One of the pivotal points of discussion between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the latter’s visit to India earlier in October was climate change and clean energy. Under the Modi government, India has taken the next big step in the field of non-fossil fuel energy – announcing a new target, that is, to expand the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 40 percent by 2030 ahead of the submission of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Clearly, clean energy has emerged as a top priority for India in its battle against climate change as well as poverty. Therefore, this large sector is crucial when it comes to India’s foreign policy goals as it aims to raise US $200 billion worth investments in clean energy projects, mainly from foreign sources.
Germany is one of India’s largest strategic partners and clean energy has been at the core of Indo-German cooperation in the past few years. This year too, as a part of the (institutionalised) third India-Germany Intergovernmental Consultations, the two countries widened and deepened their cooperation in clean energy. Besides agreeing on the Indo-Germany Climate and Renewables Alliance, Merkel has pledged $2.25 billion for India’s Green Energy Corridor and solar projects.
This gave a big boost to India’s climate commitments and negotiating position in light of the upcoming Paris Summit. As a component of the international climate agenda, India has stressed on the need for the international community to espouse a clean energy-centric approach that is not based entirely on emissions reduction targets.
What is more interesting about these initiatives is the fact that they emphasise long-term and comprehensive agenda of tackling climate change. More importantly, it talks about harnessing “technology, innovation and finance in order to make affordable, clean and renewable energy accessible to all.” Rural electrification and ‘electricity for all’, which are priority areas for Modi, feature prominently in these initiatives. Germany’s keen interest in “exploring and developing rural areas” (access to energy) has led to a deeper cooperation between the two countries as it stems from its greater understanding of the realities of India.
The above explanations highlight the indications of recognition of each others’ perspectives on issues such as climate change. In essence, Germany has acknowledged India’s position on the post-2020 climate treaty while calling for an “ambitious” treaty that should ideally be legally binding. It welcomed India’s INDC in which its pledge to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity by up to 35 per cent from the 2005 level is highlighted. India’s INDC states that it would require at least US$ 2.5 trillion at current prices to implement all the climate plans it has outlined in it; and for this India has urged the developed countries to finance the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Germany has agreed to give priority to adaptation and climate finance in the treaty – a demand that remains central to India’s post-2020 climate commitment.
There is undoubtedly the need to go much beyond these promises and bonhomie. A strategic partnership needs to delve further into tangible deliverables. This is where there are several hurdles including the problem of land acquisition in India that could potentially stand in the way of those clean energy initiatives. However, expectations are that the Modi government would find ways to surmount them so that collaborations between the two countries would not be stonewalled at the initial stage itself due to problems such as the lack of land. Interestingly, the Modi government has allowed state governments to make amendments to the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 so as to ensure that key projects could take off.
It has to be admitted that far from rhetoric, the two countries have agreed to implement numerous steps that make a difference on the ground. For instance, they endeavour to integrate adaptation into all sectors including urban planning, infrastructural development and so on. They also intend to advance their cooperation in fields such as climate risk insurance. In addition to investments in the clean energy sector, Germany has expressed its willingness to put teeth into joint research on clean energy and energy efficiency.
Besides these bilateral efforts, the two countries would continue to cooperate at the international level. As the UN’s efforts to bring countries to a consensus continue, it is more important for countries to engage at other levels to address the issue of climate change before time is too short to act. India and Germany have been on the forefront of bilateral climate diplomacy that translates into effective steps for negotiating a treaty at the international level involving more or all countries. One case that exemplifies this approach is the launch of the Indo-German Working Group on Climate Change under the Indo-German Environment Forum that would “discuss climate policy and exchange views with regard to India’s and Germany’s transition to low-carbon economies and associated co-benefits for sustainable development.” In fact, under the Indo-German Climate and Renewables Alliance, both countries also aspire to undertake trilateral assistance programmes that engender collaborations between the India-German duo and another country (possibly a developing country) requiring assistance in climate and solar technology application.
2015 has seen India and Germany come much closer than ever before and this has added new dimensions to their bilateral cooperative relations. Climate diplomacy now lies at the heart of Indo-German relations and in the coming years, this could pave the road for international collaborative efforts to climate change on a much larger scale than it is currently.
Dhanasree Jayaram is Project Associate, Manipal Advanced Research Group (MARG), Manipal University, Karnataka, India
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal.