United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday said India was a “very important actor” and a “fundamental partner” in global efforts to combat climate change, PTI reported. Guterres also praised India for making a “fantastic effort” to grow its renewable energy resources.

“There has been a huge investment in India in relation to solar power,” Guterres told a group of journalists at the United Nations ahead of the beginning of a climate summit on September 23. “India still has a meaningful amount of coal and we have also discussed that.”

Guterres recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership of the International Solar Alliance. “And he [Modi] has a number of other initiatives of different sorts related to the Clean India [campaign] and many other aspects that will have, we believe and we hope, a strong impact from the point of view of India’s progressive performance in relation to climate action,” the UN secretary general added.

Modi will be one of the speakers at the summit along with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The International Solar Alliance is a treaty based inter-governmental alliance of 122 sunshine-rich countries that lie fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Their adoption of solar energy is expected to help reduce the use of fossil fuels and combat the climate crisis.

India, which initiated the alliance, and France co-hosted the first International Solar Alliance summit in New Delhi in February 2018.

“So India is a very important actor, an actor with a legacy that is very complex, because of the coal weight in the production of electricity,” Guterres told reporters. “And so India for us is a fundamental partner in this discussion. And obviously, part of the dialogue was also related to our own efforts and the need to green the UN.”

Guterres said India’s cooperation on an international solar park was “very useful”. Modi will inaugurate the 50-kilowatt Gandhi Solar Park at the United Nations at a special event on September 24. India has gifted the United Nations one solar panel each for each of its 193 member states. The event will be attended by Guterres, South Korea President Moon Jae-in, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Jacinda Ardern.

Guterres also told the reporters that he respected the choices of countries to use nuclear energy as it was an important tool in their efforts to become carbon neutral. “I mean, I was talking to Prime Minister Modi and one of the things he would like to do is to add more nuclear energy to the energy scope of the country,” said the United Nations chief . “This is something that we respect.”

The UN chief’s statements came a day afterthousands of students and climate activists took to the streets of Australia and other Asia-Pacific countries for a “global climate strike”. The protestors urged world leaders attending the climate summit to take urgent measures to stop an environmental catastrophe.

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