There was “progress” in nudging India toward announcing a timetable in the coming weeks for reaching net-zero carbon emissions, Kerry said in New Delhi, where he is meeting with senior Indian officials in preparation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington on Sept. 24. Several weeks after that, in late October, world leaders are scheduled to gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for a conference known as COP26 that is considered pivotal for the fate of the planet.
“I think a number of countries will step up in the next couple weeks, before the COP or at the COP, but they need to have the privilege of deciding when and where to [make announcements],” Kerry said in a brief interview in the Indian capital. “We’re making progress, and my hope is the next six weeks will concentrate people’s minds. Nobody appreciates being pushed around, and I’m not here to do that.”
Several world leaders “are ready to step up and have said they’ll announce new plans,” Kerry added, while declining to offer specifics.
In recent months, Kerry has shuttled between China and India, the world’s No. 1 and No. 3 largest carbon emitters, as he seeks commitments that Beijing will accelerate its existing timetables for lowering carbon emissions and India will announce a deadline for reaching net-zero carbon emissions. British officials have also been appealing to India, with little success, to pledge a phaseout of emissions, preferably by 2050 or 2060.
International researchers say there is no way to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) or less without significant concessions from India and China, which are both still building coal-fired power plants. As an urbanizing country, India generates more than 70 percent of its electricity from coal, and it is expected to add new power-generation capacity equal to that of the entire European Union by 2050 to meet its electricity needs, according to the International Energy Agency.
So far, Kerry has failed to secure concessions on two trips to India since April, with New Delhi arguing that advanced, postindustrial economies need to provide more financing and technology transfers, and that ambitious climate commitments are unfair for a developing country that has some of the lowest carbon emissions when measured on a per-person basis. Kerry’s efforts this month to persuade China to do more were stymied by Chinese demands that Washington back off from human rights and technology sanctions.
Kerry said Monday that the United States will set up a financing program with India to attract the international investment sought by New Delhi, which has set a target of deploying 450 gigawatts of renewable-energy capacity by 2030. Large U.S. banks this year committed to providing $4 trillion in green financing, Kerry said, and “investors are now flocking to clean energy.”
Indian officials argue that even though private-sector banks and private equity funds are starting to put money into Indian solar farms and hydropower projects that yield returns, Western government agencies still have not provided many of the cash grants they have promised for more-difficult tasks such as upgrading India’s sprawling electrical grid. India’s environment minister, Bhupender Yadav, told reporters Monday that he hoped dialogue with the United States would lead Washington to provide more concessionary grants.
Kerry said the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, a federal institution that provides financing for developing countries, committed to investing $500 million in India last year and has another half-billion in the project pipeline. And he repeated a 2009 Obama administration pledge to help mobilize a $100 billion fund for poor nations — even though the 2020 time frame has passed without the fund materializing.
New U.S. announcements about the fund could come in late October, before COP26, Kerry said. He is expected to hold one-on-one meetings with Modi in Washington next week to make another pitch about emissions targets.
Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies for Australia and South Asia at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said the launch of a U.S.-backed green-energy financing scheme would be highly welcomed “assuming the quantum of U.S. funds is in any way reflective of the enormous opportunity” in India.
India still needs $500 billion in renewable-energy generation and grid infrastructure to meet its 2030 targets, Buckley estimated. Much of that capital could come from private sources, he added while encouraging the U.S. government to also chip in.
“The world desperately needs to accelerate this deployment, and patient public capital from the U.S. and other wealthy countries would be a very positive catalyst to help India help the world,” he said.