Modi-Obama Summit Forges a Greener US-India Partnership

We have agreed to consult and cooperate closely on climate change issues, an area of strong priority for both of us.” ~ Prime Minister Narendra Modi

I’m in Washington D.C. this week, where encouraging news from the White House spread to the U.S.-India Energy Partnership Summit I was attending. This week’s first bilateral summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama made positive steps towards both countries taking greater climate action at a critical time. As the leaders noted in their joint op-ed published on Tuesday, both countries have much to gain from a strategic partnership to address climate change and boost their respective clean energy markets – and the collaborative programs announced this week help seize on that opportunity.

Many of the collaborations and joint programs announced mirror the key priorities we highlighted ahead of the summit. Some excerpts from the Factsheet on U.S.-India Energy and Climate Change Cooperation, which offers programmatic details supporting the more general U.S.-India Joint Statement issued by the White House, are included below each critical category of engagement we had identified:

SCALING CLEAN ENERGY AND JOBS THROUGH INNOVATIVE FINANCING

  • Ex-Im Finance MOU:  The Export-Import Bank of the United States (U.S. Ex-Im Bank) and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) have agreed to enter into an MOU which would make available up to $1 billion in U.S. Ex-Im Bank financing to support the export of Made-in-America renewable energy goods and services in connection with clean energy projects in India.  The MOU supports India’s goal of transitioning to a low-carbon and climate-resilient energy economy, while creating and sustaining renewable energy industry jobs in the United States.  U.S. Ex-Im Bank and IREDA intend to establish a framework for cooperation under the MOU to increase financing and mutually beneficial business opportunities in support of India’s energy initiatives, including the doubling of the upcoming phase of Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) to 3,000 megawatts.
  • Clean Energy Finance Forum:  The United States and India plan to create a bilateral Clean Energy Finance Forum through which public and private sector officials from both sides could explore specific opportunities to mobilize finance for clean energy.
  • “Greening the Grid” - ensuring reliable delivery of clean energy through a stronger, more flexible power system:  This new, multi-million dollar, multi-year effort will directly support India’s 24x7 energy access goal through a suite of activities aimed at enabling large-scale deployment of clean energy and energy efficiency. This initiative will enable India to absorb significant increases in renewable energy generation and position India as a leader in global efforts to reform power systems.
  • Strengthening and Expanding PACE: The United States and India pledged to strengthen and expand the U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE). Since 2009, PACE has mobilized nearly $2.4 billion in public and private clean energy finance to support India’s clean energy goals and $125 million for cutting-edge research on solar, biofuels, and energy efficient buildings through the U.S.-India Clean Energy Research and Development Center.  

CONSTRUCTING ENERGY EFFICIENT CITIES

  • Energy Smart Cities:  Responding to the Government of India’s goals of bringing 24x7 power to all, accelerating the deployment of solar technology, and improving living standards, the U.S. and India plan to engage in a new partnership on energy smart cities that will showcase the policies, technologies, and business and finance models needed to turn clean energy into a commercial opportunity that will draw in private capital and allow commercial scale-up to take off.
  • Expanding PEACE, the U.S.-India Off-Grid Clean Energy Initiative:  To further support India’s energy access goals, the United States and India agreed to expand the Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy (PEACE) initiative to include a new private sector investment initiative with a goal of enabling energy access for 1,000,000 people and a new focus on mainstreaming super-efficient, high-quality, and cost-effective appliances so this energy access can support a broader range of services.  These activities will significantly strengthen the business case for a scaled-up private sector response to the demand for energy in un-served areas.
  • Energy Security:  The United States and India will enhance cooperation and information exchange on global energy trends and mutual interests in market stability and promotion of sustainable economic growth.  The U.S. government is evaluating new activities that would help India reduce imports, become more efficient, and meet new international environmental standards for fuels. 

BILATERAL PROGRESS ON HEAT-TRAPPING HFCS

  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs):  The leaders recalled previous bilateral and multilateral statements on the phase-down of HFCs.  They recognized the need to use the institutions and expertise of the Montreal Protocol to reduce consumption and production of HFCs, while continuing to report and account for the quantities reduced under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  They pledged to urgently arrange a meeting of their bilateral task force on HFCs prior to the next meeting of the Montreal Protocol to discuss issues such as safety, cost and commercial access to new or alternative technologies to replace HFCs.  The two sides would thereafter cooperate on next steps to tackle the challenge posed by HFCs to global warming.

INCREASING CLIMATE RESILIENCE

  • U.S.-India Partnership for Climate Resilience:  The United States and India intend to identify opportunities to jointly advance capacity for strengthening climate resilience, including through development of actionable information, data and tools to help national, state, and local officials with climate adaptation planning.

AIR QUALITY RESEARCH AND PUBLIC HEALTH EFFECTS

  • Air Quality:  The United States and India announced a new program of work on air quality to expand joint efforts that deliver human health, environmental, and climate benefits.  Possible focus areas include improving air quality monitoring and source identification, assessing the co-benefits of mitigation options, and aiding urban areas in responding to episodic high-level air pollution events.

As two of the biggest energy consumers and the largest democracies in the world, the United States and India have a unique role to play in taking immediate joint action to combat climate change. These newly announced bilateral efforts could make significant strides in advancing clean energy and climate action at a crucial time. We look forward to this greener partnership between the U.S. and India solidifying both countries’ leadership in combatting one of the greatest threats facing the world – climate change. “Chalein Saath Saath: Forward Together We Go” indeed.

Co-authored by Meredith Connolly, NRDC Energy Law & Policy Fellow 

    About the Authors

    Anjali Jaiswal

    Senior Attorney and Director, India Initiative

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