He doesn't have super powers. But Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister, is trying to save the planet.
Modi is currently on his fourth official trip to the United States and today he will be in Washington, D.C. addressing Congress. Among the many topics he will mention are the economic interdependence of the United States and India; and the need for the U.S. to keep supporting India's bid to join the United Nations Security Council. And then there is the topic for which Modi is making quite a name for himself: the environment.
Because India is in the midst of rapid industrialization, you might expect Modi to shy away from environmental accords or reforms, not wanting to dampen his country's economic growth with regulations. But Modi realizes that India is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, after the U.S. and China. Because he has been so outspoken on protecting the environment and has already introduced many domestic reforms, Modi is being heralded as an important global voice on environmental issues. By helping to protect the environment in India, home to 1.3 billion people, Modi is in effect trying to save the planet.
That's typically a job reserved for super heroes -- like Captain Planet, the star of the eponymous television show in the early 1990s. Here are three ways in which India's prime minister is like the action hero:
1. The Power of Multilateralism
In the television series, five teenagers or "planeteers" from different continents possess five magic rings that activate different parts of nature, from the earth and wind to water. When all five rings activate at the same time, Captain Planet appears to save the day. The message: Pollution is a global problem and requires an international response.
Despite some reports of loosening regulations, Modi has largely been part of the global response. He issued a plan to curb India's greenhouse emissions in late 2015, which was a seminal shift from India's previous administration that took a hard line stance against climate change policies. Modi's plan calls for an increase of India's solar power target by four times, which is a welcome development, as 70% of the country's energy is derived from coal. Modi calls the plan "ambitious but achievable," as the entire reform agenda could cost $2.5 trillion over the next fourteen years. Modi is hoping international and domestic investors will see the light and join his cause.
As part of the global response, just yesterday Modi vowed to sign the Paris climate accord this year. The accord goes into effect when countries with over 55% of worldwide emissions agree to it. And with Modi signaling his intent to sign, the accord is all but certain to be adopted (as China and the U.S. have already agreed to the deal). "India's role was significant and it's unlikely that we would have actually reached an agreement in Paris had the Indians not stepped up and shown leadership," said the White House press secretary.