US – India climate pact hinges on technology and finance

By John Parnell

US attempts to encourage India to shift its position on climate change are unlikely to succeed unless it can offer a major contribution of finance or technology, say analysts.

India is reluctant to commit to greenhouse gas curbs through the UN until existing pledges of support are fulfilled and future commitments are ramped up.

But its size and vast population means that if development continues based on fossil fuels, hopes of controlling global temperatures could be futile.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will begin talks with the Indian government on Monday but RTCC understands hopes that he could spark an acceleration of climate action in India appear to be premature.

“India hasn’t really changed its position on anything and I don’t see it changing anything in the future unless there is something very big on offer,” said Lydia Powell, head of the Centre for Resources Management at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi.

Powell says cleaner coal, not renewables is the best bet to reduce Indian emissions (Source: Flickr/Land Rover Our Planet)

“It prefers a flexible national arrangement where it can do things at its own pace. If there were discussions on technology or financial transfers they would definitely be interested,” she told RTCC.

“Renewable energy is largely symbolic, it is not going to make a big dent in our emissions. The biggest opportunity is in efficient of coal, even a 1% improvement would reduce a lot of emissions.

“What you can achieve with coal you cannot achieve with renewables for the same cost. If something is offered on Ultra Super Critical coal power that would be a great offer,” she added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly backed the use of renewable energy technologies, including a pledge to double India’s renewable energy capacity from 25000 MW in 2012 to 55000 MW by 2017.

But there appears to be a lack of clarity over how it can meet those targets, and whether there is sufficient funding available to ensure they become reality.


The Secretary of State will begin talks with his Indian counterparts on Monday. His entourage includes the country’s top climate diplomat Todd Stern, Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz and President Obama’s science and technology advisor John Holdren.

“Topics for discussion will include bilateral and regional economic engagement, regional security and defence, science and technology, climate change, and other global issues such as women’s empowerment, non-proliferation and space cooperation,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

The US has been stepping up its climate change efforts at home and abroad with more announcements expected soon.

There was speculation that there could be a repeat of a bilateral agreement between the US and China announced in April but RTCC understands that is premature.

The China-US partnership has already yielded a phasedown of the super greenhouse gases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). More announcements from that dialogue will be released next month.

Kerry, a veteran environmental campaigner, recently stated that he has put climate change on the agenda of every overseas trip since he took on the job this year.

“Everywhere I travel as secretary of state – in every meeting, here at home and across the more than 100,000 miles I’ve travelled since I raised my hand and took the oath to serve in this office – I raise the concern of climate change,” he wrote in an Op-ed for

“I do so not because it’s a pet issue or a personal priority, but because it’s critical to the survival of our civilization, and that means it’s a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat.”


President Obama is expected to announce more details of new US emission reduction plans in the coming weeks.

Nat Keohane, VP of International Climate at the Environmental Defence Fund is optimistic.

“I think the President is going to come out, sometime soon, and I hope it will be welcomed by folks in the UK and around the world.”

Keohane, who served as an advisor to President Obama on energy and environment expects him to pursue policies that allow him to sidestep a hostile congress.

“I don’t want to set up expectations – politics are politics, congress is congress, you can’t wave a wand and change the congressional debate, but what you are going to be seeing I think is what the President can do within his own authority,” said Keohane.

“I don’t think the President is going to come out and reveal a new target or pledges, I think he’ll say here’s what we can do to be forceful and here’s an issue we should be concerned about for our children’s sake,” he added.

John Holdren also on the India trip, is co-chair of President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) which wrote a six point plan for US climate action, released in March this year. It is thought to be the basis of Obama’s anticipated climate policy announcement.

One of the recommendations, to enhance ties on climate change with China, has already been fulfilled.

The other recommendations include smoothing the path for the development of renewables with tax incentives and cutting red tape as well as calling for the US to take the lead internationally on climate change.

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