WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will look to the United States for more private sector partnerships and technology to support a drive to expand its use of clean energy, as Washington looks to secure political support for a global climate change deal in 2015.
Efforts to combat climate change will also figure prominently in talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama when the U.S. leader begins a landmark visit to New Delhi this weekend.
“What India needs is finance ... That is where the importance of the United States comes in. India will surely be looking for the means to technology transfer to boost renewable energy,” said Krishnan Pallassana, India director of the Climate Group.
A key objective for Obama is to get a strong joint statement that gives political direction ahead of global climate talks in Paris in late 2015, a person familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.
India, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, plays an influential role in United Nations talks, often acting as the voice of the world’s developing countries.
“There is a strong desire on the part of the (United States) to keep a sense of momentum, both within the U.S.-India partnership itself, as well as in the broader context of engaging key developing countries ahead of the Paris climate conference,” said the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s David Livingston.
India has resisted pressure to commit to a timeline for capping emissions after the United States and China agreed in November to their own “peak year”, and is unlikely to agree to any formal targets now, say experts.
Modi, who has spoken about the dangers posed by climate change, is a strong believer in the role technology can play in adapting to global warming. He said this week that the focus must shift to clean energy and energy efficiency, rather than outright emission cuts.
That reflects the view held by many in Delhi that India must be allowed to emit more if it is to industrialise and lift more people out of poverty, particularly as its per capita emissions are less than half the world average.
The U.S.-India talks will focus on supporting Indian efforts to electrify the country by boosting emissions-free energy and building manufacturing capabilities for solar and wind energy, said two officials familiar with the matter and several climate experts.
India needs $200 billion of investment in renewables by 2022 – half of it from abroad - to raise its solar power capacity by 33 times to 100 gigawatts and its wind power capacity to 60 GW.
U.S.-based First Solar and SunEdison Inc are among the renewable energy companies already active in India, but the market is growing rapidly.
While activists welcome India’s push into renewables many are worried that, with a continued reliance on coal and a growing population set to overtake China’s by 2030, India’s emissions will jump as the country becomes wealthier.
In UN climate negotiations, India defends the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” - the concept that the burden of emissions reductions and financial assistance for poor countries should be borne by developed countries.
Modi said on Monday that the focus should shift to “what we have done for clean energy generation, energy conservation and energy efficiency, and what more can be done”.
“It’s harder for India to project how our energy future will unfold. I think we can do a better job spelling that story out,” said Navroz Dubash, senior fellow at Delhi-based Centre of Policy Research.
“We are quite clear that we do want to bend the curve on carbon but as part of a development story.”
Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in WASHINGTON; Writing by Tommy Wilkes in NEW DELHI; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan