The writer is the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and former mayor of New York City.
The last time I visited India was shortly before I was elected mayor of New York City in 2001. Now, as India's role on the global stage is rapidly growing, I'm going back. Here's why:
- Climate Leadership. While much of the world has yet to recognize it, India has become a leader in the global effort to confront climate change. Its voice will be critical to the ongoing conversation that is occurring in advance of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of this year. As the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, I am working to build support for the climate talks. Part of that work involves helping national leaders recognize how much progress can be made if they empower their cities to take action -- an idea that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is strongly committed to.
- Solar Power. During President Obama's visit to India last month, Prime Minister Modi re-iterated his commitment to expanding India's clean energy production, and he has set a highly ambitious goal: boosting the share of solar power in India's energy mix from less than 1 percent to more than 10 percent by 2022. The goal is driven by another goal: providing electricity to the hundreds of millions of Indians who currently don't have it. In fact, Prime Minister Modi aims to distribute solar panels to every "off the grid" household. It's a monumental task, but if successful, it will serve as a powerful model for other countries around the world. At the same time, India is developing solar power plants that will provide power that is cheaper than imported coal.
During my visit, I'll give a speech at a clean energy conference and meet with the industry and government leaders who are attending, who hold the key to India's clean energy future. Together, they have a unique opportunity: proving that that large, developing nations can skip over dirtier forms of energy and move straight to cleaner sources, like solar power. Such a leap will not only benefit the environment and public health, it will also saves billions of dollars by reducing the need for the construction of transmission lines.
- Smart Cities. India is undergoing urbanization at an astonishing rate. By 2030, nearly 600 million Indians will live in cities. Prime Minister Modi has recognized that these new, larger cities can be leaders in sustainable development. He's supporting an initiative to create "Smart Cities" throughout India, where investments in modern infrastructure will create new jobs and attract new investment. While there, I look forward to continuing the conversation the Prime Minister and I began together at the UN General Assembly last September, when we first began discussing our interest in sustainable economic development.
- Road Safety. Road crashes are especially problematic in India, where more than 230,000 people are killed in traffic accidents every year. My foundation has been working to improve road safety in countries where the problem is most severe, including India, by decreasing drinking and driving, improving dangerous roads, strengthening enforcement of traffic laws, and promoting mass transit.
During my time as mayor, road safety was an integral part of our public safety agenda -- and we had great success reducing the number of deaths on the road. Some of the steps we took -- like redesigning intersections to better protect pedestrians -- can work in places like Mumbai, which we have just designated as one of 10 cities participating in the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety.
- India's Youth. India is the largest democracy and the second largest country in the world. It is also one of the youngest countries: about half of its population is under the age of 25. This generation is coming of age at a time when India's economy has recently become the fastest growing in the world, which can help lift millions of people out of poverty. The future looks bright for India, and as the owner of a global business, a philanthropist who is committed to improving lives around the planet, and an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, I am hopeful that the U.S.-India relationship will continue to grow stronger.
When it comes to the defining issues of our future, India will have a seat at the table. This week, I'm looking forward to sitting down with leaders inside and outside of government who are committed to capitalizing on India's opportunities, which have never been greater.