India Pushes for Renewable Energy, Says No to Carbon Caps

by | Jul 20, 2009

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The U.S. and India are a world apart in climate discussions, with India reticent to agree to carbon caps, saying it already has the lowest per-capita emissions among major nations, reports the New York Times.

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s completes a three-day visit to India to discuss topics such as climate change and green technology, the two nations are finding room both to agree and disagree.

Behind China, India is viewed as a key cog in the U.S. climate agenda.

Gauri Singh, joint secretary of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said India’s priority is to achieve energy security and self reliance and noted that climate change is not the main driver for renewable energy in India; it is a co-benefit, reports the Washington Post.

Solar energy is not even a fraction of India’s renewable energy sources, consisting primarily of wind and biomass that makes up 3 percent of the country’s total electricity production, reports the Washington Post. But India’s goal is to reach 20,000 megawatts of solar electricity by 2020, as part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change that was announced in June 2008, to combat global warming, according to the newspaper.

An executive of a solar power company, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post that the solar power industry will not take off unless the government guarantees that it will purchase solar power at a lucrative cost with feed-in tariffs.

Until policies are in place to enable solar companies to contribute to the national power grid, they have developed an off-grid rural market, selling solar home lighting systems with rooftop panels directly to villagers who don’t have access to electricity, reports the Washington Post.

During Hillary Clinton’s visit with India she said the two countries must expand the use of renewable energy in India, especially for rural electrification, reports Bloomberg News. Clinton also said she is confident that the U.S. and India can develop a plan that changes the way energy is produced, consumed and conserved, helping to create additional investments and jobs, according to the newspaper.

Despite Clinton’s warm welcome to India, it did not win her any concessions she was looking for from New Delhi on climate change, reports ABC News. India’s Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh said his country would never agree to cap its carbon emissions, arguing that it would stunt their economic growth, according to the news station.

Clinton countered that a lower carbon footprint could spur economic growth, according to ABC News.

Ramesh also told Clinton that the U.S. and European countries must offer financial incentives and equitable reductions in carbon emissions to ensure any deal won’t hinder growth, food security and poverty alleviation in developing nations such as India, China and Brazil, according to Bloomberg News.

In response, Clinton said she understood India’s argument about the developing world’s low per capita emissions but that absolute emissions from fast-growing developing economies especially China are going up dramatically, with over 80 percent of the growth in future emissions coming from developing countries, reported Bloomberg News.

A recent report indicates that rapid economic growth in Brazil, Russia, India and China means that by 2030 the annual emissions of these four countries together will exceed those of the 30 OECD countries combined.

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