India and the U.S. Can Lead the Way Forward for Climate Solutions
Posted March 11, 2013
The concern regarding changing weather patterns is growing across the U.S. At my recent visit to Concord, New Hampshire to speak at the Way Forward Climate Solutions Conference, the theme of the day was to discuss the ways in which countries around the world are addressing climate change impacts. It was clear from the discussions that U.S. leadership with action at home and international partnership was key to making progress. The conference focused on varying solutions to carbon pollution - in India, China, Germany, Mexico and Canada as well as on what is needed in the U.S. As the continental U.S. recovers from recent extreme weather events last year – the hottest year on record, the worst drought in half a century and Hurricane Sandy – the time for countries to take coordinated climate action is now. President Obama articulated this need for action in his 2013 State of the Union address emphasizing that the costs from climate change will continue to rise unless the U.S. takes a stand. Prominent global economies like the U.S. and India, both of which are experiencing the damage from extreme weather caused by climate change, can work together to be leaders in advancing clean energy solutions, address energy security, and grow their economies while protecting communities. The upcoming Clean Energy Ministerial and the US-India Track II discussions in New Delhi this April can be an important opportunity to achieve these outcomes.
In the U.S., there is a growing public consensus on wanting more action on clean energy. According to a November 2012 Texas A&M Poll, 59% of Americans support increased funding for research and development of renewable energy sources and 60% support tax cuts for companies to develop renewable energy technologies. Additionally, 78% of the public strongly favors better fuel efficiency for cars and trucks. At the New Hampshire conference last week, the participation by representatives from all of New Hampshire’s Washington DC Congressional delegation, 20 members of the New Hampshire House, policy experts, environmental groups and the over-capacity public attendance underlined the support for federal climate change action. Other global economies also have strong public support for advancing clean energy solutions and some are already ahead of the curve in showing leadership on these issues.
For example, in Germany, feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy provide a strong price signal to the market. In China, the country’s leaders have made a strong national commitment to tackling climate change. Similarly in Mexico, the law on climate change aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 30% from business-as-usual levels by 2020 and by 50% by 2050. The carbon tax, levied on the carbon content of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, is another policy tool being implemented by countries around the world - British Columbia, Ireland, Australia, Japan and Sweden - which can also lead to overall economic growth.
India, with a projected annual GDP growth rate of 7-9%, recognizes the challenge of ensuring development for its people and providing energy security, while reducing the impacts of climate change as a top priority. To maintain this growth rate, India’s energy consumption is projected to increase by 54 percent between 2011 and 2020. This skyrocketing energy demand also means a huge potential rise in India’s GHG emissions – and the country is already amongst the largest emitters globally of GHGs. At the same time, India is also extremely vulnerable to climate change consequences such as rising temperatures and extreme weather events, increasing fluctuations in monsoon patterns, melting of the Himalayan glaciers and threats to India’s water security, sea level rise and harmful impacts on the coastal economy and livelihood. The Indian Government and local stakeholders, as we see with our partners in India, are stepping up to the climate change challenge and working hard to take action and move towards a clean energy future. The country’s National Action Plan on Climate Change and advances on energy efficiency and the solar market are a testament to this commitment. Effective implementation of the plan’s objectives will be crucial in determining their success.
The partnership between India and the U.S. can play a key role in both countries achieving the goals of protecting lives from impending climate disasters. The two countries have a history of shared values and a good working relationship, and can be a model of cooperation on climate change and energy. Indian stakeholders look to the U.S. for leadership and want to see U.S. climate action on the domestic front as well as internationally, which further encourages India to play a constructive role as an emerging power. The two countries signed the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy in 2009 and President Obama and Prime Minister Singh launched the $50 million Indo-U.S. Clean Energy Research and Deployment Center in 2010. The Center is exemplary of the mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries.
Our work in India with local partners, the government and the private sector underscores the importance of coordinated stakeholder action to fight climate change and find solutions. This is analogous with NRDC’s overall international work in other countries such as China, Latin America and Canada, and with NRDC’s work on fighting climate change in the U.S. as well. Developing countries around the world are working hard to protect their communities from the negative impacts of increased GHG gases. These countries are also looking to the U.S. leadership to fight climate change internationally and at home. America and India can be partners in fighting climate change together, and key successes can be achieved next month in April at the Clean Energy Ministerial and the US-India Track II discussions in New Delhi. The unique occasion of having both government and non-government leaders from India and the U.S. together can be the opportunity for breakthroughs in the action steps taken by the two countries on climate change mitigation and adaptation, both domestically and internationally.