India-US Climate Partnership Holds Promise For Clean Energy Transition And Global Collaboration: Experts

By PTI June 24, 2023

According to experts, US cooperation with India will also lessen the US' reliance on China for affordable solar panels

India-US Climate Partnership Holds Promise For Clean Energy Transition And Global Collaboration: Experts
PM Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden . Twitter/@MEAIndia

As India takes a leading role in the global South, its climate partnership with the United States will bring climate action to the forefront and it can also contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future for both countries and the world at large, experts said on Friday.

Emphasising the importance of technology transfer, investments and collaboration in critical sectors, such as renewable energy and electric vehicles, they said the bilateral collaboration is an opportunity for both countries to address the global challenge of climate change while reaping economic benefits.

India is the only G20 country that has fulfilled all the promises it made in Paris on climate change, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday at a joint news conference with US President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House, asserting that India will not only fulfil its responsibilities but will also help others, including the US, in this critical area.

Biden said climate change is the most serious problem facing human beings. "We have to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have made enormous progress here in the United States in dealing with this issue," he added.

R R Rashmi, Distinguished Fellow and Programme Director at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), said the statements of Modi and Biden focus on promoting technological collaboration to facilitate a faster and cleaner energy transition.

The goal is not merely financial transfers or emission reduction, but rather encouraging the countries falling behind to do more, he said.

"So the bottom line or the hidden message there is that the other countries that are falling behind should do more.... In fact, he (Modi) did say the developed countries have caused damage to the environment. So, in a way, he was referring to the fact that the developed countries and the people in those countries should adopt policies to bring down their consumption emissions," Rashmi said.

At the Paris climate talks in 2015, countries agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as compared to the pre-industrial levels to avoid extreme, destructive and likely irreversible effects of climate change.

Earth's global surface temperature has risen by around 1.15 degrees Celsius and the carbon dioxide (CO2) spewed into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution is closely tied to it. In the business-as-usual scenario, the world is heading for a temperature rise of around 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Climate science says the world must halve emissions by 2030 from the 2009 levels to keep the chances of achieving the 1.5-degrees target alive.

Developing countries argue that wealthier nations should take greater responsibility for emission reductions, given their historical emissions, and provide the necessary means of implementation -- finance, technology and capacity building -- to assist developing and vulnerable nations in transitioning to clean energy and adapting to climate change.

Chandrabhushan, founder and CEO of the International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST), emphasised the significance of the India-US partnership in achieving New Delhi's updated and ambitious climate goals, which include reducing the emission intensity of its GDP by 45 per cent by 2030 as against the earlier target of 33-35 per cent (compared to the 2005 emission levels) and achieving 50 per cent cumulative installed electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources (including nuclear) by 2030.

He highlighted the importance of technology transfer, particularly in critical minerals, battery technology and renewable energy, drawing parallels with the ongoing success of the "Make in India" initiative in the defence sector.

Chandrabhusan also stressed the need for large-scale investments at reasonable interest rates, which are more readily available in the US.

"The US being the largest shareholder in the World Bank can influence its lending policies for climate investment in developing countries," he said.

The climate policy expert said the collaboration with India will also reduce the US' dependence on China for low-cost solar panels.

"Currently, the US is dependent on China for the import of solar panels as Beijing is producing those at a cheaper rate. But so can India. Because India's labour cost is low, it can produce the same thing and supply it to the US at a lower cost. So it is mutual. They have cutting-edge technology and we have a large manpower and affordable manufacturing cost," he said.

Aarti Khosla, director of Climate Trends, said establishing the India-US relationship as a key pillar of climate action assumes particular importance in the current context of strained US-China relations.

Khosla highlighted the potential for collaboration between the two countries in finance mobilisation, technology and innovation, particularly in sectors such as electric vehicles, wind power and battery technology.

"With India's big commitment on renewable targets, green hydrogen and electric vehicles, there are a lot of similarities between how the US and India can help each other on finance mobilisation, and also on technology and innovation when it comes to sectors like electric vehicles or wind power or battery technology. And that definitely keeps a lot of room for collaboration given that the India-US vibe is quite positive at the moment," she told PTI.

Involving the business sector in climate discussions can lead to mobilisation of private capital for combatting climate change globally, Khosla said.

"The presence of business delegations at the White House dinner also speaks about the importance of corporate sector business investments in actually meeting what is said in statements on combatting climate change.

"Maybe that is going to be the future where private capital and investment can be mobilised in a better way and not just for India, but also for the global South. Because that is India's big intention -- to be the voice of the global South. So if India is able to secure some investment, technology and innovation for itself, and also make sure how it gets passed on to other countries of the global South, I think it is a long-term play and also meets America's criteria of a bulwark against China," she said.

According to Sameer Kwatra, policy director, India, International Programme, Natural Resources Defence Council, and Vyom Jha, senior advocate, NRDC, India has prioritised delivering a "Green Development Pact" as a pillar of its G20 presidency, which presents an opportunity for the US to provide a political commitment to reform the international financial system for equitable and resilient development aligned with the Paris Agreement.

The US can leverage its influence to drive critical and meaningful reforms in international financial institutions and multilateral development banks with innovative financing tools to enable greater climate action, Kwatra and Jha said.

The US can and should make emerging climate and clean-energy technologies widely available for other countries, especially hydrogen and other battery and energy-storage technologies. Platforms such as the India-US Hydrogen Task Force and India-US Strategic Clean Energy Partnership could be leveraged to support the large-scale integration of renewable energy needed for the clean energy transition in India, they added.

Miniya Chatterji, founding director, Anant School for Climate Action, said, "Prime Minister Modi supports the India-US New and Emerging Renewable Energy Technologies Action Platform. India's focus on hydrogen will accelerate the India-US cooperation in green hydrogen. However, India will need support from the US for know-how and financing technologies, such as carbon capture, usage and storage."

Abinash Mohanty, sector head of Climate Change and Sustainability at IPE Global, stressed the importance of fostering technological and financial partnerships with countries like the US to position India as a global hub for climate solutions, saying such partnerships, amid geopolitical tensions, are crucial for decarbonising economies through a just transition that addresses the trinity of jobs, growth and sustainability.