By Arul Louis
United Nations– India has offered to power the UN headquarters with solar energy, helping bring the organisation in line with its own global advocacy of fighting climate change with renewables.
“India is happy to inform that it intends to partner with the UN Secretariat to use renewable solar energy at the UN premises,” India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin announced at the World Environment Day commemoration co-hosted by the country here on Tuesday.
“We hope by the next World Environment Day solar energy will be part of the energy mix used in this building,” he added.
A promoter of globalising solar power, India has launched the International Solar Alliance along with France to promote the use of solar energy by countries in the sunshine belt between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer and has made a contribution of $27 million to kick-start it.
The UJALA programme of replacing conventional electric lamps in India has led to the distribution of 300 million LED light bulbs resulting in savings of four gigawatt of electricity and $2 billion, Akbaruddin said.
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is “Beat Plastic Pollution” and in his video message to the meeting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the watchword should be “Refuse what you cannot reuse”.
He called for an end to use of single-use plastic products like bottles, straws and bags.
Akbaruddin said that India planned to eliminate single use plastic objects by 2022 and during the Environment Day celebration the University Grants Commission ordered universities and colleges to stop using them on campuses.
UN Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) New York UN Office head, Assistant Secretary-General Elliott Harris, spoke of the grassroots effort by a marginalised women’s cooperative in Pune that collects and recycles waste as an example of grassroots efforts to help the environment.
The army of 3,000 women provide waste collection services to 600,000 homes and recycles 50,000 tonnes of garbage every year, he said.
The cooperative is known as “SWaCH” (Solid Waste Collection and Handling).
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Marie Chatardova said that preventing waste and recycling were important for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The General Assembly President’s Deputy Chef de Cabinet, Sofia Borges, who spoke on his behalf, called for stronger laws and stricter enforcement of them to safeguard the environment.
Envoys from 11 countries outlined the efforts of their nations and their missions to conserve the environment, many focusing on the plastic menace.
Sweden’ Permanent Representative Olog Skoog said that the recent efforts by India will have a tremendous effect globally.
Palau’s Permanent Representative said that visitors to her Pacific Island country have to take a pledge in their passports to preserve the environment before they are allowed in.
She said that India has been promoting South-South cooperation that has helped countries like hers.
Akbaruddin told IANS that the UN was working on the details of the plan for installing solar equipment at the headquarters and the costs were being determined.
The glass fronted secretariat building has 39 floors and the entire complex, which includes the General Assembly, conference and library building, covers about 250,000 square metres and is situated on about seven hectares of land overlooking the East River. (IANS)