In an open letter to Narendra Modi, the executive director of Greenpeace International has called on the Indian prime minister to lead the fight against climate change. Kumi Naidoo published the letter on 4 December amid ongoing climate change negotiations in Paris, saying India could lead the renewable energy revolution.

While Naidoo acknowledged Modi's position that India was not "historically responsible" for climate change, he noted "the price is being paid in India" and the "grounds for a solution" must now be laid there. He also recognised that "richer countries are still not doing enough" but said millions of people would be grateful to the prime minister if he paved the way for other countries to take increased action.

"I urge you to consider the plight of the most vulnerable people in India and around the world, and embrace that long-term goal of 100% renewable energy access for all by 2050," Naidoo wrote to Modi.

India is expected to become the biggest importer of coal in the world by 2020 as it expands its electrification. The country has maintained that it is unfair for the West to demand a shift to more expensive energy production when they are the ones who have caused climate change.

Ahead of the COP21 talks in Paris, senior negotiator Ajay Mathur said: "The entire prosperity of the world has been built on cheap energy. And suddenly we are being forced into higher cost energy. That's grossly unfair."

However, Naidoo's letter to Modi has pushed his country to take a stronger stance on climate change given the recent flooding disaster in the south of India. The state of Tamil Nadu has been battered by severe floods, with thousands being forced to flee their homes and at least 280 people being killed. Naidoo commended Modi for linking the floods to human-induced climate change and called on India to take a "heroic role" at COP21 by securing a climate deal.

The open letter also outlined the potential benefit that would come from India committing to 100% renewable energy, including the generation of millions of jobs in the clean energy sector and pointing to a transition from dirty energy jobs to clean energy jobs to ensure those working in the fossil fuel sector are not affected.

Naidoo wrote: "India can take the millions of people who are energy poor out of energy poverty much faster by relying on new technologies instead of yesterday's fuel sources. I have seen the huge potential of clean energy to change lives in India – bringing jobs, energy access, water for agriculture, and other benefits."

On 2 December, a senior Indian negotiator announced India would cut back its use of coal if the country received "more help" for producing green energy. The statement was welcomed by many other states who saw it as an increased chance for a new agreement.