By Emily Tamkin and Valeria Cardi

It is no secret that Washington is bullish about the idea of fostering closer ties with India in an effort to counter China. But tighter ties takes two. Is Washington, DC’s enthusiasm matched in New Delhi?

“We know that we don’t share a typical Atlantic-style relationship. It’s a more Asian relationship, more grays than black and whites in our relationship,” Samir Saran, the president of the Observer Research Foundation, an Indian think tank in New Delhi, told me.

Dating back to the Cold War, India has maintained a formal policy of non-alignment. In reality, though, the Soviet Union, which supported India in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War and provided the vast majority of its defence equipment, earned India’s support and sympathy. The US, meanwhile, was seen as an untrustworthy and unreliable actor; nor did it help that America was close to India’s neighbour and foe, Pakistan.

In recent years, however, relations between India and the US have improved. There are many reasons for this, but the most important one is arguably a rising China, which America is seeking to counter and contain by working with other countries, and with India in particular. Pakistan, meanwhile, cooperates closely with China.

A year after the US president Joe Biden’s election, and with China at the top of America’s foreign policy agenda, I turned to Saran to ask how, exactly, policymakers in New Delhi perceive US overtures, particularly given the fact that, historically, America has been seen as a less than reliable partner.

“I think much of what you sometimes may hear in Delhi or in DC could possibly be remnants of the 20th century, people holding on to positions of the past, people who have written books on India’s behaviour or American attitudes to the past, wanting to still be relevant in the 21st century,” he said. “I think there is a more pragmatic assessment of each other today.”

Still, he added, “I’m not saying that we trust the Americans all the time.”

One area in which America and India have traditionally not seen eye to eye is in India’s immediate neighbourhood, including Afghanistan. “I think the Americans had to leave [Afghanistan],” Saran told me. “Could they have left better? I think all of us would agree, yes. It was a bit of a messy withdrawal. I don’t think any amount of spin can change that.” He also noted that India could have been consulted, though added that Delhi has always seen America maintain a certain distance from India on Afghanistan. “And in that sense, it’s not surprising. It’s not that we’ve been let down heartbroken because America did not consult us.” In other words, the events of this summer were not enough to deter India from cooperating with the US.

Relatedly, if China is bringing India and the US together, some have wondered if Russia might tear them apart.

“Russia punches above its weight in terms of global affairs,” said Saran. “Russia is going to remain a relevant voice. And we do not want a situation where we paint Putin into the Chinese corner. I think that would be disastrous for us. So we will have to find ways in which we can accommodate Russia.

“I think that is now visible to all in DC, we have not let that come in the way of being more bold, more ambitious, more forward-looking with our American partners.”

This is, broadly speaking, true, though there are some in Washington who feel differently: for example, John Bolton, former president Donald Trump’s national security adviser, penned an op-ed in the Hill on 10 November in which he argued that India’s purchase of S-400 air defence systems from Russia “raises serious obstacles to closer politico-military relations between Washington and New Delhi”. Saran, unsurprisingly, sees it differently, painting a picture in which India can help the US by developing economic ties with Russia, thus moving Moscow away from Beijing.

Even issues as weighty as US-China or India-Russia relations, however, seem small next to the existential issue of our age: climate change. India is already battling air pollution and will be profoundly impacted by the climate crisis. Is there a sense there that America is not doing enough?

India, he told me, has been a strong proponent of climate justice, equity, and action. And this is an area where the US and India can “work together and create a new framework that would catalyse trillions of dollars of green capital to flow into green projects”. He didn’t mean aid or grants, he stressed. “We are talking about commercial capital from banks… We are talking about creating a whole new green financial ecosystem.”

And what about the gap between India’s rhetoric and, say, the reality of air pollution in Delhi? How does that gap close?

“​​The gap closes like it was closed in New York and London, by more advanced, cleaner, greener systems,” he said. “We are going to have to go through that decade of pain.”

The painful period would hurt less if it was accelerated, he acknowledged. Still, some element of what India will go through to get to the other, better, greener side will require discomfort. The same could perhaps be said of the US-India relationship itself.

Read the original interview here –


India — Re-Energized

Samir Saran Argues that India Must Hold Fast Against Western Climate Change Demands


India has come in for harsh criticism in recent weeks for refusing to agree to limit its carbon emissions as part of climate negotiations set for next month in Paris. Then, last week, the Indian government revoked Greenpeace’s license to operate in India, claiming the environmental NGO had covered up the extent of its foreign funding. Seeking to understand the situation better Breakthrough’s Michael Shellenberger interviewed Samir Saran, an energy and environmental expert at the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank.

November 12, 2015 | Michael Shellenberger

Original line is here

What motivated you to write your recent essay about the double standard the West is trying to hold India to on climate change?

Earlier this year I was speaking at a premier Washington DC think tank around the time India announced it wouldn’t commit to overall emissions reductions at the climate negotiations. Someone in the audience said to me, “Why can’t India play by the same rules everyone else is agreeing to?” My response was “Why can’t India develop like everyone else did?”

Where are Indians when it comes to energy for development?

Today Indians with grid connectivity spend at least 20 – 25 percent of their income on energy. This only allows them a fraction of energy that the developed world consumes. Indians on an average consume one-fifth of the average coal consumption of an American and one-third of a European. The Chinese, Americans and Japanese all spend less on procuring renewable energy relative to their incomes than do Indians.

Do Indians view climate as the biggest environmental concern?

It is often said that India does not care about the millions who are dying of lung diseases due to pollution. Such a statement diminishes the moral agency of Indians and overlooks the fact that the biggest killer and cause of respiratory deaths is lack of energy. People die because they use informal fuels and inexpensive stoves. To begin any conversation on an issue as complex as Climate with truisms such as “clean air”, “blue skies” etc is to not have any conversation at all.

Beyond being annoying, does what the West says really matter?

Of course it matters! Discourse is still controlled in the Atlantic countries. And these conversations shape choices and imaginations and ultimately preferences — which in turn decide how nations approach issues around financing, lending and making grants.

