India’s prime minister Narendra Modi to attend Cop26 in Glasgow

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India’s prime minister Narendra Modi will be attending the crucial United Nations climate summit COP26, the country’s environment ministry has confirmed. 

The summit beginning on 31 October in Glasgow is co-hosted by the UK and Italy, and will have 197 countries participating to discuss their climate action goals. 

COP26 is seen as the most important climate summit since the Paris Agreement was signed, with countries expected to ramp up their individual contributions to tackle the climate crisis in the hope of keeping global warming to 1.5C.  

The confirmation of Mr Modi’s attendance came from India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav, who was speaking in an interview with the Reuters news agency on Thursday. 

Mr Modi’s participation, among other world leaders like US president Joe Biden and president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, will boost hopes that India will use the summit to announce more ambitious climate action plans. 

India is the world’s third bigger emitter of greenhouse gases, following the US and China. Unlike those two, however, it has not set a target year for achieving carbon neutrality — a state of removing as much carbon from the atmosphere as the country emits. 

Watch: What is COP26?

There remain doubts over the attendance at COP of other key world leaders, with Russia’s Vladimir Putin announcing this week that he won’t be going to Glasgow and will send a senior official in his stead.

British prime minister and de facto summit host Boris Johnson has been told that China’s Xi Jinping may also not attend, according to various media reports. China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, asked those concerned to wait for Beijing to make an announcement.

Mr Modi is expected to meet with Mr Johnson on the sidelines of COP26. Both have played up the importance of climate action as a priority during previous talks between the two countries.

There has been growing pressure on India to announce stronger climate action goals. At 2015’s COP summit, India had set its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to include targets of reducing emissions intensity relative to GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from its 2005 level. It also vowed to achieve about 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources and enhance its carbon sink by planting trees.

India was already on course to achieve these targets when they were set, however, and while India has made great strides on the front of green energy, coal remains its prime source for power generation. Experts have urged the country to make greater strides towards weaning itself off coal given the expected growth of its economy in the coming decade.

The impact of domestic turbulence in India may also be visible in Mr Modi’s visit to Glasgow, with a Sikh body announcing plans to protest at George Square. 

The group said it will be protesting against the controversial farming reforms passed last year in India, as well as the arrest and ongoing detention of British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal in India. 

Watch: India celebrates 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses

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