John Kerry: Climate change cooperation can start new phase in India-US ties

Written by PTI | Washington | Updated: Jul 29 2014, 19:20pm hrs
John KerryAsserting that the solution to climate change is energy policy, John Kerry fully supports the "saffron revolution" call of PM Narendra Modi. (Reuters)
Asserting that the solution to climate change is energy policy, Secretary of State John Kerry has fully supported the "saffron revolution" call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating that cooperation between India and the US in the field would kick off a new chapter in bilateral ties.

"He (Modi) has called for a Saffron Revolution, because 'the saffron color represents energy'. He (Modi) said that 'this revolution should focus on renewable energy sources such as solar energy, to meet India's growing energy demand.

"He (Modi) is absolutely right, and together I believe that we can at last begin a new constructive chapter in the US-India climate change relationship," Kerry told an audience here yesterday.

"The United States has an immediate ability to make a difference here, and we need to eliminate the barriers that keep the best technology out of the Indian market.

"The US can help India find and develop new sources of energy through renewable technologies and greater export capacity for liquefied natural gas," Kerry said in his address to the Centre for American Progress, a US think-tank.

The US, he said, has already brought together more than 1 billion in financing for renewable energy projects.

"And with this funding, we helped to bring India's first 1,000 megawatts of solar power online. But we need to build on the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, so that American companies can start building and can start providing clean power to millions in India. And we need to build on the USD 125 million investment that we've made in a Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre," Kerry said.

Referring to the commitment of the Modi government to electrify every home in India by 2019, Kerry said with fewer limits on foreign technology and investment in India's green energy sector, they can help make clean power more cost-effective and more accessible at the same time.

"We can provide 400 million Indians with power without creating emissions that dirty the air and endanger public health. And by working together to help an entire generation of Indians leapfrog over fossil fuels, we can actually set an example to the world," said the Secretary of State.

Noting that energy policy is a solution to climate change, Kerry said the latter poses one of the biggest threats to humanity.

"Climate volatility is clearly taking a toll on India's population. And so is pollution. Of the 10 cities in the world with the worst air quality, six are in India. Each year in India, the effects of air pollution cause nearly 1.5 million deaths," he said.

"One challenge that drives home just how interconnected and interdependent we are on this planet is this challenge of a lifetime called climate change. For millions of Indians, extreme weather and resource shortages are not future threats; they are here now. They're endangering their health and prosperity and security every single day," he said.

"In India's largest rice-producing region, West Bengal, the monsoon rains have been 50 per cent lower than average this year. This comes after the monsoons all but failed last year in several Indian states, helping to cause one of the worst droughts in a generation, affecting 120 million Indians," Kerry said.

"In parts of northern India, armed bandits have imposed what amounts to a water tax, demanding 35 buckets a day. So believe me, it is not hard to measure the ways in which climate change every single day is already a catalyst for instability," he said.

"While parts of India suffer from a once-in-a-generation drought, others suffer from guess what historic rains. When I arrived in India last summer, Uttarakhand was grappling with historic floods that killed more than 5,000 people," he said.

Kerry said today's energy market is a USD 6 trillion market now, with four to five billion users, growing to nine billion users over the course of the next 30 years, by 2050.

"Just think about that. It's an opportunity for huge numbers of jobs, for transformation in the provision of our power, transformation in health, lowering the pollution, moving into the new energy sources, providing safety and security in energy so we don't have instability," he said.

"I could run on in the possibilities, not the least of which our global responsibility to stand up for and leave a cleaner, better, more sustainable Earth to our children and our grandchildren. It's a way of living up to our responsibility as stewards of the planet, which, by the way, is directed to us in every major scripture of every major religion," Kerry said.