The Atlantic debates ignore the West’s own “coal-fueled reality,” and seem determined to control others’ carbon choices. All of this is leading to a very constricted development debate for the countries that are beginning to urbanize and industrialize.

Climate debates within the OECD are impacting life choices in the developing world. For India these could be significant dampeners for its vital national projects in the coming years.

Why do you say the next few years are the most critical?

It is estimated that over the next two decades India will need to invest over $2.5 trillion in infrastructure and energy. A large part of this investment may be local and publicly financed. But a significant amount of commercial loans and equity will be needed from global investors. Our national capacities are not commensurate with our ramp-up requirements. During this take-off stage it would be fatal if availability and cost of money become an impediment.

Can’t India find the capital it needs somewhere else?

At a debt-to-equity ratio of, say, 2.33, over the next 20 years or so Indian projects in these sectors would need to borrow roughly $1.8 – 1.9 trillion.

The universe of sources may be restricted. The U.S. EXIM Bank says it will not lend to coal projects; soon the World Bank may follow suit. Other investors like insurance and pension funds in EU don’t want to invest in emerging economies generally due to their fiduciary requirements.

In short, the West is directing finance away from development and infrastructure and towards what resonates with its evolving climate sensibilities. There is a distinct green color to development finance these days. Such twenty-first century morals contest with twentieth century development imperatives.

Can’t the Indian government finance the infrastructure itself?

The Indian Finance Minister’s annual budget is roughly $260 billion a year. But most of it is already committed to military, government salaries and social schemes. That leaves the government with under $50 billion for discretionary spending.

And there is pressure from Europe and the US to direct that spending in a certain way. There is also pressure from within India. Various lobbies are at work and do contest for a sizable share of this pie. The social sector, supporting private sector investments in renewables, incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises are all competing.

Global agreements can have decisive impact. There is some additional room also available with the government-controlled enterprises. And many of these are in the forefront of investing in the bricks and mortar industries.

What about private investors?

The large corporates are linked to global financial regimes and their investments follow sectors for which funds are available. Even as far back as 10 years ago, the revenues of the top five Indian companies made up 16% of India’s GDP. The 2015 budget on the other hand makes up less than 15% of our GDP today. Clearly we have a case of the tail trying to wag the dog. The biggest resources are in domains that are outside global governmental processes and treaties. Due to these being linked to the global political economy, the Indian private sector is increasingly invested in renewables (over-invested, by the way: solar could be a huge bubble as technology and price change).

Can’t India borrow from China?

If you want capital to invest in non-solar energy you have to go to sources in East Asia: Japan, China, and Korea. You basically have three options. The result is we end up borrowing money at 7-9 percent as opposed to the 1-2 percent you can borrow money at in Europe.

High cost of debt is a big problem here even with renewable energy investments and when the costs are passed on to the consumer, renewables are not competitive with fossil fuels. A CPI study couple of years ago arrived at a conclusion that unfavourable debt terms are adding 24-32% to the cost of renewable energy in India, compared to similar projects in the US.

What should India do?

We need to secure finance from larger development and financial institutions and find ways to attract foreign direct investment for infrastructure. That’s what we have to fight for. We also need to ensure that global regimes that are being shaped as we move to COP21 at Paris and beyond are not going to stop 20th Century financing of roads, bridges, power plants, social infrastructure — for India and for the developing world.

At the same time we need to change the discourse in western capitals about India’s efforts on combatting climate change. We need to communicate clearly and boldly that we are committing to ambitious renewable energy targets and that we are punching above our weight and responsibility on climate mitigation.

Do you believe the accusations made by the Indian Intelligence Bureau that Western environmental funding is thwarting development projects?

Not just anecdotally but also based on an exercise we did a few years ago it became apparent that the same set of actors have been opposing India’s development agenda over a few decades. First they were against our large irrigation projects. Then they opposed hydro projects. Then thermal plants. More recently they are opposing our nuclear plants and now there is a general pushback against the entire infrastructure investment agenda of India.

Is there something sinister and conspiratorial behind these attempts by the same sets of actors? I do not know. Should we resort to banning them? Not at all. It is time to create the counter narrative and a counter discourse. Ideas and images must be countered by logic and reality. Are we good at that? No, but we should up our game and therefore I believe scholars and practitioners from India must contribute more frequently to western platforms. Which goes back to your first question on my motivation for writing generally and that particular column specifically.

The Bureau claims that opposition to development slows India’s growth by 1 – 3 percent per year. Is that a real number or just something they made up?

I don’t know how they got to that number but I assume they would compute on the basis of some relationship between investment in infrastructure projects and GDP growth. You have to remember that China’s big investments in infrastructure, bridges, steel, etc, put its growth on steroids.

We can’t do that because we undertook land reforms before we implemented economic reforms whereas China implemented bold economic policies and is still to reform its land laws. Result being that the Indian government can’t announce special economic zones and take over large tracks of land and create industrial areas. Here one man in a village can hold up a whole development initiative through legal recourse and in a sense that is also the strength of India’s development process.

So to answer your question – the number is not important. What is important is that there is a fundamental relationship between infrastructure spending and GDP growth.

So even without Western funding wouldn’t there be resistance to those projects anyway?

Of course! The “activism industry” relies on the politics of agitation. The problem is that not all of it is unfounded. And it is very difficult to agree to what is good agitation and what is damaging. The growing democratic ethos and more open institutional structures allow plenty of space to correct much of what is wrong but may allow also many to do a lot of harm (delays).

Can’t you do more natural gas?

Natural gas is great. We have good access to it by sea and it’s a pity that India isn’t being more aggressive to deploy this fuel. We have great scope to grow it in the coming decades. That is an exciting opportunity because it will help us replace coal and provide the bridge to a future with renewables. And recently this government has appreciated this potential as well.

What about nuclear?

The problem is we don’t have access to large quantities of uranium. That is changing but slowly. The nuclear deal was supposed to be a game changer but not even 1 KW has come out of that so far. The legacy of the Bhopal Gas tragedy means we will rightly insist on nuclear liability and that is holding up investment from Western companies.

