Rich countries must not impose end to 'conventional energy': India PM

LE BOURGET, France - Rich countries should not force the developing world to abandon fossil fuels completely, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday (Nov 30) at the UN climate summit in Paris.

"We still need conventional energy - we need to make it clean, not impose an end to its use," said Modi, who has argued India will continue to need coal to power its rapid economic growth.

Almost a third of India's population remains in severe poverty with limited access to electricity, and its government sees little chance of boosting their prospects without turning to cheap and plentiful coal.

The balance between limiting carbon emissions and allowing industrial development in poor countries is set to be a central debate during the Nov 30-Dec 11 climate talks in Paris.

"We hope advanced nations will assume ambitious targets and pursue them sincerely. It's not just a question of historical responsibility - they also have the most room to make the cuts and make the strongest impact," Modi told the gathering of world leaders.

"The prosperous still have a strong carbon footprint and the world's billions at the bottom of the development ladder are seeking space to grow," he said.

Echoing demands made earlier by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Modi called on rich nations to meet their commitment to muster US$100 billion (S$141 billion) a year from 2020 to help poor countries cope with climate change.

"Developed countries must fulfil their responsibility to make clean energy available, affordable and accessible to all of the developing world," Modi said.