President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday that the two countries will work together to fight global climate change, laying out a set of goals that the two countries hope “will expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.”
While not a concrete emissions reductions agreement like the one Obama reached with China this past November, the deal includes efforts to cooperate on reducing emissions of fluorinated gases, invigorate India’s promotion of clean energy investment, and partner to reduce the debilitating air pollution that has plagued many of India’s cities.
The agreement also emphasized that the countries would “cooperate closely” for a “successful and ambitious” agreement at the Paris climate talks at the end of the year. During that conference, 196 nations are expected to meet and tentatively agree a course of action to respond to climate change. It is widely considered the last chance for a global agreement that could feasibly keep the rise in global average temperatures under 2°C.
“India’s voice is very important on this issue,” Obama said at a press meeting on Sunday, the Times of India reported. “Perhaps no country could potentially be more affected by the impacts of climate change and no country is going to be more important in moving forward a strong agreement than India.”
As ThinkProgress reported last week, there was very little expectation among analysts that the U.S. would achieve a deal like the one it achieved in China, wherein the country would actually pledge to reduce its overall carbon emissions. In the China deal, the U.S. committed to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025 and China agreed to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030 and to peak greenhouse gas emissions that same year. Many said that it would be unfair to expect India — the world’s third largest carbon emitter behind the U.S. and China — to announce a similar target, considering the hundreds of millions of rural poor.
Still a developing country, climate change stands to impact India more severely than other parts of the world, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. India also has a particularly bad air pollution problem — a recent World Health Organization report found that India has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world with the capital, Delhi, being the most polluted of all. The report also found that Delhi had six times the level of airborne particulate matter considered safe. Another investigation found that the levels could be up to eight times higher in heavily trafficked corridors.