Nuclear technology is also interlinked. For example, even though America and France are ready to build plants here, Japan is not yet ready to sign a civil nuclear agreement with us. Unfortunately, American and French plant designs use Japanese components. We are trying to find alternatives. Negotiations with South Korea have also been opened.

And then there is the looming presence of China as a supplier with whom India did open a line on cooperating in this sector. Unlikely to happen, but then stranger things have come about. But irrespective, If we were to do everything right on this front now, long lead times, approvals and safety considerations and availability of reactors imply that it will be a couple of decades before nuclear energy pulls its weight in the fuel mix and only in 2050 can it become a dominant option.


Indian leadership on climate change: Punching above its weight


Original link is here 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others at the highest political level have outlined in recent statements India’s commitment to constructive engagement with the global effort to combat climate change. Taken at face value, these statements indicate that India wants to take a leadership role in addressing climate change. However, in the global discourse on climate change, India often gets singled out for resisting mitigation action and for its reliance on fossil fuels such as coal. In this paper we argue that in addition to the efforts directed toward coping with and adapting to climate impacts (e.g., recent floods in Kashmir and monsoon failure in 2014), India is also “punching above its weight” on mitigation.

India ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November, 1993 and is a Non Annex 1 Party to the Convention. As a Non Annex 1 Party, India is not bound to mandatory commitments under the Convention. This is a central to the notion of “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities” as enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention. [i]

Overall development of any nation is directly linked to its energy use and access: energy poverty is a good indicator of low levels of overall development. The United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Reports have established that energy access and development are interlinked. Energy poverty is defined as a lack of adequate access to “modern energy services.” Modern energy services include the access of households to electricity and clean cooking facilities­—fuels and stoves that do not cause indoor air pollution. The poor in India are spending more than the rich in the developed countries on energy generally and clean energy specifically. Around 306.2 million people in India lack access to electricity (Table 1), perhaps the largest energy access challenge anywhere in the world. At around 705 million, India also has the highest number of people without access to non-solid fuels.[ii]

Table 1: Access to Energy (Electricity and Non Solid Fuels)

COUNTRY Total Rural Urban Total Rural Urban
1990 2000 2010 2010 2010 1990 2000 2010 2010 2010
BRAZIL 92 97 99 94 100 81 89 94 64 > 95
CHINA 94 98 100 98 100 36 47 54 19 70
GERMANY 100 100 100 100 100 > 95 > 95 > 95 > 95 > 95
INDIA 51 62 75 67 93 13 29 42 14 77
JAPAN 100 100 100 100 100 > 95 > 95 > 95 > 95 > 95
U.S.A. 100 100 100 100 100 > 95 > 95 > 95 > 95 > 95

Source: Global Tracking Framework, IEA

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “meeting the emission goals pledged by countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would still leave the world 13.7 billion tons of CO2—or 60%—above the level needed to remain on track for just 2ºC warming by 2035.”[iii] There are at least two ways to tackle this problem. The first is to scale up clean energy efforts, whether in the form of fuel switching from coal to gas or installation of renewable energy capacities. The second option is perhaps harder: lowering energy consumption dramatically by altering lifestyles in developed countries.

For India, the viable solution to address the global climate change challenge is clear. Given its low base, India’s demand for energy will increase manifold in the decades ahead (energy consumption will increase by 128 percent by 2035 according to BP[iv]). India will have to scale up efforts on the clean energy front: an enabling global agreement and domestic investment environment are critical for this.

Renewable Energy Framework

Development of renewable energy has been one of the pillars of the Indian Government’s strategy to improve energy access to tackle energy poverty. India’s Integrated Energy Policy, formulated in 2006, lays down a roadmap for harnessing renewable energy sources. [v] The extant policy framework for promoting renewable energy follows from this, with a target of adding 30 gigawatts (GW) by 2017 as per the 12th Five Year Plan. The sector specific developments are:

  1. Solar Energy: The National Solar Mission, being implemented by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, increases utilization of solar energy for power generation and direct thermal energy applications. The long-term goal is to generate 20 gigawatts (GW) of grid connected solar power by 2022. The government has recently announced its intentions to increase the target for installed solar capacity to 100 GW.
  2. Wind Energy: Wind energy is the largest source of renewable energy in the country.. According to the meso-scale Wind Atlas (yet to be validated through field measurements), India has a potential of generating around 102 GW of wind power at 80 meters above sea level. Around 22 GW of wind power capacity had been installed by November 2014. Fiscal incentives in the form of a Generation Based Incentives (GBIs) on a per unit generated basis and Accelerated Depreciation (AD) that allow greater tax deductions early on in the project cycle have been reinstated recently. In the latest Union Budget, the Government has specified a 2022 target of 60,000 MW on wind energy capacity.
  3. Biomass: The government has been supporting grid-interactive biomass power and bagasse co- generation in sugar mills in India, with a target of 400 megawatts (MW) between 2012 and 2017. Central financial assistance is provided for this. A 2022 target of 10,000 MW of installed biomass capacity has been announced recently.
  4. Waste to Energy: The Indian government, through the “Swachh Bharat Mission,” under the Ministry of Urban Development, has provided support for up to 20 percent of project costs linked ‘Viability Gap Funding[vi]’ for waste processing technologies.
  5. Small Hydropower: Hydropower units of less than 25 MW are classified as “Small Hydropower” projects by the government. As of December 2014, a total capacity of around 3,946 MW was available from such projects in India. Section 7 of the Electricity Act of 2003 stipulates that “any generating company may establish, operate and maintain a generating station without obtaining a license/permission if it complies with the technical standards relating to connectivity with the grid.”[vii] The government is targeting an installed capacity of 5000 MW by 2022.

At the end of the fiscal year in March 2014, the total cumulative installed capacity for renewable energy in India was around 13 percent of the total electricity share at 31,707 MW. The average per capita electricity consumption in India for the year 2013-14 was 957 kWh[viii]: around seven per cent of the per capita consumption of the United States between 2010 and 2014 (13,246 KWh).[ix]  This is a stark reflection of India’s energy poverty challenge. Despite a very low base of per capita electricity consumption, the scope and ambition of India’s renewable energy initiatives is remarkable.

