US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry meets India's Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy Raj Kumar Singh in New Delhi (REUTERS)
US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry meets India's Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy Raj Kumar Singh in New Delhi (REUTERS)

Urgent to raise climate ambitions further: John Kerry

India and the US launched the Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD) on Monday -- a partnership to attract investment and technology in clean energy projects
By Jayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON SEP 15, 2021 02:54 AM IST

US special envoy on climate change John Kerry said on Tuesday he has urged the Union government to think about announcing a 450GW renewable energy goal by 2030 as part of India’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement at the UN climate change negotiations (COP 26) in Glasgow in November, stressing that modelling studies indicate the goal could put India’s NDC on track to keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

India and the US launched the Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD) on Monday -- a partnership to attract investment and technology in clean energy projects. The dialogue is one of the tracks to finance projects for to mitigate the climate crisis under the India-US climate and clean energy agenda 2030.

“Finance and technology will be critical for India. On the climate action tracks we want to work very closely, do whatever we can to accelerate the achievement of 450GW of renewable energy. Why? Because it’s a big number. It’s an ambitious goal, and India as a developing nation can make a major effort to keep world temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius. I personally urge that the government think about announcing that as part of its nationally determined contribution because to do so is really to help other countries realise that nations are stepping up in a significant way to deal with the crisis,” he said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Kerry said that during his meetings with Indian government officials on Monday, including Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav and power minister RK Singh, they did not spend much time talking on net zero emission target by 2050. “We did talk about it. What we focused on is now, which is 450 GW. The modelling shows that when India achieves that, India is on track to hold on 1.5 degrees,” he said.

India hasn’t assured him on enhancing its NDC yet.

According to Climate Action Tracker, an independent agency tracking climate action, India’s NDC is 2 degrees C compliant, but there is potential for the nation to become a world leader with enhanced 1.5 degrees compatible targets, and just a swift transition away from coal to accelerate the switch to renewable energy. The tracker is still analysing US’s NDC by incorporating recent announcements the Biden administration has made.

“No one said no, but no one said yes either. It’s the PM’s prerogative. Internal deliberations need to take place in India. We have nine years to implement decisions to keep catastrophic climate change at bay according to the latest science. I have told India it is urgent. We have to get this done. They said they will take a look at that and will evaluate it…I anticipate increases in effort,” Kerry said.

A senior environment ministry official, who asked not to be named, said: “He (Kerry) has urged us to raise ambition in our NDC. We have said that is the PM’s call. We cannot commit to anything immediately. The 450 GW is PM’s goal for the nation.”

On being asked if the 1.5 degree goal was still alive considering that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said last month that it was extremely difficult if not impossible to limit global warming to that mark, Kerry said it was still doable if all countries got on board.

“Let’s be honest. It’s very difficult. It is doable and the track we have put us on does that. In the US, President Biden has said that we are going to reduce our emissions by 50% to 52% over the next 10 years. Is that an arbitrary number? That’s what science and scientists have told us that we need to do. The IPCC report says minimum of 45% reduction in emissions. We are reaching for more and trying to push the curve. Europe is at 55%; UK at over 70%; Japan is at 50%; Canada over 45%. That’s 50% of global GDP right there, and if we get India to come on board then all of a sudden we are growing that capacity towards 1.5 degrees C. It’s a heavy lift but doable. It’s not doable if we don’t reduce enough in the next 10 years, which will decide if net zero is achievable by 2050,” he said.

Kerry also acknowledged that there were some differences on climate goals with China.

“We had respectful exchanges (in his meetings last month) and negotiations, and made some progress. But we did not agree yet on some components of the larger choices of how we address the climate crisis as we go into COP 26. But we agreed to meet again. Since I was in China, President Biden and President Xi Jinping had a number of conversations. I am hopeful that we can make some progress.”

On Monday, Kerry said six largest banks in America have all publicly committed that over the next 10 years, they will invest a minimum of $4.16 trillion in global transition to clean energy. On Tuesday, he clarified that the money is “not concessionary”.

“It is money that will be invested in the transition and this sector. It’s a very important commitment. We can help find some concessionary de-risking money through various efforts like blended finance, in some cases direct finance from countries but if you blend that together you get support. One of the things we will work on is green hydrogen. The banks are already investing in some projects but this wasn’t upping the game and so six banks have stepped up.”

Experts said US would have to be at the centre of any meaningful effort to combat the climate crisis.

“Such partnerships are crucial to get the upfront capital India needs to scale up low carbon investments and to drive down the costs of decarbonisation technologies. To avoid the worst climate change scenarios cautioned in IPCC’s latest report, the US needs to rapidly cut GHG emissions at home and to provide sufficient climate finance to developing countries,” said Ulka Kelkar, director-climate program, World Resources Institute.

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