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Anjali Jaiswal’s Blog

US-India “Green Partnership”

Anjali Jaiswal

Posted November 24, 2009 in Solving Global Warming

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President Obama and Prime Minister Singh just announced a "Green Partnership" focused on energy security, climate change, and food security.  This partnership is a significant step towards deepening US-India cooperation in unleashing clean-tech innovation and fighting climate change.  This announcement comes at a critical time, when the world needs leadership, cooperation, and action - especially in the lead-up to Copenhagen.

While all 10 points outlined in the US-India Green Partnership factsheet are important to building a low-carbon future and sustainable development for both countries, three points standout as breakthroughs: 

  • The US-India agreement to accelerate clean energy technologies is pivotal to lowering carbon emissions globally and creating green jobs in both nations.  Both leaders committed to jointly develop and deploy green technologies and mobilization public-private partnerships to support investments in clean technology development and implementation.  Although there isn't a dedicated monetary figure (as NRDC's President Frances Beinecke included in a set of recommendations in a letter to President Obama last week), the governmental support of such a fund builds the momentum for public-private partnerships that will drive green technology innovation.  And, hopefully, as the discussions progress, President Obama and Prime Minister Singh will increase their commitment and allocate monies to the clean energy fund.  
  • The US-India agreement to increase cooperation on climate health adaptation sets an example for the world.  The emphasis on health adaption and food security recognizes that global conversations can no longer be restricted to how to prevent climate change.  Instead, discussions must include health adaptation for climate change impacts.  These impacts already threaten the lives of millions across the globe.  Hopefully, this agreement signals greater cooperation on health adaptation in Copenhagen and beyond.   
  • The US-India agreement to have the US Environmental Protection Agency work with India's Ministry of Environment and Forests to provide technical support for Indian efforts to establish a National Environmental Protection Authority are central to environmental compliance and governance.  This new Indian agency could play an important role in India's efforts to regulate India's greenhouse gas emissions and in India's efforts to move towards cleaner energy, for instance setting cleaner standards for fuels and cars.       

At the State Dinner, President Obama quoted India's first Prime Minister Nehru, stating:

 "The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?"

Looking ahead to Copenhagen and the future as we face our climate change challenge, we ask our global leaders to ask themselves: "Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?"

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Comments

Bill LockhartNov 30 2009 05:57 PM

I'm quite disturbed by the extent to which NRDC seems to be taken in by the Indian government's PR about its climate change position and its "initiative" to develop a National Environment Protection Authority. Regarding the former, please see the Hegde article at http://www.deccanherald.com/content/37905/national-plan-climate-change-plan.html.
That article, however, seriously understates the problem. Not only is India aggressively continuing to massively expand its coal mining and thermal plant capacity. It also has been approving bauxite and iron ore mining development whose hugely destructive impacts on the environment are grossly expanded by the pollution generated by equal expansions of refining plants and smelting plants, all supported by captive thermal power plants. Before waxing starry-eyed about India's "reforms" I urge you to check out the record of disregard for basic environmental impact compliance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. NRDC could play a much more helpful role by building pressure for compliance with existing environmental protections, now almost uniformly treated as a ticket to be punched. If MOEF cares so much, why not just comply? I urge you to inform yourselves with diligence and then play an active role in encouraging real reform, not gimmicks to put the violations under another shell.

Anjali JaiswalDec 23 2009 12:20 PM

Greetings from Delhi and thanks for your comment. The concerns that you raise are central to NRDC's inquiry into the Ministry's proposal to establish a new Indian EPA. This past week in Delhi, I've been asking the same questions to practitioners and government officials. It's true that India has had environmental laws on the books since the early 1980s and these structures need strengthening. At the same time, environmental minister Jairam Ramesh is encouraging increased transparency and effectiveness in environmental governance. As the Ministry explains in its discussion paper, while Indian environmental laws have been progressive, the institutional structures in their current form are inadequate for responding to the emerging environmental challenges. The Ministry also explains that while the number and complexity of the project applications have dramatically increased, the Ministry's capacity has remained limited.

We support the goal of the Ministry's proposal to improve and increase environmental protection. Effective structures for compliance and enforcement are critical to environmental protection. In our communications with the Ministry, we have also stressed the importance of providing the basis for creating a new agency. We requested that the Ministry further analyze and provide additional information on the current institutions and governance regime in India. Such an analysis would allow examination of the current system and the need for reform. This additional analysis would allow for a more informed, rational, and broadly-supported decision by the Ministry on whether to create a new NEPA, and the structure it would take.

More effective structures with strong compliance and enforcement tools are vital to assuring meaningful review of clearance applications of the coal plants that you mention, as well as, for key clearances related to water and forestry. At this point, it is unclear whether a new agency will be established. However, we support efforts to strengthen environmental compliance and enforcement; and the Ministry's NEPA discussion paper is an opportunity to engage and to provide recommendations to increase critically needed environmental protection.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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