Assuming a solar energy capacity addition of 100 GW by 2022 as per the government’s plan, India’s per capita renewable energy installed capacity, not accounting for any capacity growth in wind, biomass, and waste to energy, will be around 92.6 watts per person, well over today’s global average of around 80 watts per person.[x] This is a conservative estimate since currently wind power accounts for the largest share of renewable energy, at around 67 percent of total installed capacity, whereas solar accounts for only around 8 percent.

We should also note here that the large hydro (25 MW and above) potential and installed capacity is also significant and is not counted in the renewable energy estimates above. Large hydro potential in the country is around 145,320 MW of which 36,080 MW has been commissioned as of December 2014. [xi] This is more than the entire renewable energy installed capacity in the country. Power from large hydro can also provide base load power to mitigate intermittency challenges of renewable energy.

Per Capita Spend on Renewable Energy

At the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in Paris (COP-21) in 2015, global leaders will decide if an international renewable energy and energy efficiency bond facility will be established.[xii]  Securing financing for mitigation and adaptation efforts is key to any meaningful attempts to address climate change. Promoting renewable energy offers a clear pathway for reducing greenhouse gas emission from the energy sector.

The key constraint to the development of renewable energy has been the historically higher costs associated with it. There are wide divergences in the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE), as defined by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), depending on location. The cost of generation in non-OECD countries for both wind and solar power tends to be lower than for OECD countries owing to various structural factors such as cheap labor rates that lower project costs. For illustration purposes, the range of LCOE as assessed by IRENA in 2012 has been used.[xiii] In the case of Solar Photovoltaic systems without batteries the estimated LCOE is between 0.25 to 0.65 KWh. For onshore wind energy (projects larger than 5 MW), the costs are between 0.08 and 0.12 KWh.[xiv]

Assuming a weightage of 94 percent wind power and 6 percent solar power generation in India, the costs per KWh of electricity generated through renewable energy is between 0.09 and 0.135 (Table 2). Costs in USA, Germany, China, and Japan have also been estimated and summarized in the Table 2.

Table 2: Cost of Renewable Energy (USD) per KWh, 2012

Lower End 0.09 0.09 0.11 0.09 0.08
Upper End 0.1356 0.1356 0.185 0.1356 0.224
Weightage in Renewables Mix 94% (W), 6%(S) 94% (W). 6% (S) 75% (W), 25% (S) 94% (W), 6% (S) 60% W, 40% (S)

*Rough estimations (assuming that renewable energy is largely a combination of wind and solar, particularly given the relatively negligible growth in other sources over 2012-2040) following from electricity generation shares specified in the World Energy Outlook 2014, for countries (EU figures used as a proxy for Germany) in 2012

100 GW of installed solar energy capacity by 2022, run at a plant load factor of 13 percent,[xv]will produce around 113,880 GWh or 113,880,000,000 KWh of electricity annually. Under this scenario India would be spending between USD 28.4 billion and USD 74billion on its LCOE for solar power based generation (using solar photovoltaics). The Indian government estimates that the additional overall investments required to facilitate this would be to the tune of USD 100 billion.[xvi] To further put this into perspective, 100 billion USD is around a third of the total budgeted expenditure of India’s Union Government in 2015-16 (INR 17.77 lakh crores). Based on the lower end estimates in Table 2, the LCOE will be over a tenth of the total amount of 100 billion USD that the Green Climate Fund is to make available by 2020.

Given the fiscal challenges, India punches well above its weight in terms of its expenditure on renewable energy (Solar Photovoltaic and Wind Energy). Using verifiable approximations for 2012, the average Indian spent about one and a half times what the average Chinese spent, between 2.2 and 4.3 times what the average Japanese spent, and around 2 times what the average American spent. Indians spent between two thirds and half of what average Germans spent.

Table 3: Per Capita Income Spent on Renewable Energy (in % of Daily Income) in 2012*

Per Capita Renewable Energy Consumed (KWh per day) 0.1080 1.95 4.146 0.3007 0.776
Lower End (% of daily income spent) 0.26 0.12 0.40 0.17 0.06
Upper End (% of daily income spent) 0.44 0.21 0.82 0.29 0.20

*Calculated on the basis of per capita incomes and country populations in 2012 as specified by the World Bank; renewable energy consumption as available in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014 for the category ‘other renewables’ (2012) which is based on gross generation from renewable sources including, wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and waste, and not accounting for cross-border electricity supply and converted on the basis of thermal equivalence assuming 38 per cent conversion efficiency in a modern thermal power station; and the estimates in Table 2

Over the next 7 years until 2022, India has a target of renewable energy capacity of 175 GW and most of this capacity addition is to come from solar and wind energy. [xvii]As India ramps up its solar capacity to 100 GW and wind to 60 GW, which is close to the total wind and solar installed capacity in the EU in 2012,[xviii] the average Indian per capita spending on renewable energy as a percentage of daily income should positively compare with average EU levels.

Energy in the Paris Agreement

The future of global energy and the climate change challenge is contingent on a number of political and economic factors. This last year has been proof that even well-formed trends, such as in the case of the global price of oil, can change drastically. Current estimates suggest that coal, oil, and gas will contribute around 81 percent of primary energy consumption until 2035.[xix]However, these estimates are based on benchmark prices of commodities and current technologies.

Changes in both prices and technologies associated with oil, coal, and gas are essentially unpredictable. However, the cost of renewable energy will certainly continue to decrease consistently in the coming years. The cost competitiveness of renewable energy in the form of onshore wind is already at par with fossil fuel based systems for generating electricity, and the LCOE for solar has halved between 2010 and 2014.[xx]The costs of utility scale solar energy are likely to become competitive with fossil fuels in the future. Indeed this competitiveness narrative of renewable energy remains highly nuanced, and depends on a variety of factors such as existing grid infrastructure and labor costs. For instance, since the penetration of renewable energy in India is high, a substantial grid infrastructure cost will be involved in scaling up electricity generation through renewable energy.

