A clean and green environment is at the root of his government's policies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday as he was presented the UN's Champions of the Earth Award by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
PM Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron were jointly awarded the UN's highest environmental honour for their pioneering work in championing the International Solar Alliance and promoting new areas of cooperation on environmental action.
In his address, Modi said climate and calamity are linked to culture, and it will be difficult to avoid calamity as long as concerns for the climate do not become a part of culture.
From agriculture and industrial policies to building houses and construction of toilets, the need for a clean environment has been driving his government's programmes, Modi said.
India's commitment to environment has only increased, he said, adding that his government is working to bring down "emission intensity" by 20-25 per cent in the next two years against its 2005 figure and by 30-35 per cent by 2030.
"We have also pledged to get rid of single-use plastics by 2022," he said in his speech.
Citing ancient Hindu shlokas and texts, the prime minister also referred to India's traditions to assert that respecting nature had always been part of Indian society.
He said his government has succeeded in changing people's behaviour accordingly, an apparent reference to 'Swachhta Abhiyan'.
The honour bestowed on him is a recognition of Indian tribes living in forests who respect trees more than their lives, its fishermen who capture only as much fish as they need to earn their living and farmers whose lives are intertwined with the cycle of seasons, he said.
It is also an honour for Indian women who have worshipped trees as gods."Reuse and recycle" have always been a part of their lives, the prime minister said. Indians have always treated nature as a living organism, he said.
The poor are the worst victims of climate change, he said, adding that his government has been pursuing policies to further quicken the rate of economy growth to give them a life of dignity.
Crores of people have come out of extreme poverty in the last few years, Modi said.
Cutting edge technology and renewable energy are the basis of his government's "smart city" project, while "per drop more crop", soil health card and organic farming are a priority in agriculture, he said.
Modi said he had spoken about "climate justice" during the Paris agreement, which was signed in 2016 with an aim to deal with climate change. The whole world has committed to it but a lot needs to be done to execute it on the ground, he added.