India on Tuesday launched an ambitious initiative for developing the infrastructure of small island nations, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying it will give a new hope, a new confidence and satisfaction of doing something for the most vulnerable countries facing the biggest threat from climate change. Prime Minister Modi was joined by his British counterpart Boris Johnson on the second day of the COP26 climate summit here. The launch event was also attended by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“The launch of ‘Infrastructure for Resilient Island States‘ gives a new hope, a new confidence,” Modi said, adding that the initiative gives the satisfaction of doing something for the most vulnerable countries.
“The last few decades have proved that no one is untouched by the wrath of climate change. Whether they are developed countries or countries rich in natural resources, this is a big threat to everyone,” Modi said.
Stating that the Small Island Developing States or SIDS face the biggest threat from climate change, Modi said it is a matter of life and death for them, it is a challenge to their existence.
“The disasters caused by climate change can literally take the form of catastrophe for them. In such countries, climate change is a major challenge not only for the security of their lives, but also for their economies,” he said, adding that such countries are dependent on tourism, but due to natural calamities, tourists are also afraid to visit there.
Modi said that the SIDS countries have lived in harmony with nature for centuries and they know how to adapt to the natural cycles of nature.
“But due to the selfish behavior of the past several decades, the unnatural form of nature has come to the fore, the result of which innocent Small Island States are facing today,” he said.
Modi congratulated the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) for the initiative, saying for him the CDRI or
is not just about infrastructure thing but it is part of a very sensitive responsibility of human welfare.
“It is the collective responsibility of all of us towards mankind. It is, in a way, a shared atonement for our sins,” he said.
The Prime Minister said India has made special arrangements for cooperation with the Pacific islands and Caricom countries in the wake of the threat of climate change.
He said India’s space agency ISRO will build a special data window for them to provide them timely information about cyclones, coral-reef monitoring, coast-line monitoring etc. through satellite.
Describing the launch of IRIS as “very important”, Modi said through this initiative, it will be easy for SIDS to mobilise technology, finance necessary information faster. “Promotion of quality infrastructure in Small Island States will benefit both lives and livelihoods there,” he added.
“I assure you that India will fully support this new project, and will work closely with CDRI, other partner countries and the United Nations for its success,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, British Prime Minister Johnson said he was “very grateful to my friend, Narendra Modi – the Prime Minister of India, for his leadership on the Coalition for Disaster Resilient infrastructure. He has been out in front on this for a long time.”
“This is an existential threat as we sit here in Glasgow today. Last year, 600 billion of ice melted away in Greenland. It’s incredibly cruel that these incredibly small island states are right in the frontline of the loss and damage that is caused by global warming,” he said.
“They have done virtually nothing to cause the problem, they didn’t produce the huge volumes of CO2 to be pumped into the atmosphere,” Johnson said as he urged countries to join this campaign and help.
“We have got to stop this remorseless increase in CO2 because there are people around this room, there are vulnerable populations who have done nothing to deserve it will be in the frontline, suffering catastrophic loss and damage,” he said.
Johnson said that the UK is contributing financially to the initiative IRIS. “We are stomping up as well.”
The Australian Prime Minister thanked India and the UK for their leadership of the CDRI. “I acknowledge the Quad support, including the US and Japan support for India’s CDRI,” Morrison said.
The IRIS initiative is a part of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient infrastructure that would focus on building capacity, having pilot projects, especially in small island developing states.
“That would also involve in some senses, setting up norms and standards for resilient infrastructure… with infrastructure loss from cyclones etc, especially small island states and coastal areas are vulnerable to these ravages of climate change, and this [IRIS] is an effort to try and equip countries that are particularly vulnerable to these effects of climate change,” Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters on Monday.
The new initiative is the result of cooperation between India, the UK and Australia and included the participation of leaders of small island nations Fiji, Jamaica and Mauritius.
India’s Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) welcomed the launch of IRIS as a recognition of the severity of climate risks which can unravel decades of development, especially for the most vulnerable countries and communities.
“It will need a combination of on-ground assessments of climate risk, financial innovation to help build resilient infrastructure, and the local capacity to manage such facilities,” said Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of CEEW.