As part of the domestic financing framework, recent measures have helped transition Indian policies from a carbon subsidization regime to a carbon taxation regime.  From October 2014, a de facto carbon tax equivalent of USD 60 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent in the case of unbranded petrol and around USD 42 per ton in the case of unbranded diesel has been introduced. In addition the clean energy cess[xxi] on coal has been doubled and is now equivalent to a carbon tax of around USD 1 per ton.[xxii]

However the fiscal space to maneuver is limited given that the proportionate per capita spend on renewable energy in India is already much higher than developed and developing countries and does divert resources from necessary social and infrastructure spending.

The main barrier for increasing renewable energy penetration will be a lack of financial and technological flows; India’s achievements in renewable energy have occurred in spite of such flows. For instance, Clean Development Mechanism-linked flows, which could potentially subsidize renewable energy development dried up a few years ago owing to the oversupply of Carbon Emission Reduction certificates which are now trading at near zero levels.[xxiii]Similarly, transfer of cutting edge clean energy technologies has been limited by international trade law and protectionist policies of innovating countries. Capital flows can be unlocked by a new global agreement and robust bilateral cooperation on clean energy could potentially prove to be the most effective medium for government—government technology transfer.

In an important 1991 report on global warming, Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain made a compelling case that “those who talk about global warming should concentrate on what ought to be done at home.”[xxiv] It seems that the conversation at the UNFCCC has inevitably evolved to reflect this discouraging reality. The centrality of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in the draft negotiating text of the Lima Call for Climate Action is indicative of the renewed focus on domestic action.[xxv]

Gauging by the renewable energy thrust alone, India’s response at home has been more than commensurate with its economic weight. It must, at the very least, demand similar levels of per capita renewable energy spending by way of commitments from OECD countries. India is already among the countries leading the clean energy transition and must demand that much of the developed world catch up when the Conference of Parties meets at Paris.

[ii] Common solid fuels used in India include dung cakes and firewood

[vi] Viability Gap Funding is a grant to support infrastructure projects become financially viable

[viii] As per the provisional figures of the Central Electricity Authority:

[x] Population in 2022 = 1.42 billion assuming a 17.64 per cent growth rate as seen in the decade 2001-2011 as per the Census of India

[xii] As per the draft negotiating text for COP 21:

[xiv] Concentrated solar power systems generate solar power by using mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight, or solar thermal energy, onto a small area;

[xvi] Economic Survey of India, 2014-15, Available at:

[xix] BP Energy Outlook

[xxi] A cess is a form of an indirect tax

  • Samir Saran

    Senior Fellow and Vice President, Observer Research Foundation

  • Vivan Sharan

    Consultant, Observer Research Foundation


The Tricky Path to a Global Climate Agreement

Original link is here

Authors: Samir Saran, Senior Fellow and Vice President, Observer Research Foundation; Vivan Sharan, Associate Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Nov 24, 2014, Council of Councils

Lights on the Eiffel Tower read, "Paris Climat 2015" to mark the selection of the French capital to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015

Lights on the Eiffel Tower read, “Paris Climat 2015” to mark the selection of the Paris to host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties in 2015 (Jacky Naegelen/ Courtesy Reuters).

The Conference of Parties (COP 20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will convene a critical session in Lima December 1–12. It precedes COP 21, to be held in Paris in December 2015, at which a post-Kyoto global agreement (post 2020) on climate change must be finalized, in accordance with the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. The outline of the Paris agreement is expected to begin to take shape in Lima. This agreement will determine the ambition and contours of the global response to climate change in the years ahead.

Expectations and Challenges in Lima

The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) is mandated with reaching a global agreement by COP 21. Such an agreement would include a vast range of issues including mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, transparency of action, and support for capacity building.

Since the ADP is under the convention, the contours of a new agreement will need to be in consonance with the principles of the UNFCCC, including Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR/RC). While the principles are meant to guide efforts toward the ultimate objective of the Convention —to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations—they have not necessarily been fully observed by Annex 1 countries, the countries that had committed to take the lead in these efforts, per Article 4 of the Convention.

Alongside eliciting a renewed commitment from all parties to the  mandate from Durban, the Lima meeting should also establish robust processes to consider scientific assessments andreviews (on climate change effects and responses) that are being developed or have recently been submitted to the convention, including the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Lima meeting is also expected to lead to decisions on the contours, time lines, and anchoring in ADP, of the so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Factors Conditioning a Global Agreement

There are at least four developments that may influence any global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These include the domestic political challenges in the United States, the evolving global energy scenario, the European impulse to reindustrialize and regain competitiveness, and the dynamic and evolving role of emerging powers.

Today there are 192 parties to the Kyoto Protocol, yet the world’s second largest emitter, the United States, has failed to ratify the protocol. It has, however, in a submission to the UNFCCC stated that it “supports a Paris agreement that reflects the seriousness and magnitude of what science demands.” Earlier in the year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled ambitious regulations on emissions mitigation for new and existing power plants as part of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

While a global agreement without U.S. participation cannot be considered a success, Republican leaders including Senator Mitch McConnell—who is likely to become Senate Majority Leader in the new Congress in January 2015—have publicly criticized the Obama administration’s climate change policies. The U.S. submission on the elements of a 2015 agreement outlines clearly that the country expects certain elements of the Paris agreement to be internationally legally binding. Yet the possibility of the U.S. Congress agreeing to commitments that fulfil the ambitious policy response envisioned in the AR5 remains bleak.

The United States is the world’s largest oil consumer, and oil prices are at multi-year lows. For the first time since January 1994, the United States imported less than three million barrels of crude oil from the members of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in February 2013. In addition to the shale gas revolution that has inevitably led to an impulse to industrialize in the United States, there is weak demand from China and the EU that has added to the downward pressure on the price of oil. OPEC members are split on establishing a floor price for oil in this scenario, and high energy prices cannot be expected to act as a trigger for industrialized countries to invest heavily in alternative energies.

Adding to the energy sector realities is the fact that the European Commission has explicitlystated that industry will be brought back to the core of European policies. In the midst of burgeoning unemployment, particularly among the youth, the EU agenda is set on bringing industry’s weight to 20 percent of GDP by 2020, from around 16 percent today. To fulfil this agenda, EU member countries are already consuming more hydrocarbons.

