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India on board to ratify Paris climate change pact this year, White House says

"India has committed to doing their part," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

By Doug G. Ware
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India on board to ratify Paris climate change pact this year, White House says
President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet in the Oval Office of the White House to discuss several issues -- including India's support for COP21, the controversial climate change reform agreement reached in Paris six months ago -- on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. Pool Photo by Dennis Brack/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 7 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a full plate of issues during a meeting at the White House Tuesday, including the controversial Paris climate change accord and the construction of several new nuclear power plants.

The meeting, on the books since last month, was planned to "highlight the deepening of the U.S.-India relationship in key areas," and came 17 months after Obama's visit to New Delhi.

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The primary topic on Tuesday's agenda was climate change -- particularly India's participation in the agreement reached in Paris six months ago to curb carbon emissions, called COP21. The accord seeks to implement new restrictions if 55 nations, accounting for at least 55 percent of the world's emissions, sign the deal.

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India could put that number over the top. Once the 55-nation, 55 percent threshold is met, COP21 would take effect in 30 days.

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"If India joins, it will put us over the hump of 55 percent of global emissions required for ratification," Andrew Light of the World Resources Institute said Tuesday.

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The White House indicated that Modi pledged to ratify COP21.

"I believe that 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 spokesman Josh Earnest said during a press briefing Tuesday. "India has committed to doing their part."

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Some supporters of COP21 are concerned about getting the pact ratified and implemented before the end of the year, so that there's not an interruption with the change of administrations after Obama leaves office in January.

"That would represent substantial progress," Earnest said of getting COP21 passed by the end of 2016.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has pledged to effectively revoke the United States' support if he's elected, which could potentially topple COP21.

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The leaders also discussed another issue relating to climate change Tuesday -- the construction of six new nuclear power plants in southern India by Westinghouse Electric. The stumbling block in the project, though, is a 2010 Indian law that opens Westinghouse to legal liability in the case of an accident.

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White House Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change John Morton said the United States will soon begin preparatory work on the new plants and announced a deadline of June 2017 to finalize the deal.

U.S. and Indian officials have also agreed to work toward a new agreement to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, a refrigerant chemical that is harmful to the ozone layer.

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