Prasiddhi Singh from Tamil Nadu, who will attend the Dubai COP28 climate summit this week with the Indian delegation, is just 11 years old and already has a Foundation which has planted tens of thousands of trees and earned the praise of Narendra Modi.
As a keynote speaker at the Harvard World Model United Nations and on TedX, she has astonished audiences with her maturity and wisdom. “Trees never eat their fruit nor rivers drink their water,” she says. “Rather than looking up to the government and leaders, we should focus on the actions we can take to make a change.”
When the COP28 begins later this week, Prasiddhi’s energetic optimism will contrast with lethargic inaction elsewhere.
There will be no US President Biden. No Chinese President Xi.
There will also be some embarrassing silences. What new fossil fuel deals does the COP28 president (and chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) Sultan al-Jaber hope to sign during the event? What does UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have to say about backtracking from previous climate pledges on emissions and oil drilling?
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, will arrive at COP28 with a tailwind of achievement in renewable energy generation, goodwill from his successful chairing of the G20 talks in Delhi, and a package of ambitious emissions-reduction plans.
India has pledged to build 500 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030, tripling the current level and making up half of the country’s energy mix. Alongside are green hydrogen projects, low-cost finance for energy transition, plans for carbon capture and storage technology, and steps to phase out old and inefficient coal plants.
“Government policies and incentives have positioned India as a rapidly growing clean energy market,” says Sandiip Bhammer at venture capital fund Green Frontier Capital. “India is committed to a low carbon future.”
As a solar energy entrepreneur, with a 270-hectare photovoltaic park in development in Romania, I’m very pleased to see India taking the lead on renewable energy and emissions reductions. There are always short-term political temptations to shy away from climate action and energy transformation. Doing something new is never easy.
But the alternative is potentially catastrophic. It is unconscionable that so few world leaders are prepared to act for the good of future generations, pandering to the fossil fuel lobbies that donate to their parties and ignoring the evidence of their own eyes.
If we want the 11 years olds of today to inherit a world worth living in, we need to pay attention to what people like Prasiddhi Singh are saying.
Dinesh Dhamija founded, built and sold online travel agency ebookers, before serving as a Member of the European Parliament. His latest book, The Indian Century, will be published imminently.