According to recent reports, Germany has increased coal consumption by 13 percent and the UK by 22 percent in the last four years. The EU is also negotiating an expansive free trade agreement with the United States
(the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that could give further impetus to reindustrialization. In the midst of these fundamental structural shifts, it is unlikely that EU leaders will commit to aggressive and bold climate change measures required of developed countries.

The rise of rapidly growing developing countries and their different development trajectories will also complicate a global agreement. These countries, including China and India, which together account for nearly three billion people, face domestic imperatives to develop further, albeit of different dimensions and scale. India for one has to provide energy to 300 million of its people that have no access and millions more who have only notional access. It also has to provide jobs to nearly twelve million people who enter the workforce every year; a large share of those jobs will need to be generated by the manufacturing sector. This means that India will continue to negotiate for space and time to ensure its broad-based economic development and would ideally like to have the support of Brazil, South Africa, India, and China on this.

It remains to be seen how the recent bilateral agreement between the United States and China could impact the group dynamics and whether this club of countries will continue to weigh in on the climate debate together in the run-up to the Lima and Paris meetings.

The Way Ahead

The COP 20 at Lima will be an exercise in creating trust and credibility mechanisms under the convention. To avoid replicating mistakes from COP 15 at Copenhagen—where negotiations on the draft text fell through in the final hours—the discussions at Lima should be aimed at producing the draft negotiating text for the COP 21. This will enable a transparent and goal oriented process, which will be able to meet many of the expectations and constraints outlined above, at least in the short term.

The factors discussed above indicate that the national contributions as agreed in Paris must be substantive without being burdensome. This can be achieved through an innovative global response that targets three low hanging fruits, assuming the Annex 1 countries demonstrate a new willingness toward fulfilling their commitments on financial and technological flows as per Article 4 of the Convention:

  • Improvement of energy consumption efficiency per unit of revenue earned (energy intensity) of large, energy-intensive corporations operating in industrial and energy sectors across the globe. Industry and energy sectors account for 45 percent of global emissions. Even relatively nominal gains in these sectors through policy incentives for enhanced energy intensity performance can yield large emission mitigation gains. Only corporations that are over a certain predetermined revenue, profitability, or turnover threshold, across the globe, should be considered within an incentives framework to ensure that actions are commensurate with respective capabilities.
  • Realization of end-use efficiency through demand-side management. For instance, India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency estimates that up to 50 percent efficiency gains (relative to current levels) can be realized through such processes domestically in case of commercial buildings alone. Given that the buildings sector accounts for around 8 percent of global emissions, there is significant scope for purposeful collaboration between developed and developing countries in demand side management.
  • If it is understood that the principles enshrined in the UNFCCC should act a barometer for success, the conception of these principles must not be limited to procedural matters. An example would be the equitable transfer of financial and capacity building assistance from first-tier cities toward towns and rural areas within and across national geographies. Initiatives such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group show that multi-stakeholder responses can be leveraged toward an ambitious climate change response and private sector stakeholders are ready to participate. Such initiatives both between countries and within countries would act as a robust means toward achieving sustainability.

In Lima and Paris, the global community must ensure that obsession with the legal nature of the post-Kyoto agreement does not detract from achieving what is eminently possible. The next year will in any case determine whether or not climate multilateralism will work.

Books / Papers, BRICS


Original link is here 

The objective of this document is to formulate a long-term vision for BRICS. This in turn flows from substantive questions such as what BRICS will look like in a decade and what the key priorities and  achievements will be. It is true  that  BRICS is a nascent, informal grouping   and   its   agenda   is  evolving   and   flexible.   Therein  lays  the uniqueness of BRICS. The BRICS leaders have reiterated that  BRICS will work  in  a gradual,  practical and  incremental manner. Nonetheless, the grouping  needs  a long-term vision  to  achieve  its  true  potential for two reasons: (1) to dove-tail  the tactical and individual activities into  a larger framework and direction; and (2) to help in monitoring the progress of the various sectoral initiatives in a quantifiable manner.

The  Track  II BRICS dialogue,  under  the  chairmanship of India  in 2012, has been robust. On March  4th  – 6th,  2012,  academics and experts  from the five BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia,  India,  China and South  Africa— assembled  in  New  Delhi   for  the   4th   BRICS  Academic   Forum. The overarching theme was “Stability, Security  and  Growth.” This  theme is useful for understanding the motivation and ethos of BRICS as a platform for dialogue and cooperation on issues of collective interest.

The  dialogue  led to the drafting of a comprehensive set of recommendations for BRICS leaders  (Annexure 1). The  17  paragraphs that  capture the  recommendations to  the  BRICS leaders  were  reached through a consensual process between  60 academics and experts from the five countries. Forum  delegates  contributed a number of research and policy papers  that  formed  the basis for the enriching discussions. Each of these  papers  highlighted key  areas  for  cooperation, within the  overall construct of the BRICS agenda.  This  research led to a significant build-up of knowledge on BRICS. This  long-term vision document is an attempt to aggregate the dialogue and research that  has fed the Track II process so far and to build upon it.

Broadly speaking, the document is divided into four sections. The first, on ‘Common Domestic Challenges’, aims to pinpoint multiple areas in which sharing experiences and best practices within the BRICS Forum  will help to respond to common problems. For example, BRICS nations have vastly differing levels of educational attainment and healthcare policies. As large developing   countries with  significant  governance challenges,  but  also ‘demographic dividends’ and  other  drivers  of growth  to reap,  BRICS can greatly benefit from innovative ideas emanating from similarly positioned nations.

The  second  the  matic section focuses  on  ‘Growing  Economies, Sharing Prosperity’. Given  the  huge distance that  the  BRICS nations have yet to cover   in   tackling  poverty   and   providing   livelihoods  to   their   rising populations, there  is no option other  than maintaining and  accelerating economic growth.  This  section outlines the necessity of deepening intra- BRICS  and  worldwide   trade   and  economic synergies.   Additionally,  it documents growing energy needs and discusses how the economic growth imperative affects the BRICS discourse on climate change.

