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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday offered to help finance India's ambitious solar energy target and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's support at global climate talks in Paris later this year.
India is the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter and often acts as the voice of the world's developing countries in United Nations talks on everything from climate change to economic cooperation.
It is reluctant to commit to emission targets on the ground that this could hinder economic growth, which is vital to lifting millions of Indians out of poverty. Instead, Modi has made it a priority to expand India's renewable energy capacity and lessen the need for polluting fossil fuels.
"We very much support India’s ambitious goal for solar energy, and stand ready to speed this expansion with additional financing," Obama said in a joint press conference with Modi on the first day of his three-day visit to New Delhi.
India is seeking investments of $100 billion over seven years to boost the country's solar energy capacity by 33 times to 100,000 megawatts.
The United Nations asked governments on Thursday to submit plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions as the building blocks of a deal due in Paris in December to limit global warming, after scientists said 2014 was the hottest year on record.
"The prime minister and I made a personal commitment to work together to pursue a strong global climate agreement in Paris," Obama said. "As I indicated to him, I think India's voice is very important on this issue."
Modi said a deal between Washington and China committing to a peak year for emissions did not put pressure to do the same on India, where industrialisation is far behind its larger neighbour and where hundreds of millions have no electricity.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank is exploring projects for a $1 billion clean energy financing for companies willing to ship equipment from the United States to India.
First Solar and SunEdison Inc are two U.S. solar companies that already have sizeable businesses in India, and together with local firms, are expected to invest $6 billion in India in the fiscal year to March 31 and $14 billion in the next fiscal year.
To further mobilize private capital for the clean energy sector, the U.S. Agency for International Development will install a field investment officer in India this summer, the White House Press Office said in a statement after the summit.
Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Crispian Balmer