NEW DELHI -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged India on Sunday to begin to address climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases even as it attempts to bring electricity to tens of millions of its citizens now living without it.
"I do understand and fully sympathize with the notion that India's paramount commitment to development and eradicating poverty is essential," Mr. Kerry said in a speech at the start of a two-day visit. "But we have to recognize that a collective failure to meet our collective climate challenge would inhibit all countries' dreams of growth and development."
In an effort to prod the Indians to act, Mr. Kerry warned that climate change could cause India to endure excessive heat waves, prolonged droughts, intense flooding and shortages of food and water. His speech was part of a broader push by the Obama administration that includes a presidential address, scheduled for Tuesday, on steps the White House plans to take domestically.
President Barack Obama is also expected to pledge to lead a global effort to reduce climate-altering emissions and help both the poorest nations and newly industrializing countries like India adapt to the inevitable costs of a warming planet.
India is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gases in the world, and it has consistently rejected efforts by developed countries to slow down its energy consumption, fearing that it would retard its economic growth and hamper its drive to reduce poverty. India now ranks third in the world in production of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent heat-trapping gas, behind China and the United States.
Mr. Kerry also pleaded with India to commit to working constructively on a global treaty to be negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. India has shown some reluctance to fully engage in the negotiations, out of fear that a global regime would impose the greatest cost on countries least able to afford them. Mr. Kerry tried to reassure India that any such pact would take its needs into account.