The third section, titled ‘Geopolitics, Security and Reform of International Institutions’, outlines an enhanced role for BRICS within an increasingly polycentric world  order.  Within the  United  Nations  (particularly the Security  Council), enhanced BRICS representation can institutionalise a greater  respect  for  state   sovereignty and  non-intervention. In  Bretton Woods Institutions, like the IMF and World Bank, BRICS seeks to reform voting  shares   to  reflect  the  evolved  global  system, different  from  that forged in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Finally,  as leaders  in the   developing   world,   BRICS  nations  seek  to  create   a  development discourse that better represent their aspirations.

The  fourth thematic section, on the  ‘Other Possible  Options for Cooperation’, outlines possible  developments to further collective engagement once the necessary prerequisites are achieved. At the present juncture, it  may  be  too  early  to  think of  BRICS  becoming a  formal, institutionalised alliance. However,  it  is important for the  grouping  to envision a commonality of purpose, continuity of operation and dialogue beyond annual summit meetings.

There are five prominent agendas  of cooperation and  collaboration that emerge from this  vision document. These themes are integral to the very idea of long-term engagement between  the  BRICS nations and provide  a framework for accelerating momentum and  increasing significance over the long term:

1.         Reform of Global Political  and Economic Governance Institutions: This  is the centrepiece of the BRICS agenda,  which  in many  ways resulted in the  genesis  of the  grouping. With  the  move  towards a polycentric world order,  BRICS nations must assume a leadership role in the global political  and economic governance paradigm and seek greater equity for the developing world. Over the coming years, they  must continue to  exert  pressure for  instituting  significant reforms within institutions—such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),  the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund  (IMF). Various  suggestions outlined in this  report  provide  a constructive framework for enabling substantive reforms.

2.         Multilateral Leverage: There are multiple formats for engagement and cooperation in order to leverage the BRICS identity at the global high  table.  The  outcome of the  BRICS officials  meeting on  the sidelines of the  November 2012  G20  in  Mexico,  where  it  was decided  to  create  and  pool  a currency reserve  of up  to  USD  240 billion   is  one   instance  of  enhanced  intra-BRICS cooperation. Similarly, the  Conference of Parties, the  United Nations, and  the World  Trade   Organisation are  existing   cooperative frameworks,

within which BRICS countries can collectively position themselves by fostering  intra-BRICS consensus on issues  of significance. The United Nations is central to a multilateral framework, and there  is significant potential for BRICS to collaborate and  assume a more prominent  role   in   global   political   and   economic  governance, conflict  resolution etc.,  through institutions such  as the  Security Council.

3.         Furthering Market Integration: Global  economic growth  has  been seriously  compromised in the years following the Global Financial Crisis. Each percentage point  reduction in global growth  leads to a significant  slowdown  of  economic development within  BRICS which hinges  upon  a necessary component of economic growth.  In this   regard,   market  integration within  BRICS,  whether in  the context of trade, foreign investments or capital markets, is a crucial step  to  ensure that  the  five countries become  less  dependent on cyclical trends in the global economy.

4.         Intra-BRICS  Development   Platform:  Each   BRICS  nation  has followed a unique development trajectory. In the post-Washington Consensus era, developing  economies within BRICS must set the new development agenda, which in turn must incorporate elements of inclusive growth,  sustainable and  equitable development, and perhaps most   importantly,  uplifting those  at  the  bottom of the pyramid. The  institution of BRICS-specific  benchmarks and standards, as  well  as  more  calibrated collaboration on  issues  of common concern including the rapid pace of urbanisation and the healthcare needs of almost half the world’s population represented by BRICS, must be prioritised.

5.   Sharing of Indigenous and Development Knowledge and Innovation Experiences  across   Key  Sectors:   Along   with   the   tremendous potential for resource and technology sharing and mutual research and development efforts, coordination across  key sectors—such as information technology, energy generation, and high-end manufacturing—would prove immensely beneficial for accelerating the BRICS development agenda. Moreover, the BRICS nations must share  indigenous practices and experiences to learn and respond to the immense socio-economic challenges from within and outside. This  vision document contains multiple suggestions for instituting such  sharing mechanisms through various  platforms and cooperation channels.

This   document  analyses  the   above   themes  in   detail.   Each   section concludes with  recommendations specific  to  the  chapter’s theme. The final  section contains synthesised suggestions which  serve as an outline/framework for enhancing intra-BRICS cooperation and collaboration. The  official declarations/statements of BRICS leaders  are available in Annexure (s) 2 to 5.

Water / Climate

India Market and Environment Report (IMER)

Please find here the original link to the g-trade-website. 

Volume 1 of the IMER captures the financial performance and energy use efficiency of the top 100 Indian and Global companies for FY 2011. The report also details in brief, the market and environment performance metrics of 9 sectors of the Indian economy – Financial, Automotive, Machinery and Capital Goods, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology, Textiles, Apparels and Accessories, Steel, Utilities, Cement and Oil and Gas. Volume 1 is the first in a series and a context setting precursor to sector specific corporate carbon performance reports by gTrade, which will aim to build greater ethical and sustainable investment sensibility in India, to steer businesses and investors towards an efficient market based framework which prices carbon risk appropriately.

gTrade is delighted to announce the launch of Volume 1 of the IMER. To purchase a hard copy now, click here

(Discounted rates are available for bulk orders/institutional buyers)

For the detailed Table of Contents, click here

For a snippet from Volume 1 of the IMER, click here

For institutional/bulk buying, email:

Why you should purchase a copy:

  • Cutting edge business specific energy analytics developed at India’s premier research labs
  • Provides information on the carbon offset potential among the largest corporations in India for CDM and other substitution projects.
  • Provides data points and analyses outlining scope for renewable energy generation.
  • Ideal for businesses interested in profiting from increasing efficiency of operations, production or governance
  • A great tool for investors to immediately identify potentially undervalued stocks relative to sustainability performance
  • An instrument of verification of investment decisions for large institutional investors – both foreign and local,
  • A benchmarking and knowledge building tool – for entities involved in the business of carbon – through global carbon schemes such as CDM
  • An unparalleled learning tool for those looking to understand sectoral efficiency performance landscapes in India, for investment, research, capacity building, energy management and policymaking
Books / Papers, Water / Climate

Re-imagining the Indus: Mapping Media Reportage in India and Pakistan

Published 2012, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi

Water shortage has become a subject of intense public debate in the present political narrative on resource management and riparian rights. In an attempt to discern the divergence on core issues and mainstream media reporting, Re-imagining the Indus is a methodological study based on Media Content Analysis of the reporting on water issues related to the Indus, in the leading dailies of both India and Pakistan. This monograph seeks to capture the existing discourse and stimulate policy dialogue on the subject.

