On 2nd November 2019 the German news website tagesschau.de reported a state visit by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to India. Mrs Merkel attended the annual general meeting of the Deutsch-Indischen Handelskammer (Indo-German Chamber of Commerce) in New Delhi, where she spoke of German economic investment in India for the modernization of infrastructure, such as new high speed rail connections.
Mrs Merkel also spoke about German investments of one billion euros over a five year period for sustainable mobility, including electric buses that would replace older diesel powered vehicles. During Mrs Merkel’s visit the Indian government declared a health emergency caused by smog in New Dehli. The smog had a number of contributing factors including the burning of stubble in fields in the surrounding countryside after the harvest, the burning of refuse heaps, dust from building sites, and emissions from factories as well as the emissions from the millions of fossil fuel vehicles on the streets of the city.
The smog emergency in New Dehli came at a time when India was already thinking of how the country should tackle the air pollution problem. During the last day of her visit Mrs Merkel was shown an underground station powered by solar energy. At this station battery powered electric rickshaws are now available for commuters to hire for the last leg of their journey.
The consequences of climate change in Europe and India will be an important factor in any future trade negotiations between the EU and India. India has a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. In 2013 the EU and India failed to reach a free trade agreement, but during her visit Mrs Merkel indicated that the EU and India should make another attempt at an agreement. The Chancellor also said the German government would make it easier for skilled workers from India to emigrate to Germany.
Negotiations between the EU and India could restart in 2020 as the UK is leaving the EU. This would mean both the UK and EU separately trying to negotiate their own free trade deals with India at the same time. However the recent smog emergency in New Dehli will focus the minds of Indian negotiators on air quality and climate change to a greater extent than during previous free trade negotiations. The tagesschau website said that according to scientific research, there are at least one million premature deaths every year in Indian conurbations caused by air pollution.
©Jolyon Gumbrell 2019