At G-7, India Commits to Protect Freedom of Expression, Calls for Energy Access Amid Rising Prices

India, along with four developing nations and the G-7 members, pledged to work together to curb climate change while ensuring energy security for their citizens.

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New Delhi: At the G-7 Summit, India signed onto a joint statement to protect freedom of expression and opinion “online and offline”. Additionally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged for equal access to energy for the poor amidst soaring oil prices due to the war in Ukraine.

Modi had been invited along with leaders of Indonesia, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina to attend two sessions of the G-7 summit in Germany.

At the end of the summit, the G-7 members and the invited countries jointly released a statement on “resilient democracies”

The document, also signed by India, asserts that the signatories would remain “steadfast in our commitment to defending peace, human rights, the rule of law, human security and gender equality”.

“We hail all courageous defenders of democratic systems that stand against oppression and violence, and will step up international cooperation to improve the resilience of democratic societies globally,” it said.

The document lists commitments under four categories – global responsibility of democracies, defence of open debate, protection of civil society and promoting equal representation.

Under promotion of open debate, the signatories resolved to “protecting the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline and ensuring a free and independent media landscape through our work with relevant international initiatives”.

Further, the joint statement committed to guarding the freedom of civil society actors and respecting freedom of association and peaceful assembly. The document also called for advancing programmes for protection of human rights defenders, promoting academic freedom and strengthening the role of scientific evidence and research in democratic debate.

The first session of G-7 summit that Modi attended was on ‘Investing in a Better Future: Climate, Energy, Health’.

All of you will also agree with this that energy access should not be the privilege of the rich only – a poor family also has the same rights on energy. And today, when energy costs are sky-high due to geo-political tensions, it is more important to remember this thing,” Modi said, referring to the economic consequences of the Ukraine war.

Earlier in the address, he extolled that India’s “lifestyle” is key to India’s low emissions, rather than poverty, as mentioned by other experts. “17% of the world’s population resides in India. But, our contribution to global carbon emissions is only 5%. The main reason behind this is our lifestyle, which is based on the theory of co-existence with nature,” he said.

India, along with four developing nations and the G-7 members, also pledged to work together to curb climate change while ensuring energy security for their citizens.

In a Chair’s statement released by Germany, the leaders emphasised the need to accelerate a “clean and just energy transition”.

The statement cited an agreement last year between several rich nations and South Africa that would see the country receive help to end its heavy reliance on coal and ramp up the use of renewable energy.

The statement said similar partnerships are being discussed with other developing countries, including India.

According to Associated Press, the statement’s cautious language — referring to the need to “phase down unabated coal” — reflects concerns, particularly by India.

“Leaders agreed to explore options for decarbonising the energy mix and accelerating the transition from dependency on fossil fuels, as well as for rapidly expanding clean and renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. This includes phasing down coal while increasing the share of renewable energies in the energy mix. Leaders agreed that phasing down unabated coal and scaling up clean and renewable energies needs to be environmentally and socially just, acknowledging contributions by approaches such as circular economy,” said the statement.

Besides, the leaders also endorsed Germany’s initiative for a ‘Climate club’ – allowing for countries to dodge climate-related trade tariffs if they have ambitious pollution targets.

Later in the day, Modi also attended another session on food security and gender equality.

Along with his multilateral meetings, Modi had several bilateral encounters on the sidelines of the G-7 summit.

Among the G-7 members, he met with his host, Chancellor Olaf Schulz and the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. There were no separate meetings with US president Joe Biden, but they shared pleasantries during the photo session.

Modi meets Trudeau

The meeting with the Canadian PM was significant as it was their first meeting since India had objected to Trudeau’s remarks about the farmers’ movement in 2020. India had pushed back and vehemently objected to his words, with relations essentially frozen for over six months. The bilateral relationship had already been rocky since Trudeau’s controversial visit to India in 2018.

When Trudeau was re-elected, the Indian PM had extended congratulations, which indicated a thaw in ties.

According to an MEA spokesperson, the two leaders “agreed to expand” trade and economic linkages, cooperation in security and counter-terrorism, and people-to-people ties.

The Indian PM also had meetings with his counterparts from Indonesia, South Africa, Argentina and the European Commission President.

(With agency inputs)

Note: This article has been updated since publication with additional information.