Preview for Obama-Modi Visit in September: The U.S. Clean Power Plan as a Driver for Global Clean Energy Action


With the announcement of the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. took a big step toward fighting climate change. Lauded as the largest single action the U.S. has ever taken to address global warming, many domestic leaders offered their support and #CleanPowerPlan is still trending on twitter. The historic plan cuts carbon pollution from U.S. power plants for the first time while boosting clean energy markets. In demonstrating the need for the plan, President Barack Obama emphasized that global climate change is already harming human health around the world, from the U.S. to India, with extreme storms, droughts, floods and pollution. To combat these deadly impacts, the Clean Power Plan is a national policy to spur even greater clean energy development - similar to India's 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2022 target and newly announced draft Renewable Energy Act. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama prepare to meet again in September, driving clean energy development in both major economies will clearly be a priority on the agenda between these two countries as well as moving toward an agreement in Paris during the climate talks at the end of this year.

"There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change."

The Clean Power Plan charts a course to reduce carbon pollution from U.S. power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and mobilizes clean energy deployment. In emphasizing the need to act and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, President Obama underscored "There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change." While this is true for all nations, it takes on new urgency in light of India's rapidly developing economy.

India is at a crossroads in its development path. As living standards rise for tens of millions of Indian people and efforts gain momentum to increase energy access with 24/7 electricity to urban centers and rural communities, energy demands are skyrocketing. Similarly, 80 percent of the infrastructure that will exist in India by 2030 has yet to be built, according to McKinsey. Choices and decisions made in the next few years will shape whether Indian consumers, companies and government authorities can turn the challenges of development into a business advantage and national opportunity for clean energy while reducing climate change and improving air quality.


Cleaning solar panels in Rajasthan © Sujith Ravi, CEEW.

Clean Energy = Healthy Economy and More Jobs

Clean energy is the centerpiece of the Clean Power Plan. The plan, administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, relies on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources as the path to meet the targets for carbon pollution reductions. In other words, the U.S. is planning on replacing energy currently supplied by fossil fuels with clean energy sources. NRDC analysis shows that in 2030, the final plan will likely result in as many as 207,000 gigawatt hours of clean power from sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, above today's levels. That's enough to power 19 million homes.

India is also focused on expanding clean energy. While for India's economy this means creating access to energy for the first time for many, the targets and stakes are just as high, if not higher. To reach the clean energy market's potential and harness investor interest, the Modi government, like the Obama government, is stepping up policy support. Last fall, Prime Minister Modi announced the five-fold increase of 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2022. Last month, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy announced a draft Renewable Energy Act to drive a robust renewable energy ecosystem in India.

India's clean energy market is growing at a rapid clip. The solar market recently exceeded 4 gigawatts of installed solar energy, growing a 100-fold since 2010, and is headed toward becoming one of the largest global solar markets. India's wind market is now one of the largest in the world with plans to expand. Energy efficiency markets for buildings and appliances are also essential to reducing power demand in India's growing cities and villages. Yet, in both countries, greater action and focused implementation will be needed to achieve the broader clean energy goals.

President Obama, in announcing the Clean Power Plan, emphasized that the U.S. "solar industry, to just name one example, creat[ed] jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy." Similarly, strong policies and targets for clean energy in India also create enormous employment opportunities for the country's young and growing workforce. Highlighting the job creation opportunities that a scaled-up clean energy market offers in India, analysis by the NRDC and our partner, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, shows that if India achieves its target of 100 gigawatts of installed solar energy by 2022 along, as many as 1 million jobs could be created. Approximately 183,500 jobs would be generated if India were to reach its target of installing 60 GW of wind energy capacity by 2022. As both President Obama and Prime Minister Modi recognize, strong clean energy policies fuel local employment opportunities.

Escalating Asthma Rates and Droughts from L.A. to New Delhi

In releasing the Clean Power Plan, President Obama told of his days of choking while trying to run in smoggy Los Angeles as a college student and that "over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital." New Delhi and other cities across India are facing even greater risks to air pollution and alarming asthma rates - wearing face masks to jog and walk in city streets. The World Health Organization ranked 13 Indian cities among the top 20 in the world for the worst fine particulate air pollution. Poor air quality is proven to harm public health, from immediate infections to longer-term illnesses such as asthma and respiratory illness that can be deadly - especially to vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

Rising temperatures, such as the deadly heat wave in South Asia earlier this year with over 2,000 dead and many more harmed, are just beginning to show the lethal threat of climate change. On its heels, a weak monsoon and drought impacts much of India while a historic drought and resulting wildfires plague the western U.S. Preparing for climate disasters with early warning systems and air quality indexes to protect public health are undoubtedly critical to saving lives. Yet, the real solutions in defeating deadly smog and avoiding extreme weather events is exactly what the Clean Power Plan focuses on driving -- clean energy development to power the sustainable future of both countries.

While the U.S. - like all countries - can do more on climate change, by taking clear action domestically, the Clean Power Plan demonstrates U.S. leadership on climate change. The U.S.' concrete action builds momentum toward greater international cooperation heading toward the climate talks in Paris later this year, as well as the Modi-Obama meeting next month.