Originally posted at The Breakthrough Institute
In New Delhi yesterday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India must invest in both new and existing clean energy technologies in order to develop sustainably over the coming decades. This comes as the latest indication of India's progress on building a domestic clean energy economy through investment--a strategy that could also serve as a new approach to international climate policy. Unfortunately, Western nations that stall climate negotiations with their insistence on setting carbon caps continue to miss the world's best chance at forging a global agreement.
Speaking at a national conference on environment, Singh emphasized the importance of clean energy investment for India's development:
"...We need access to new technologies that are already available with developed countries. We must also make our own investments in new environment-friendly technologies," he said.
Developed nations might perceive India as uncooperative when it comes to setting carbon caps, but already, India has shown its commitment to making clean energy cheap and abundant. The Indian National Solar Mission, unveiled in June, sets the ambitious target to reach 20 GW installed solar capacity by 2020--more than the entire world's current capacity for solar generation. Though India expects to pay for the $20 billion plan primarily through international financing, the government will also implement direct measures such as taxes on gasoline and diesel, feed-in tariffs, solar power purchase obligations, tax breaks for manufacturers, and exemptions on tariffs for imported equipment.
Prime Minister Singh's comments prove that the highest levels of Indian government are prioritizing investment in clean energy. Here in the US, President Obama has also signaled an initial commitment to public investment in clean energy. By allocating an unprecedented $65 billion--or more than $30 billion per year--for clean energy in the nation's $787 billion stimulus package, he took the first step toward securing America's prosperous clean energy future.
But unfortunately, the ACES climate legislation before Congress threatens to derail these efforts. Instead of building upon the substantial foundation of Obama's two-year stimulus funding, ACES would invest just $10 billion per year in low-carbon technology and energy efficiency measures combined. That's nowhere near the $30 billion annual clean energy investment urged by Breakthrough, Brookings, International Energy Agency, Apollo Alliance, and numerous other energy experts--and it's far below the foundation set by the stimulus plan.
If a developing economy like India can make clean energy investment a national priority, developed nations like the United States can and must do the same. Not only that, but they must also make clean energy investment the focus of an international agreement on climate change.
India has helped set the pattern for a new approach that may be the only hope of reaching consensus in international climate negotiations. It's an approach based on investments to accelerate clean energy R&D and deployment to decarbonize the energy supply, along with direct efforts to improve the energy intensity of heavy-emitting industries.
India's neighbor China is also implementing a massive investment-centered strategy within its borders. Meanwhile, the US and EU remain tied to a failed carbon-capping model in both domestic policy and international negotiations. But the answer to a successful climate treaty lies not in forcing the issue of targets and timetables, while bullying the developing world over what it has yet to do. Instead, Western nations must wake up and look to what India and China have already done.