India is key to US climate ambitions, and Quad can help

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar attends Quad meeting in Tokyo, 10/6/20. (Ron Przysucha, US Department of State, public domain)

Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the United States this week as part of the Quad’s first in-person rally represents a critical opportunity for the Biden-Harris administration to accelerate the Quad’s cooperation on climate change ahead of the summit COP26 next month. But the administration will soon have to go beyond visits and working groups.

Achieving the climate and geopolitical ambitions of the United States and its allies, in particular their fellow members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad): Japan, Australia and India, will require the administration and its members. allies that they offer more substantial support for decarbonization in the Indo-Pacific. Nowhere is this support more critical in terms of global decarbonization and US geopolitical interests than in India.

India is already the world’s third-largest emitter and will account for the largest share of the growth in global energy demand through 2050, with demand set to double due to a huge and growing population, increased access to energy. energy and a rise in temperature which increases energy consumption. energy consumption per capita. Coal continues to account for more than half of the country’s total primary energy and about 70% of electricity production. The coal industry is also extremely important to the Indian economy and government; the government owns and operates the world’s largest coal mining company, and the sector provides significant revenue to central and state governments.

However, the Modi government’s significant commitments to increase clean energy capacity to 220 gigawatts by 2022 and reach 450 gigawatts of capacity by 2030 are starting to bear fruit: in August, the country exceeded 100 GW of non-hydro renewable energy deployed.

Nonetheless, the rapid increase in energy demand and the political and economic inertia slowing the transition from dependence on coal will make India’s transition to a zero carbon energy system intimidating and perhaps the biggest challenge facing it. faced with global decarbonization. And although renewable energy sources are getting cheaper day by day, India’s energy transition will require massive investment in clean power generation capacity and power transmission infrastructure for no not only to meet new demand, but also to replace existing coal power. The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on India have put continued investments in the country’s clean energy transition at risk, with human and financial impacts limiting capital and government focusing on public health even as concerted efforts of decarbonization are the most needed.

The United States and its allies should ensure that India has the resources it needs to decarbonise quickly, even in the face of this public health crisis. First, decarbonization here will be useless if it is not accompanied by decarbonization abroad. Further, Washington would be wise to consider how the support, or lack thereof, for India’s success will be an important signal about the depth of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to leadership in matters. global climate action, especially in a part of the world where such leadership is needed most.

The recently announced U.S.-India Clean Energy and Climate Action Agenda partnership, and Special Climate Envoy John Kerry’s visit to India last week to kick off the dialogue on climate action and the financial mobilization of the Partnership, were crucial first steps to strengthen ties between the two countries ahead of COP26. in Glasgow and signaled the United States’ growing priority for climate cooperation and supporting energy transitions in developing countries. But with the continued impact of COVID-19 and the dual priorities of decarbonization and development straining the region’s resources, several challenges at the heart of India’s energy transition, including market design, Grid development and the empowerment of a nascent clean energy technology sector – will be major hurdles that require a more robust approach.

Here, the Quad provides an important opportunity for the Biden-Harris administration to improve its support for India’s energy transition away from coal and the deployment of clean energy infrastructure. Having developed the Quad out of shared interests in regional security, the Quad nations also share an interest in developing transparent and secure energy markets in the region. The four also represent several of the largest economies in the wider Indo-Pacific and bring a variety of experiences that, as a group, can be harnessed to maximize the value, depth and speed of decarbonization of the world. ‘India.

Clean energy technologies should be at the center of Quad’s efforts, not only given the importance of deploying enough clean technology to meet climate goals, but also as associated supply chains take on greater importance. geopolitical importance for the Quad. Although the supply chains fueling the energy transition are only just beginning to emerge, the Quad can use the power of investment and technical support to help create sustainable, resilient and well-governed supply chains in the world. Indo-Pacific, which will also allow the ally greater leverage to countries to support broader clean energy transitions in the region.

In this context, the Quad must do more to support India’s clean energy transition in order to consolidate the momentum behind geopolitical and climate goals, and a key element of this will be funding the deployment of clean energy in India. . With the capital backed by Quad and access to financing opportunities, an India that is empowered in clean energy opportunities would be a huge boost to decarbonization in South Asia and strengthen Quad’s credibility in the region. as a key partner in clean energy technology and market development as China continues to dominate the industry. If India’s transition will require a significant investment of time and capital, the price of inaction would be higher, both for the planet and for the geopolitical interests of the United States and the Quad.

Reed Blakemore is Deputy Director and David W. Yellen is Deputy Director at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.

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