The United States welcomes the continued focus of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on driving a clean energy transformation in his country despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior official has said. Testifying before a Congressional committee on Thursday, Jonathan Pershing, a senior advisor to the Special Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry said the US and India are committed partners on climate.
"We welcome Prime Minister Modi's continued focus on driving a clean energy transformation in India, notwithstanding the extreme challenges posed by the COVID crisis there," Pershing told lawmakers.
In April, the two governments signed the "US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership". Under the partnership, the two sides identified a 2030 agenda for clean technologies and climate action, Pershing said.
"A key focus will be cooperation to create regulatory and market conditions to spur the required investment to achieve India's goal to deploy 450 GW of renewable energy. If achieved, India would realise transformative changes in both its energy security and GHG emissions trajectory," he said. Sherri Goodman, secretary general of the International Military Council on Climate and Security told lawmakers that climate factors are also consequential in the tense relations between nuclear-armed neighbours India, Pakistan and China.
A joint study published earlier this year by the Council on Strategic Risks and the Woodwell Climate Research Centre projects a strong warming trend near the disputed border between India and China, where approximately 1,00,000 Indian and Chinese troops are deployed at altitudes reaching up to 15,000 feet, she said. Military patrols, which are not viable today, may become more frequent, setting the conditions for potential violent clashes, she added.
"Meanwhile China, partly due to its transition to renewable energy, is planning the world's largest hydroelectric facility just north of where the Brahmaputra river crosses into India. Three times the size of Three Gorges Dam, this new dam project is also located in a seismically sensitive zone," Goodman noted.
"This has caused major concerns for downstream India, which is also worried that the new Chinese dam could be used to either withhold water from or flood parts of India. In truth, it will be difficult to tell if a future flood is the result of Chinese manipulation of the dam, or climate-related factors. China's lack of transparency on dam projects affecting its neighbours only increases India's distrust," she said.
China is also constructing a series of dams in Pakistan-held Kashmir, to which India objects, due to its territorial claims there. These dams, when built, will be viable until the end of the century, due to projected glacial melt patterns, Goodman said. "Such construction will contribute to further strengthening the China-Pakistan partnership while exacerbating both countries' tensions with India. In each of these disputes, universally trusted data sources and institutions capable of managing resource-related disputes are lacking," she said.
Craig Hart, deputy assistant administrator of the Bureau of Asia at the United States Agency for International Development, said the USAID, in partnership with the government of India, is improving the rehabilitation and management of more than 1 million hectares of India's forests to increase carbon sequestration, enhance water yields from forests, and strengthen the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities in three states, refining techniques that New Delhi will scale nationwide. "USAID/India's new program, Trees Outside Forests in India, will incentivise more tree cover on private lands at scales from household to commercial," he said.
"USAID helped India launch a national program for retrofitting commercial buildings to enhance energy efficiency and improve air quality and in doing so, opened up tremendous business opportunities for US companies in a country whose air conditioner market is growing at 15 percent a year," he said.
For example, USAID's support prompted India's lead implementer of energy efficient programs to solicit a USD 10 million contract, ultimately awarded to the United States-based Carrier Global Corporation, to install and maintain filtration systems and monitors in the existing air conditioning systems in buildings in and around New Delhi, Hart said.