U-turn: Paris talks force Modi govt to admit climate change cause behind Chennai floods

by Ishan Russell

After the initial reluctance to see the floods in Tamil Nadu as a result of climate change, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar seems to have come a full circle on the issue.

"What is happening in Chennai is the result of what has happened for 150 years in the developed world. That is what has caused 0.8-degrees-Celsius temperature rise and, therefore, they must now take action more vigorously," Javadekar said before his return to the climate change negotiations currently underway in Paris.

Representational image. Tarique Anwar/Firstpost

Representational image. Tarique Anwar/Firstpost

Interestingly, the minister who holds the portfolio for climate change had on Wednesday refused to link the excessive rains in Chennai to climate change.

So what has brought about this U-turn?

The last 72 hours have seen a flurry of activities in Paris, where leaders and delegates are using the catastrophic images of floods in Chennai to push forth the need to urgently act on the issue of climate.

A video with interviews of Chennai flood survivors was played out on giant projector screens inside the venue of climate change talks.

Karthik, who was one of the people interviewed for the film, was heard urging world leaders to act swiftly to control the effects of climate change. “This climate change has really affected us over the last month... the situation is very bad. Be it summer or winter, the weather has been extreme, especially this year. I would tell the leaders who are seeing this video that clean energy is needed now and it should be implemented as it is the need of the hour,” said the survivor standing waist deep in water, a dramatic frame that captured the attention of delegates.

The organisers of the video screening, that was played on loop through the day, were seen engaging with the delegates over events in Chennai. “The people who marched in Chennai last weekend under 100% clean banners had no idea they were on the cusp of climate disaster. Now they are drowning while negotiators drag their feet in agreeing to a life-saving deal. It’s time to deliver clean energy by 2050 and answer the call of 3.6 million global citizens demanding a long term goal the world can celebrate," said Emma-Ruby Sachs of Avaaz.

Earlier, in a written statement, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, the chair of the global negotiations, turned the debate over Chennai on its head by expressing solidarity with the people of Tamil Nadu - "The unprecedented magnitude of the flooding confirms yet again that we no longer have time; we must take concrete and urgent action against climate disruption".

Realising that denying the co-relation between climate change and the floods in Tamil Nadu would only isolate India during the negotiations, Javadekar seems to have embraced the moment, reasserting PM Modi's argument that India is a victim of climate change.

With focus on floods in Chennai, India continues to be on the centre-stage of the negotiations as talks enter the final week. Developed countries are hoping the domestic crisis in India would push it to take a responsible stand, even as Indian negotiators are only hoping to generate more sympathy, as they push the developed countries to deliver on finance needed to make the transition to clean energy.


Published Date: Dec 06, 2015 07:18 pm | Updated Date: Dec 06, 2015 07:18 pm