India has moved centre stage with regard to climate-change talks across the world, thanks to its ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. So when former vice-president of the US and climate-change activist Al Gore brings out a sequel to his Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth this year, it would come as no surprise if India gets a good mention in it.
The real surprise, however, is the way India has been mentioned in the film titled An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in the US in January and then at the international film festival at Cannes in May. A Press Trust of India (PTI) review first referred to it as a “powerful new documentary film, which gives India’s part in the climate change movement a starring role,” and then said, “at one point, the film shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech at the November 2015 Paris Climate Conference, insisting on continuing with conventional energy so as not to put up barriers in the path of development.” India is even referred to as “the biggest holdout in the negotiations” in the documentary, PTI reported. A holdout is an entity that resists something or refuses to accept an offer.
An earlier review by The Guardian in January 2017 said, “…While the movie never quite gets into the specifics of the (Paris) agreement, it positions India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, as a villain whose economic impulses stand in direct threat to the progress the summit represents…” The paper added: “This film suggests that Gore’s back channel networking saves the day, and maybe the world.”
If the trailers are anything to go by, India doesn’t get any mention except a two-second clip of Prakash Javadekar, then environment minister of India, during the Paris Climate Change Summit, 2015. During the summit, India not only announced an ambitious target of sourcing 40 per cent of its power demand from renewable sources by 2030, but also re-iterated its right to use fossil fuel to meet the growing energy demand.
“The base load in India is coal. It cannot be anything else as we don’t have gas and without a base load we can’t even do renewable energy. We are a developing nation. We are rapidly creating infrastructure, setting up manufacturing, creating jobs for our people, setting up homes, all of which the United States and the European nations did in the last 150 years on the back of low carbon base or coal-based energy,” Piyush Goyal, minister of state for coal, mines, power and new & renewable energy had said during the 2015 Paris summit.
India’s stand was widely criticised, especially by the US, when John Kerry, the then US secretary of state, said India would be a challenge at the summit as it continues to source cheaper coal-based power. This statement of Kerry is featured in the film, going by The Hindu’s review published on Tuesday.
“Through India, the film also addresses the developing-versus-developed-world debate over carbon emission and energy issues. There is Piyush Goyal (in a footage of a meeting with Al Gore in Delhi) asking for the right to the same carbon space that the developed world has been occupying for 150 years,” said the review by The Hindu.
In November 2015, when Paris negotiations were going on, Goyal was reportedly saying, “Having already developed their nations, they have now realised the inconvenient truth after finding low-cost shale gas. I think it’s very important that the world recognises what Prime Minister Narendra Modi articulated as convenient action.”
Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth won documentary Oscar in 2007. Some predictions made in the documentary such as ocean water flooding New York City turned out to be true.