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What a Biden-Modi initiative to boost India’s green transition should look like

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President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have identified tackling the threat of climate change as one of their top bilateral priorities. The United States and India have common and respective interests in making cooperation on climate change a central pillar of the strategic partnership. Such in-depth cooperation would allow:

  • Advancing global climate progress and the Paris Agreement goals through US-India collaboration on policies and funding to support aggressive Indian economic and energy transformations.
  • Demonstrate climate collaboration on sustainable development and climate-focused pathways for developed and developing economies through India’s and US green economic stimulus packages.
  • Affirming shared global climate leadership as the United States strives to restore the international credibility of climate action through progressive collaborations with partner countries like India.
  • Create economic opportunities expanding India’s access to technological and financial resources, from the United States and elsewhere, to support its sustainable development goals.
  • Advance geostrategic interests, including inclusive Asian community partnerships, industrial policy-based approaches to boost manufacturing jobs and joint research agendas.

A major factor in achieving the above results will be to address the deep gap in private finance available for India’s sustainable development and clean energy transition. The Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Energy, Environment and Water Council of India (CEEW) have teamed up to co-author a new report that recommends that President Biden and Prime Minister Modi launch a U.S.-India Green Transition Funding Initiative, a program to mobilize private finance for a sustainable transition in India and make it the centerpiece of a new leadership-level climate change strategy .

The private financing that has accelerated the pace of the addition of renewable energy capacity in India from 35 gigawatts (GW) in 2014 to over 86 GW in 2020 is a testament to the interest of private investors in the sector. There are also emerging investment opportunities in India in other latent markets for sustainable transition, such as electric mobility, a market that is expected to reach $ 48 billion per year by 2030. But India needs $ 2.5 trillion in investments by 2030 to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, yet a range of investor risks are hampering sufficient financial flows, especially from foreign institutional investors.

This is where Indo-American leadership and collaboration on climate could help reduce these market risks and catalyze investment.

The CAP and CEEW recommend a leadership-level strategy that President Biden and Prime Minister Modi could launch early in the new US administration to mobilize foreign institutional capital towards the opportunities identified as part of the green transition strategy of India. This approach would center on a two-step plan of prioritization of sectors and holistic strategies and actions to reduce the risk of the identified sectors.

In addition, CAP and CEEW recommend a range of joint activities such as green tagging tools to increase the visibility of assets for potential investors, enhanced catalytic finance activities of the US International Development Finance Corp. in India and new transparent payment security mechanisms for power producers and distribution companies.

It is in the best interests of India, the United States and the world that India moves to an increasingly progressive path of decarbonization. Foreign institutional investments can play a critical role. Making progress on India’s green transition would also advance other important related benefits for India and the United States, such as economic growth through job creation, improved performance in health benefits, reduced air pollution and positive long-term returns on investment. The United States and India have a common interest in mobilizing all resources to meet these challenges.

Kanika Chawla is a non-resident researcher at the Energy, Environment and Water Council. Alan Yu is senior researcher and director of international climate policy at the Center for American Progress. Rita Cliffton is a policy analyst for climate and energy policy at the Center.

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