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India's green energy promises
India promises to reduce its greenhouse emissions by boosting green energy, but some question whether it can deliver.

The following is a partial transcript; for full story, listen to audio on link provided at end of article. Story by Miranda Kennedy, PRI's "The World"

As climate negotiators meet in Copenhagen, polls suggest that the US is one of the few countries where concern about climate change is falling. A possible reason: Temperatures in North America have actually been on the cool side in recent years.

The UN’s weather agency presented that finding at the international summit on climate change. The bigger picture is more sobering, though. The figures show that globally, the current decade has been the warmest since records began 160 years ago.

India has been especially vulnerable to global warming. That fact is leading the Indian government to soften its position on greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this fall, when there was unprecedented flooding in southern India, environmentalists took to the TV talk shows to try to stir people up about climate change.

"With climate change, our food security is at risk, our health security is at risk, our water security is at risk," said Bittu Sahgal, editor of the magazine "Sanctuary Asia."

Sahgal says India’s long coastline and proximity to the Himalayan Mountains make the country especially vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels and melting glaciers. But he worries that few Indians understand the seriousness of the problem, and that the government hasn’t done enough to raise the alarm.

"The prime minister should get on the air, and he should talk to farmers, he should talk to the urban and rural poor and he should tell them what climate change is," said Sahgal. "If there was an external threat from another country that’s what he would do."

Government officials, though, say such criticism is unfair.

"The idea that India’s not willing to do anything is just completely wrong," said Montek Singh Ahulwahlia, the prime minister’s chief economic policy maker. "Because in our own national action plan for climate change, we’ve said we must do something."

For starters, says Ahulwahlia, there will be a statutory requirement to purchase a percentage of electricity from clean sources, and a program for developing solar thermal electricity.

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