US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, called on India to join hands with the US to confront the climate crisis through a clean energy transition.
“Our two nations, the world’s two biggest democracies have a great deal to gain by joining hands and global leadership to confront climate change now. We must do this,” Kerry said in his address to the South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE) Leadership Summit.
Earlier in the day, Kerry met Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar regarding increasing climate ambition ahead of President Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate to be held on April 22-23.
“Had an engaging and fruitful discussion with Mr John Kerry. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. We discussed a range of issues including climate finance, joint research and collaboration etc,” Javadekar tweeted after the meeting.
During his stay till Thursday, Kerry is likely to meet PM Modi, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan, minister for external affairs S Jaishankar.
In his address to the SAWIE summit, Kerry summed up his expectations from India. He also acknowledged the US’ role in historical emissions leading to the climate crisis.
“Decisive action by India will determine what this sustainable transformation will mean for generations to come. India has the opportunity to both elevate women’s empowerment and to avoid the mistakes made by other countries like ours. Instead of building a modern and sustainable society that can be the envy of the world, some of us have contributed too much to the problem that we are living through today. We are working to build back better today in the US, to transform our economy in a way that prevents the impending climate crisis by keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees C and also create cutting edge jobs of the future,” he said.
But Kerry also underlined the need for a quicker clean energy transition and phasing out of coal. “India has an advantage that we didn’t have in the US. Not just the benefits of decades of scientific and technical advancement but you also have the US as your friend and partner. We are here to support you on this path. India’s global leadership has been critical on a range of issues including delivering covid vaccines to the world. But I am particularly grateful that India is getting the job done on climate, pushing the curve, you are indisputably a world leader already in the deployment of renewable energy and your leadership on the International Solar Alliance promises to advance clean energy across India and other dynamic growing economies,” he said.
While lauding PM Modi’s announcement of achieving the target of 450 GW renewable energy by 2030, Kerry said it’s cheapest to build solar in India and that he wants to see India as the cleantech hub of Asia. “The International Energy Agency (IEA) special report said you (India) are on pace to become the global market leader on solar and storage by 2040. It’s already cheaper to build solar in India than anywhere else in the world. That kind of urgency is exactly what we need to confront global climate change. We are in the decisive decade for action,” Kerry stated.
Kerry said a zero-emissions future holds huge business opportunity. Global investment in new clean power capacity is said to exceed 10 trillion dollars through mid-century, more than 6 times the investment in dirtier options. “Still a net-zero energy transition will require innovation and scaling up. It’s critical that the US, India and other partners build the enhanced clean industries of the future – decarbonised industries… In 2021 we have a rare opportunity to create new technologies and new markets and India is seizing this opportunity,” Kerry said, adding that India could add half a million additional jobs by 2030 if it pursues clean energy transition aggressively.
Underling the urgency of the climate crisis, Kerry said to get where we need to go according to the Paris Agreement and as per the scientists to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees C, we need to phase out coal five times faster than we have been, we need to increase tree cover five times faster, ramp up renewable energy six times faster.
According to senior environment ministry officials, one of the key objectives of Kerry’s visit is to get India to join the countries that have announced a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. In September 2020, China announced that it will peak its GHG emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The White House announced on January 27 that President Joe Biden will take steps to put the United States (US) on an “irreversible path” to a net-zero economy by 2050. Consequently, Biden has also called for a summit of major emitting nations on April 22 to persuade them to commit to ambitious mitigation targets.
“A net-zero target is not a trivial endeavour for any country, especially for a lower-middle-income country like India that has the dual challenge of providing modern energy services to millions while protecting the environment. We will need several technologies to become better and cheaper – energy storage, faster EV charging, fuel cells, hydrogen electrolysers, agricultural technologies, carbon capture, and direct air capture – which will be absolutely crucial to achieving any net-zero target. Public and private partnerships with the US can play a very important role in technological innovation and adaptation to India’s needs. The quest for a net-zero emissions future could bring new jobs and better health for Indians. But much depends on the infusion of international capital and disruptive technologies,” said Ulka Kelkar, director, climate at World Resources Institute.
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