India finds place in the sun after energy ties with US

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One of the key takeaways of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent US visit was a strong message about India’s commitment to play a positive catalyst in the global initiative to address the menace of climate change.In his address to the US Congress, Modi made it clear that last year’s Paris climate deal that India helped broker with the Barack Obama administration was one of the cornerstones of India-US relationship.The address came a day after Modi’s seventh meeting with Obama. The two have forged a friendship that has translated into collaborations on climate change, including an amendment to the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone layer and phase out super-pollutants used in colling and refrigeration.Linking Hindu theology to climate change, Modi underlined that India’s concern for environment “is part of ancient belief”. This was not accidental. His first gesture after coming to power was to thank ‘Mother Ganga’ for choosing him to clean her.When Modi presented India nationally determined contribution—featuring a promise to use 100 GW of solar power by 2022—at Paris, it began with a hymn from the Vedas: ‘Unto Heaven be Peace, Unto the Sky and Earth be Peace, Peace be unto the Water, Unto Herbs and Trees be Peace.’ India has pledged to draw 40 per cent of its power requirement from non-fossil fuels by 2030.By launching the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to develop solar technologies, India has led from the front. Obama and Modi launched a new off-grid solar plan last week under the auspices of the ISA. Under the 20-nation Mission Innovation pact launched at Modi’s initiative, India has promised to double its clean energy R&D funding from $72 million to $145 million by 2019.The US-India agreement struck last week suggested that India would ratify the Paris deal by next year. The agreement, on parameters for an amendment under the Montreal Protocol to curb hydrofluorocarbons, is a significant shift from India’s historic opposition to phasing out the greenhouse gas.A ground-breaking development during Modi’s latest visit was the joining together of India, the US and a group of US foundations to create two innovative financing mechanisms for rooftop and distributed solar power in India—a new stage of the global energy transformation.It is heartening that energy access for the poor now tops the India-US diplomatic agenda. It has taken a year of intensive lobbying of the White House to get Obama concede that clean energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels.At the recent global Clean Energy Ministerial in San Francisco, ministers from countries making up the bulk of global clean energy investment and greenhouse gas emissions signed a series of commitments aimed at scaling up the deployment of cleaner energy sources.Unfortunately, while fossil fuels are now seen as a fading, they still remain dangerous incumbents. At the Climate Action Summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said progress has not yet reached the critical speed needed to meet global climate goals.The creation of new credit facilities to serve companies developing distributed solar projects is a step in the right direction. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have agreed to advance $1.5 billion to India. If the $60 million pledged during Modi’s US visit leverages additional private investment of $300-600 million, it could kick-start India’s rooftop solar revolution.Such initiatives are still a small component of the financial architecture needed for credit arrangements to unlock the $3 trillion that developing nations need to meet their pledges by 2030.This is ironical. The total need for urban infrastructure by 2030 will be $90 trillion. Investors, companies and banks are awash in funds seeking long-term investments. Global urbanisation, climate crisis and energy transformation make this the perfect moment for massive investment. But the coal and oil industries want to cripple the growth in clean energy. Wealthy nations should recognise that this is a time to invest in, and not strangle, the future.By launching the International Solar Alliance, India has led from the front. Under the 20-nation Mission Innovation pact launched at Modi’s initiative, India has promised to double its clean energy R&D funding.

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