Environment, Headline, OPINION, US-India relations

Post-Glasgow, India should become a leader in the green energy drive

Photo credit: UN.org

India should join with the United States and move to the front on green energy and the low-carbon transition drive.

The United Nations climate change conference ended in Glasgow, Scotland, November 13, more than a day later than scheduled, with an agreement to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level.

Among other measures, the conference also broadly agreed to: eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, phase down coal power and end deforestation. In addition, it urged rich nations to offer financial assistance to developing countries to help with their transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Many of the 200 participating nations made a number of specific commitments. For instance, more than 140 countries promised to cut their carbon emissions to “net-zero.”

Read more columns by Frank F. Islam

Nevertheless, many in the United States and other developed countries were somewhat disappointed in the Glasgow Climate Pact.   One of the reasons for this was that, as the conference wound down, India and China pushed back forcefully on the language to be adopted on phasing out coal. In the end, the two countries were successful in getting others to agree on “phasing down” coal, instead of “phasing out,” which was the language that climate activists and several western nations wanted.

Despite that major disagreement on the final two days, the fact that any agreement was reached was a big accomplishment. It was the first time the 26-year history of the conference that participating nations agreed to reduce fossil fuel — the main energy source for a vast majority of countries — which is responsible for global warming.

Noteworthy, among the several commitments made at COP26, was India’s pledge to generate half of its energy requirements from renewable sources by the end of this decade.  Speaking at the leaders’ summit at the front end of the conference, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the world that India will achieve the net-zero target by 2070. India’s commitment is significant, as it is the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter.

Frank F. Islam: All eyes on the Quad summit and Modi-Biden meeting (September 20, 2021)

Other highlights of the conference included an announcement by Brazil to reverse deforestation and leading car manufacturers to make and sell zero-emission vehicles within the next two decades.

Having countries like China, India, Nigeria and Brazil broadly agree to implement policies that would mitigate climate change was indeed a giant step forward.

For decades, these emerging nations have been insisting that they needed more time to achieve net-zero targets.

Their argument went like this: it was the industrialization drive of the western European and U.S. economies, which lasted centuries, that was responsible for the current climate conditions. Those countries developed their economies by consuming resources indiscriminately. As a result, they should do more to mitigate climate change, including financing the low carbon transition of poorer countries.

RELATED: OP26: US and India must collaborate to achieve climate change goals (November 5, 2021)

That argument has merit and the developed countries recognized it.  Because of this there was an agreement in principle that there should be some payments but no specific commitments made.

In spite of this, the Glasgow Pact signals that, finally, there is a consensus of comity among nations that climate change is an existential threat for mankind, and blaming one or the other won’t help address the problem or improve the climate.

The pact also offers the emerging economies a new direction. For a country such as India, there is tremendous upside for going green. If done properly, the nation will reap substantial economic benefits.

As automobiles transformed major economies in the early 20th century and information technology did the same in the late 20th and early 21st century, green energy is set to drive the next wave of economic development worldwide. The economic activities will be so significant that they will fuel growth and improve the quality-of-life of entire regions and nations.

For an idea of the opportunities in the green energy sector, look at one American company, Tesla. In a very short period, the company has left its American and European competitors far behind. Tesla’s market cap — which touched a trillion dollar not long ago — is more than the combined market cap of Toyota, Volkswagen, Daimler, General Motors, BMW, and Ferrari.

Tesla, is not just a fad today.  It is a goldmine for investors.  More importantly, it is just one example. There are many green energy companies and industries that are set to become the drivers of the growth for nations and internationally.

In the United States, the Biden administration sees tremendous economic potential for green energy and is betting big on the green economy. The new around $ 2 trillion spending framework unveiled by President Joe Biden and passed recently by the U.S. House includes $555 billion for clean energy.

India should join with the United States and move to the front on the low-carbon transition drive. Not doing so would mean continued environmental degradation and would also result in missing out on the enormous economic opportunities presented by going green

As in most fields, early investors reap the most benefits.  By becoming a leader in the green energy movement now, India can reap economic and climate change benefits for the nation and its citizens in the future.

(Frank F. Islam is an Entrepreneur, Civic Leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal.)


  1. Hari Srivastava

    Subject:- Introduction of a new breakthrough in small-hydro on canals.
    Dear Sir,
    Small Hydro has a Potential much larger than solar as a distributed energy contributor which is possibly in excess of 250 GWs plus, and is the cheapest and the easiest source of renewable energy. Energy in our leapfrogging economy is the most valuable input and we have to keep adding as much as possible for years to come. As yet our main focus has been on solar and wind and we have been successful in adding nearly 90 GW of renewable energy till end of 2020. An ideal renewable energy technology should be able to sustain for future use and should have a minimum negative impact on environment. Hydro power energy has been existing for centuries and this is a time tested and tried source of energy but surprisingly it has been grossly ignored till date. It holds a prime position in proving its most significant role as a major contributor of renewable energy.
    To provide electric energy to a country as large and diverse as India, concerted and well planned efforts are needed. More importantly because most of the population lives in rural areas. There are inherent challenges in generation and distribution of electric energy. The answer lies in decentralized generation and micro grids. Fortunately this is the path being pursued in case of solar energy generation units, not by choice but by compulsion.
    Water is more than 800 times denser than air and has the potential to extract 61 to 63 % more energy than wind even at low speed. Let us not forget that every cusec of flowing water is potential hydrokinetic energy and nature has blessed us abundantly with this free gift. “Revolutionary” is the word NMSU electrical engineering professor describes the hydro kinetic energy. He further goes on to add (Hydro power energy extractors have the potential to transform the renewable energy sector in the very near future).
    Harinergy Renewables is pleased to introduce itself as a futuristic vision unit, working on unbroken grounds in renewable energy. At our own R&D center, we have developed and tried a hydrokinetic energy generating system, christened as “Nehrurja®” to be used in small canals and distributaries. This is no rocket science and has been existing since long. The system is capable of generating 1.5 to 2 MW of power, if not more, per km length of a small paved canal without disturbing the canal setup. Any canal discharging about 50 to 150 cusecs of water is suitable for putting up this system. As per a rough estimate paved canals for irrigation purpose are spreading over 160000kms. Nehrurja® system is capable of extracting over 200 to 250 GW of cheap and clean decentralized energy, on 24×7 basis from this yet untapped source.
    This has also been advised by a number of national and international agencies (please see annexure) Over and above this huge asset is owned by the central and state governments and
    there is no need for any acquisition or disruption of assets. The cheap energy thus extracted on decentralized basis shall be available on 24×7 basis for better part of the year. Since this is a simplest and cheapest form of renewable energy there is no need of further addition of any dams or water bodies in the fragile hill regions. To top it all, it will provide employment to a large rural population directly and indirectly. The energy produced shall be a bonus for the upcoming electric vehicle industry as also to the farmers. The generated power can be a big boon for cold storage chains as also for production of hydrogen.

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