India to ratify climate agreement on Gandhi’s birthday

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 near Paris on Nov. 30, 2015. Photo by Stephane Mahe/Reuters

India, the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, plans to ratify the Paris climate agreement on Sunday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the ratification would take place on the anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, recognized as the father of modern India.

The world's two largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, China and the United States, ratified the agreement earlier this month, along with about 30 others, at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

The Paris agreement, which commits countries to keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, requires 55 countries to ratify it before it can go into effect. More than 60 countries have done so.

But it also needs the participating countries to account for 55 percent of the world's total emissions before it can go into force. India emits about 5 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, bringing the total closer to the goal — to about 52 percent.

India's Cabinet paved the way for the ratification earlier this week.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through a spokesman, praised the "swift action" by India.

But according to the World Health Organization, efforts to combat air pollution in India, a country of 1.3 billion people, and elsewhere "can't come soon enough."

About 3 million deaths per year are connected to outdoor exposure to air pollution and about 3.5 million are attributed to indoor air pollution, such as from improperly ventilated wood fires, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.

They amount to about 12 percent of all global deaths, with most occurring in low- to middle-income countries, according to the U.N. agency.

"Air pollution continues to take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations — women, children and the older adults," said WHO's Assistant Director General Flavia Bustreo.

Sources of air pollution come from human activities such as waste burning and coal-fired power plants, but also natural events such as dust storms, WHO said.

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