India hailed for constructive stance at solar alliance launch

Experts call PM Narendra Modi’s clean energy initiative a game changer in brokering a sustainable climate deal at COP21 in Paris

Kids sitting under a solar panel at Dharnai village in India. (Pic: Greenpeace)

Kids sitting under a solar panel at Dharnai village in India. (Pic: Greenpeace)

By Avik Roy in Paris

Civil society and experts lauded India’s leadership in clean energy as Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a global alliance of sun-kissed nations on Monday.

The alliance, which is open to all countries located fully or partly between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, is to function from the National Institute of Solar Energy in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi.

India will provide land and US$30 million to form a secretariat for the alliance and also support it for five years, Modi revealed at the launch, flanked by French president Francois Hollande on the sidelines of COP21 in Paris.

“The world must turn to the sun to power the future. As the developing world lifts billions of people into prosperity, our hope for a sustainable planet rests on a bold, global initiative. It will mean advanced countries leaving enough carbon space for developing countries to grow,” Modi said.

“It will create unlimited economic opportunities that will be the foundation of the new economy of this century. This is an alliance that brings together developed and developed countries.”

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Among the tasks that the alliance would pursue are cooperation in training, building institutions, regulatory issues, common standards, and investment including joint ventures.

The launch coincided with a summit of world leaders at the start of two weeks of talks on the outskirts of Paris to seek a new global deal on curbing climate change, by shifting from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.

“The idea is to give the means of development to countries whose main resource is most often the sun,” said President Hollande.

“The ambition is the one we must bear: to ensure a transfer of technologies and we must also make sure that financing can be put together to ensure the development of renewable energy.”

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Analysts welcomed the move as a sign India was taking a more proactive stance on climate change.

“It places India in a more assertive and constructive position on the international stage,” said Liz Gallagher of think tank E3G.

“What matters now is that India reflect the spirit of this initiative into the negotiations.  A global agreement is crucial to ensure the solar alliance delivers.”

Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive of the Council for Energy, Environment and Water in India, described it as a “historic step for global cooperation”.

“India has emerged as the natural leader for this alliance, with its ambitious targets to install 175GW of renewable energy by 2022,” he said.

The ISA seeks to share collective ambitions to reduce the cost of finance and technology that is needed to deploy solar power widely; generation and storage technologies would be adapted to the individual countries’ needs.

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“You know clean energy is winning when the international community formally recognises that clean, renewable energy like solar is the way forward,” Sierra Club global climate policy director John Coequyt, said in a statement.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who also attended the launch, said United Nations would work closely with the ISA and commended India’s success in adopting the technology, as witnessed in the solar projects in Gujarat.

He urged the leaders among the audience to show flexibility to reach an agreement.

“In our world we cannot have a perfect agreement,” said Ban. “Please show some flexibility and sense of compromise for the common good. We cannot just go on like this, we cannot waste any further time.”

India’s national plan focuses on solar, saying it is expected to grow significantly. The aim is to reach capacity of 100 gigawatts by 2022, to be scaled up further in the future.

Read more on: COP21 | India | Renewables | UN climate talks