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Climate envoy Kerry wraps up power packed India visit, promises support on green tech

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US climate envoy John Kerry with Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar (Photo: @ClimateEnvoy/Twitter)

US Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry had a power-packed four days in Delhi. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. Kerry also met the Indian civil society and business leaders.

Kerry applauded India's climate goals when he tweeted: "India has an ambitious 2030 climate agenda, having set a target of 450 GW of renewable energy. Looking for shared solutions to drive progress faster." He also spoke about how the two countries can partner in the fight against climate crisis, reduce global emissions and "invest in resilience."

Kerry's visit, however, also brought along concerns about ambitious US targets on climate change and the Indian need to balance growth and control emissions. The US is pushing for net zero emissions emphatically while India plans to stick to the targets it set out for itself under the Paris Agreement.

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This year there are two major milestones on the road to climate negotiations and subsequent action—Biden's Leaders' Summit on Climate slated for April 22-23, and the Conference of Parties (CoP-26) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held at Glasgow. The US is pushing hard for countries to advance their environmental targets and accept net zero emissions earlier.

India is not comfortable on that issue. Besides, there are financial and technological hurdles to attaining the net zero milestone. Coupled with India's steady march towards development goals, the country would need loads of energy to pull people out of poverty. 

Even the International Energy Agency has suggested that India should look at mid-2060s to attain “Net Zero” emission levels. Net zero is an environmental commitment which also needs to take along with it socially-inclusive and economically-sustainable policies to bring about the growth of Indian people.

Manjeev Puri, Distinguished Fellow, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and former Indian ambassador has been the lead negotiator for India at climate change negotiations. Puri says: "Kerry had to meet up with an entire range of Indian ministers as climate change is a cross-cutting global issue wherein you deal with financing of technologies on one hand as well as negotiations at the international level."

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In his talks with Kerry, Modi reiterated on India’s commitment and promises towards a cleaner climate by saying that India is committed to meeting its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement and that it was among the few countries on track to meet these commitments. In certain ways, the Prime Minister hinted clearly that India is not yet ready to advance its climate goals, not as yet.

Modi, however, welcomed cooperation between India and the US particularly on financing innovation and faster deployment of green technologies. He said cooperation between India and the US on financing innovation and faster deployment of green technologies will set an example for the world and have a positive demonstration effect on other countries.

In his tweets, Kerry has spoken about the US providing affordable access to green technologies and requisite finance - the two troublesome issues haunting international negotiations. He also positively noted India’s Climate Actions including its ambitious renewable energy plans and briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the upcoming Leaders’ Summit on Climate.

Despite the ifs and buts, as also the differing sides of the debate that India and USA stand on, Kerry did say that the US would support India’s climate plans by facilitating affordable access to green technologies and requisite finance. 

Puri's overall assessment about the Kerry visit is: “I am glad that the two sides spoke about green technology and collaboration. We should push for technological advancement in renewables as the US is the font of technological innovation. If the US is on board, it bodes well for us.”