Obama in India: What it means for climate action…

President Obama's upcoming visit to India represents a tremendous opportunity to shift the global economy towards low-carbon economic pathways, say experts at the World Resources Institute.

Although India is the world’s third-largest emitter, it is still relatively under developed and under-industrialized – producing a quarter of the emissions of China, and one tenth of the US ona per capita basis. As such its developing infrastructure offers the opportunity to build sustainability systems, without having to tear down old ones.


Currently, a quarter of India’s populations has no access to electricity – a situation which the Indian government has pledged to rectify completely by 2019.

Renewables will play major part in this process, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has committed to increasing solar power to 100GW by 2022 — 30 times the current level and five times the previous renewable energy target.

Aside from the planet, British solar suppliers also stand to benefit from the $100bn plan, as REA head of on-site Mike Landy said: “There will be opportunities for UK companies – which are now amongst the most innovative worldwide – to capitalise on the experience they have gained in the UK’s growth market to compete for a share of India’s investment.

Writing on the WRI blog, David Waskow and Manish Bapna also praised Modi’s plans to build 100 ‘Smart Cities’ which could save £3trn in the next 15 years, if adopted round the world.

The space-saving cities free up land for agricultural use, cut transport emissions and fuel costs and lend themselves to more efficient heating systems.

Paris 2015

“You cannot achieve a successful international climate agreement through the Paris negotiations if the major emitters are not coming to the table with ambitious programs. The United States, China and India are at the front of that line,” said US deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes ahead of the trip.

After the US and China agreed a deal in November which will see China cap its emissions output by 2030, and the US cut its emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, the pressure is building on India to step into line.

The WRI suggest that Obama and Modi could build momentum for an ambitious agreement in Paris, by establishing an “open, direct line of communication between the countries’ highest levels of government”.

Trade Agreements

Obama and Modi are also expected to discuss renewables trade agreements; after all, $100bn of solar panels have to come from somewhere.

WRI suggest a mutually beneficial approach would be to develop a long-term commercial strategy for resolving thorny issues such as requirements for domestically made solar panels and access for U.S.-made panels, in conjunction with a substantial increase in US investment to help India reach its solar production goal.

Another potential step posited by WRI would be to launch a major initiative on ensuring universal access to data and information on the impacts of a warmer world, particularly with the increasing drought risks faced by India.

Brad Allen

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