The White House told reporters Monday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had agreed to move as quickly as possible to bring the Paris climate deal into force this year.
Media outlets were quick to report Modi intends to “join Paris climate agreement this year,” which came as news to Indian officials who denied making such a promise.
The Hindu newspaper reported Tuesday that “Indian officials said this was not the case.”
Modi met with President Barack Obama Monday to discuss a wide range of issues, including global warming. While Modi and Obama did agree to phase out hydrofluorocarbons and promote green energy, Indian officials insisted the prime minister did not promise to sign onto a United Nations climate deal this year.
“While the U.S. side insisted that Mr. Modi and the President agreed that both countries would ratify the climate treaty within the current year — 2016 — Indian officials said this was not the case,” according to The Hindu.
The media firestorm hit before The Hindu published its article, but such reports were fueled by statements from the White House claiming Modi wanted to bring the UN agreement into force this year — a major goal of the Obama administration and environmental groups.
“I believe what Prime Minister Modi has said about this is that India shares the objective that the United States has laid out, which is to see the agreement come into force this year,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a briefing Monday.
The White House also released a carefully worded joint statement with Modi’s regime, which suggested India would sign the Paris agreement this year — although the statement never explicitly said this.
“India and the United States recognize the urgency of climate change and share the goal of enabling entry into force of the Paris Agreement as early as possible,” the statement reads.
“The United States reaffirms its commitment to join the agreement as soon as possible this year. India similarly has begun its processes to work toward this shared objective,” according to the statement.
The so-called Paris climate agreement was hashed out in December by nearly 200 UN member countries. The Obama administration had been pushing the deal behind the scenes for months leading up to December’s Paris conference, and even cut a deal with China to get other countries to sign on.
Secretary of State John Kerry officially signed the Paris deal in April, but it won’t go into effect until 55 countries representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have signed onto it. India’s ratification of the Paris deal would help Obama meet that threshold.
Obama is looking for more international support to bring the deal into effect before he leaves office in 2017. Since the administration argues Paris is not a legally-binding treaty, a future president could easily undo it.
But even if India signs onto the treaty, will it actually mean anything for the fight against global warming?
Probably not, since India is planning on adding 290 gigawatts of coal-fired power by 2030, according to Voice of America. That dwarf’s Modi’s pledge to install 100 gigawatts of solar panels in the coming years.
In fact, India plans on doubling coal production by 2020 in order to cut its reliance on imports and alleviate energy poverty — some 400 million Indians still lack access to reliable electricity.
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