The mainstream media have been buzzing with news about the global climate strike September 20–27. But largely under-reported in the media was the community event and rally organized for the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston September 22, which was also attended by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The meeting between the two leaders was quite significant as they represent two of the biggest fossil fuel consuming countries in the world. Here is why this can be viewed as an open defiance of the global climate strike movement.
All About the Global Climate Strike and School Strike
Greta Thunberg, the leader of the global climate strike movement, was seen protesting outside the White House September 13. On September 20 she took part in the global climate strike. Students from 120 countries were expected to participate.
A strike also took place in New York, venue for the United Nations climate meeting the following week. NY’s Department of Education granted permission to over 1.1 million students to take part in the strike if they wished.
What exactly are Greta and these school kids protesting for? The protestors demand that countries stop using fossil fuels, as they believe carbon dioxide emissions from fossil energy sources have caused a climate crisis that is spiraling out of control.
Speaking outside White House, Greta stated, “the emission curve is still not reducing … and of course that is all that matters.” To achieve reduction in CO2 emissions, she and her comrades call for a score of measures including closure of coal plants, ending of fossil fuel extraction, replacing fossil energy with renewables, and ridiculous lifestyle changes like avoiding air-travel and stopping consumption of beef.
The Timing of Trump-Modi Meet and Co-operation on Fossil Fuels
Over 50,000 people attended the rally for Modi’s rally, a first of its kind participation for a Head of State. India’s Ambassador to U.S. has termed it “historic and unprecedented.”
The two leaders also met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The timing of these meetings and the proposed fossil fuel trade negotiations are remarkable as they coincided with the climate strike and UN’s climate meeting.
In Houston, Modi met top officials from the U.S. energy industry. Media reports indicate that India is keen on importing hydrocarbons from the U.S. and in investing the oil sector. Modi also attended the UN Secretary General’s climate meeting in New York.
Considering that UN’s climate meets are anti-fossil by design, many might wonder how the Indian Prime Minister can make fossil fuel trade deals and attend UN’s climate meets at the same time.
The answer lies in India’s current policy directives for its energy sector. Though India is a participant of the UN’s Paris climate agreement, it has never pledged to reduce fossil fuel consumptions. As a result, the country has set ambitious fossil fuel production and consumption targets. Imports are also necessary to meet the growing energy demand. Earlier this year, the country signed a major coal deal with Poland.
The U.S. too, has been defiant in its disapproval of the Paris agreement. In 2016 it announced that it would pull out of the agreement, making it the developed country with the largest consumption of fossil fuels without any restrictions from the agreement.
Since President Trump’s election, crude oil exports to India have skyrocketed, from 1.6 million barrels in November 2016 to 21.5 million barrels in March 2019.
If finalized, the potential new fossil fuel trade agreements between Modi and Trump will further increase import and export of fossil fuels between the two fossil giants. The deals will be an open defiance of the climate protests, which are technically designed to persuade leaders to stop the use of fossil fuels altogether.
The school kids can do all the strikes they want about an imaginary climate doomsday, but the major economies of the world are not going to reduce fossil fuel consumption. In fact, most of the school kids across the globe have been enabled to protest because of their strong domestic fossil fuel sector and petroleum derivatives, which make up much of their everyday use products, including the placards used for their protests.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.