious programmes being undertaken in India for assuring both energy access and expanding renewables.