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Radhika Khosla’s Blog

Opportunities to Tackle Climate Change as Secretary Kerry Heads to India

Radhika Khosla

Posted June 21, 2013 in Solving Global Warming

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Fifteen senators wrote in an open letter to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today about the opportunities to take climate change during Secretary Kerry’s upcoming visit to India for the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. The opportunities are aligned with those highlighted by NRDC’s President Frances Beinecke in her recent letter to Secretary Kerry: phasing-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), accelerating energy efficiency building and appliances, and expanding solar energy resources to meet increasing energy demand, improve energy security, and fight climate change. These opportunities can provide significant economic and environmental benefits to both countries, especially in India where a large portion of the population is extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Solar Energy Policies. To help meet rising energy demand and provide greater energy access to the country’s population, India is implementing a 12-year National Solar Mission strategy, which aims for 20 GW of grid-connected solar on the ground by 2022. Nearly 1.7 GW was installed as of March 2013. The Solar Mission has driven down the cost of solar energy to “grid parity” with diesel in India. Although much remains to be done, this progress demonstrates the potential for expansion of solar generating capacity, including off-grid generation to provide electricity to the 400 million Indians without access to power. U.S.-India collaboration can play a key role in advancing and sharing technical aspects of solar generation and innovative financing models.

Energy Efficient Buildings. Energy efficiency in buildings is another area of opportunity for U.S.-India collaboration. Already, the two countries work together through programs such as the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy Deployment. As more Indian states adopt the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), additional opportunities for collaboration exist, especially on code implementation and compliance. My colleagues Anjali Jaiswal, Srinivas Chary and Ian Kelly recently blogged about ECBC adoption by the state of Andhra Pradesh – which will help combat climate change, increase electricity reliability and security, encourage sustainable economic growth, and reduce pollution. Further, with information technologies, such as smart metering systems becoming more commonplace, additional opportunities for partnerships are on the horizon. 

Efficient, Climate-Friendly Air Conditioners. Similar opportunities exist for air conditioning. India has witnessed huge increases in the use of air conditioning in recent years. Room air conditioners (ACs) consumed 40 percent of Mumbai’s power in 2009, and with increasing room AC sales across India the total power drain is significant. Better room and automobile air conditioners are more energy efficient and replace potent global warming contributors like HFCs with more climate-friendly refrigerants. Just as the U.S. and China recently agreed to phase down the use of HFCs as refrigerants, the U.S. and India can further collaborate on this climate-critical effort. Better ACs can play a key role in reducing the strain on the electricity grid while curbing dangerous climate change.

Financing Clean Energy Projects. Cross-cutting both solar power generation and energy efficiency is the theme of financing these clean energy projects. The U.S. and India already cooperate on solar energy projects and can enhance this relationship further to grow India’s solar market. And for buildings, as more real estate developers realize that efficiency opportunities save money, building efficiency measures become more attractive in India. However, we recognize that some businesses cannot afford to make investments in energy efficiency on their own. This is where entrepreneurial financing structures and smart policy can be beneficial for both countries.

Overall, Secretary Kerry’s visit to India comes at a time when there are clear opportunities for the U.S. and India to tackle climate change together and protect populations in both countries from its adverse impacts. Developing solar power, implementing energy efficiency in buildings and appliances, and phasing down HFCs are the low hanging fruit that can provide significant economic and environmental benefits. We look forward to Secretary Kerry’s visit to India next week and to the opportunity to make a significant step forward for the environment globally.

Co-authored by Ian Kelly, NRDC Stanback fellow

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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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