Obama and Modi's Opportunity to Strengthen U.S.-India Clean Energy and Climate Cooperation


President Barack Obama heads to India to celebrate Republic Day on January 26th with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Climate change and clean energy are priority areas of discussion as the two leaders meet during this unprecedented second visit to India by a U.S. president. A primary focus of this meeting should be accelerating action on the agreement the two leaders reached during their summit in Washington DC last fall.

Since the fall summit, Prime Minister Modi's administration announced a 100 gigawatt solar energy target--increasing the current 20 gigawatt by 2022 gigawatt by five-fold. The new target and its demonstrated commitment to growing India's renewable energy markets presents a huge opportunity to increase U.S.-India cooperation on clean energy, increase energy access in India, and fight climate change. With a focus on technology, finance and policy innovations, U.S. companies and others can expand their presence and thrive in India's burgeoning clean energy market as well.

In advance of the Obama-Modi summit, NRDC President Rhea Suh sent a letter emphasizing cooperation on clean energy and climate change and urging areas for accelerated action. Highlights from the letter include:

The United Sates should work with India to strengthen solar and wind markets through technology, finance and policy innovations. The United States and India can build on the productive US-India dialogue on clean energy and energy efficiency, and the recent Export-Import Bank agreement, to support clean energy projects in India by scaling innovative financing, such as green banks and green bonds. The two nations should foster increased bilateral business engagement by developing policy mechanisms that drive foreign investment and exports while supporting energy access and robust clean energy markets.

In addition to taking greater action to provide clean energy access, we urge you to accelerate action in three additional areas. First, we urge you to continue building momentum on the bilateral progress on phasing down heat-trapping HFCs--moving toward a global HFCs agreement this year--through task force discussions on technical knowledge exchange, phasedown timetable, and amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Second, as climate change impacts are already bearing down on vulnerable communities globally, the US and India should create a joint platform on resilience planning for life-threatening floods, heat waves and other climate disasters. Third, to augment both nations' efforts to improve air quality and protect human health, the US and India should create a working group to share scientific, technological and health research.

India is a crucial partner in the global effort to fight climate change. As an emerging global leader and economic force, the country's rapid growth and growing energy consumption have important implications for greenhouse gas emissions globally. Meanwhile the impacts of climate change are already bearing down on vulnerable communities in India and around the world. A U.S.-India strategic partnership is essential for advancing low-carbon economies, increasing energy security and preparing for the worst effects of climate change in both countries.

Last fall's summit made huge strides in shoring up a strong foundation of bilateral cooperation on clean energy and climate change between the U.S. and India. Many U.S. companies play an active role in India's growing clean energy market as well. With Prime Minister Modi's focus on public health and energy access, particularly solar energy, the United States and India can provide joint leadership in advancing clean energy and climate change solutions.

As two of the largest democracies in the world come together to celebrate India's Republic Day, the United States and India must strengthen their collective resolve to address one of the greatest challenges facing humanity--climate change. Our leaders' choices now has the power to shape our future for decades to come. Strengthening and expanding the U.S.' relationship with India to accelerate action and leadership in addressing climate change has never been more urgent--with the new climate change accord to be signed at the end of the year in Paris. We'll be watching to see what our leaders can deliver.

(Photo credit: PM Modi meets with President Obama in Washington DC in September 2014, by Barthateslisa under Creative Commons licensing.)