Collaborative, not coercive: India may tango with the US on climate, but not with abandon

By: |
September 16, 2021 6:15 AM

The six largest banks in the US have publicly committed to investing $4.16 trillion to green energy transition; it must find ways to make this investment flow to developing nations like India, under friendly terms.

Some would argue that since India is the third-largest overall emitter and the US the second-largest, there is no option but for them to do this. (Representative image)Some would argue that since India is the third-largest overall emitter and the US the second-largest, there is no option but for them to do this. (Representative image)

The US won’t pressure India to commit to a net zero goal. For now. This is clear from what US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry has said so far in his latest India visit. This newspaper has long argued that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities would, in spirit, mean that developed nations including the US commit to far more ambitious climate action and net-zero deadlines. Developed nations have exhausted a big chunk of the carbon space (for keeping warming from pre-industrial levels under 1.5oC by 2100) in their pursuit of growth. Asking developing and poor nations to sacrifice poverty-alleviating growth, especially given the poor track-record of the West on funding climate-friendly growth in these nations, is a fundamentally iniquitous approach. Announcments made by Kerry and Union environment, forests and climate change minister Bhupender Yadav also signal willingness of the US to work together with India on climate. Some would argue that since India is the third-largest overall emitter and the US the second-largest, there is no option but for them to do this.

Kerry has indicated the US will assist India in hitting 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030. The ruling Democrats have introduced the Prioritizing Clean Energy and Climate Cooperation with India Act in the Senate. This will provide a framework for technology development and implementation partnership between the two countries, involving their governments, universities and the private sector. However what and how much is coming India’s way, and when, is an announcement for another day. India, while welcoming the US’s overtures, needs to ensure that this cooperation doesn’t come with caveats it can’t afford.

Kerry, even as he acknowledged that every country doesn’t have to do what the developed countries are doing, maintained that everyone has to lay out a plan on what their energy sector is going to be and how it can be net zero in 2050. There can be no denying the urgency of the global action required—the IEA’s recent roadmap to global net-zero by 2050 clearly outlines this. But, when Kerry says he expects India to make big climate-related announcements before Glasgow (where the CoP 26 commences on October 31), and urges India to “think about frankly announcing” the 450 GW renewable energy capacity by 2030 as part of India’s NDC, India must nimbly avoid pressure for action that shortchanges its other aspirations.

For its part, the US has done well to recognise India’s climate leadership and centrality to global climate action; while its verbiage signals a willingness to pivot to a give-and-take approach, it will have to understand that, in the spirit of owning up to historical responsibility, it will need to give more than take, at least for some time. It can start with fast-tracking the redemption of its obligations to The Green Climate Fund. The six largest banks in the US have publicly committed to investing $4.16 trillion to green energy transition; it must find ways to make this investment flow to developing nations like India, under friendly terms. Bear in mind, India needs $2.5 trillion to realise the 450-GW renewables target. Collaborative, not coercive, needs to be the approach.

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