India-US Joint Statement- Climate: In halfway meeting, both nations come a long way

Climate change has been dear to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama who, along with some other global leaders, played a crucial role in ensuring that a new post-2020 climate agreement was successfully negotiated in Paris last December.

Written by Sushant Singh | Updated: June 9, 2016 2:11 am
Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. PTI Photo by Kamal Kishore Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. (Source: PTI)

India has agreed to a major commitment on a proposed amendment to the ozone-saving Montreal Protocol, and the US has responded with a pledge of at least $ 30 million to support deployment of clean and renewable energy in India.

A substantial part of the Joint Statement signed by the two countries on Tuesday is dedicated to strengthening cooperation in the areas of clean energy and renewables, providing further evidence that climate change and related issues have emerged as one of the strongest cementing factors in India-US relationship over the last few years.

Climate change has been dear to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama who, along with some other global leaders, played a crucial role in ensuring that a new post-2020 climate agreement was successfully negotiated in Paris last December. The two have also been very keen to change the impression about their own countries being laggards on this front. The US never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the existing climate agreement that will be replaced in 2020 by the one negotiated in Paris, while India, for years, was seen as blocking progress on negotiations because it refused to take on responsibility for its growing emissions.

The Joint Statement is one more example of a series of give-and-take arrangements the two countries have had on climate issues. India agreed to work towards adopting an important amendment to the 1989 Montreal Protocol that banned the use of ozone-depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The amendment will bring hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), commonly used as refrigerants and coolants, within the ambit of the Montreal Protocol. HFCs came to be used as substitutes to CFCs. HFCs are not ozone-depleting, but are very potent greenhouse gases, with global warming potential hundreds or thousands of times more than that of carbon dioxide.

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India and some other countries wanted HFCs to be dealt with by the climate change regime like the Kyoto Protocol, and were opposing any move to amend the Montreal Protocol to include a phasing out of HFCs. However, many other countries, including the US, wanted the Montreal Protocol amended since it has been extremely effective.

India had agreed to amend the Montreal Protocol last year and put forward its own proposal for an amendment. That proposal, along with several others, is under discussion. The promise in the Joint Statement is the first categorical commitment by India to adopt an amendment to the Protocol this year itself.

In return, the US has offered to contribute half the money in two newly-created funds to drive greater investment in India’s renewable energy sector. A $ 20 million US-India Clean Energy Finance Initiative, with equal contributions from both sides, aims to mobilise about $ 400 million from the market to provide clean, renewable and decentralised power to 1 million Indian households by 2020.

Another equally-contributed $ 40 million fund, called the US-India Catalytic Solar Finance Programme, hopes to provide initial capital for smallscale renewable energy investments in small villages that are not connected to the grid. It aims to fund projects worth $ 1 billion.

In addition, the two countries agreed to set up a Clean Energy Hub to coordinate efforts by the US government to increase renewable energy investment in India. The US also offered to join the International Solar Alliance, an Indian-led initiative to bring solar energy-endowed countries to move towards greater use of solar energy.

India, on its part, said it remained committed to the US-led ‘Mission Innovation’ programme launched in Paris last year. Both countries said they would double their R&D investment in clean energy over the next five years. They also announced the launch of a $ 30 million public-private research effort in smart grid and grid storage.

“Modi and Obama deserve credit for not shying away from historically contentious issues, like curbing dangerous hydrofluorocarbons. The announcements signal that the US and India are overcoming the few remaining differences between them,” Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the Washington-based World Resources Institute said in an emailed communication.

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