Developed nations have been the largest contributors to the world’s carbon debt, but how up-and-comers like India manage their new development will have a large impact on whether the world meets its carbon goals. Similarly to the way many developing nations skipped landlines entirely and went straight to wireless communications, there’s an opportunity to deploy clean energy technology and completely bypass carbon-intensive fossil fuels, all while creating jobs and improving people’s lives.
Of all the most polluting nations – US, China, Russia, Japan and the EU bloc – only India’s carbon emissions are rising: they rose almost 5% in 2016. No one questions India’s right to develop, or the fact that its current emissions per person are tiny. But when building the new India for its 1.3 billion people, whether it relies on coal and oil or clean, green energy will be a major factor in whether global warming can be tamed.
“India is the frontline state,” says Samir Saran, at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi. “Two-thirds of India is yet to be built. So please understand, 16% of mankind is going to seek the American dream. If we can give it to them on a frugal climate budget, we will save the planet. If we don’t, we will either destroy India or destroy the planet.”