In Detail
What is the general discourse on water scarcity and related crises in the Indian and Pakistani media? The study conducted by Samir Saran (ORF) and Hans Rasmussen Theting, scrutinised the media coverage on water on three specific themes – the political discourse, water governance and people, practice and environment.

Titled ‘Reimagining the INDUS: Mapping media reportage in India and Pakistan’, the study found that the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) does not dominate the reportage in Pakistan, indicating a low level of discontentment or critique.

It also found that it is only in the months of winter, when the water flow is low, that inter-country dispute between India and Pakistan, and significant negative sentiment against India, gets attention in Pakistan. But in the Indian media, Pakistan only appears during spring months.

The study, now published in the form of a book, found that agricultural concerns and inter-provincial disputes dominate media reportage in Pakistan while in India media lays greater emphasis on urban water concerns and interventions, including ground water and domestic consumption.

The study also showed that media reports in both the countries, Pakistan more than India, recognise the need for the two countries to cooperate on water issues. From the study, it was also clear that in both India and Pakistan, there is equal emphasis on the aspects of water governance and infrastructure.

Water / Climate

Samir writes for the Asian Energy Institute (AEI) newsletter on ‘Climate change and human security: building a framework for action’

January 2011
Download the entire newsletter here (pdf)

Climate change and human security: building a framework for action

‘Climate and security’ is a narrative with multiple layers and irresolvable complexities. At the very core, it continues to remain a western narrative on a looming and enduring eastern reality.This very comprehension of climate and security lends to discussions an externality that both hemispheres find hard to reconcile. But before we discuss this inherent paradox within ‘climate security’—a term used to broadly describe situations, discussions, and elements that constitute security within and resulting from climate discourse and global climate action (modest at best), it may be useful to shape the boundaries of what be the core tendencies, trends, and impulses that define it.

The use of the terms ‘climate’ and ‘security’ in popular literature conjures up images of apocalyptic storms, landslides, extreme weather conditions, deluge, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, droughts, floods, cyclones, and similar weather phenomena that will ravage countrysides, inflict loss of life and property on an unimaginable scale, and result in mass exodus of populations. Be it the Hadley Centre Report that feeds this imagery through a more scientific and nuanced approach (Department of Energy and Climate Change) or the Stern Review that deploys this description to urge action by the developed and developing worlds (Stern 2007), the correlation between climate and such threats is unmistakable. This continues to be the defining imagination of security within the climate debate—hotly contested in terms of scale, size, and timelines. Images of death and destruction remain the central argument in the arsenal of a section of the political class, both in the West and East, who are vociferously urging action, incentives, and commitments around green technology, carbon trade, and innovation.

The success of the approach of linking climate action to impending apocalypse is debatable. Also at doubt is its ability to elicit appropriate response from policy- makers and institutions. Deploying images of death and destruction within the climate debate, some argue, is ‘climate pornography.’ It is forcefully stating the obvious, and as some would argue, also the inevitable (Ereaut, Gill, and Segnit 2006).The semantics of this argument are clearly built on the ‘fear for life’ and ‘fear of the future’, and seek to compel political action on this basis by gaining support in the larger public sphere. This approach seemed to have helped create a surge in the constituency of those seeking climate action, particularly in the Western countries. This has also resonated among a specific constituency in the emerging nations, prior to the Conference of Parties at Copenhagen last year. However, it has been unable to stem the disenchantment of the larger public from matters of climate, and ‘climate fatigue’ is setting in. As per a 26-country survey conducted by GlobeScan, concern for climate change is dwindling both in Europe and North America (GlobeScan 2010). According to the survey, support to climate efforts in the UK fell from 59% to 43%, and in Germany from 61% to 47%.This narrative was also unsuccessful in appealing to large constituencies in emerging countries and the developing world. This was a result of poor communication, hypocrisy, and inherent dichotomy in the construction of the debate.This predominantly western narrative on climate security describes the outcomes (floods, cyclones, and so on) through a matrix of predictive dates and probabilistic scenarios.This was an instance of science attempting to steer policy that, as some argue, failed. Science is comfortable with probability and percentages, but people are not. Communications on the matter often sounded weak and convoluted and the messages lacked clarity.They also lacked a central appeal, but more importantly, they failed to offer a response to the challenge. This was perhaps the biggest failure in the communication of the imminent dangers of global inaction.The articulation lacked considered and feasible global responses without which communications were read as scare mongering or where there were indications of certain action (read technology as the saviour) it was read as lobbying by vested interests. Global inattentiveness to ‘climate and security’, in some sense, is as much about a failure to communicate, as it is about political differences and high economic stakes.

However, the hypocrisy within the narrative surfaces when this debate seeks placing the occurrence of extreme climate events and disasters into the future and when action is urged for the benefit of future generations (such as the US President Barack Obama’s exhortation to act on climate change or risk ‘… consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe’). If, as climate science suggests, man-made emissions are able to subvert some of earth’s natural systems, then why are the current extreme events also not a result of the last two centuries of industrialization and rampant mercantile capitalist production? To many, the answer is simple yet hypocritical.The rich would have to foot the bill today for having squatted and ravaged the limited carbon space available as a common resource for global citizenry. The impact and solemnity of the climate and security argument would have far greater weight if developed nations were obligated to make good the costs of life and property that are lost in the poorer regions today due

to floods, cyclones, hurricanes.Yet while we hear a call for action on pricing carbon (which allows the rich to usurp more carbon space), incentives for technology and securing intellectual property rights, a determined and unequivocal call for damages of past action is missing. Ensuring that the countries with the means to respond to the suffering caused by such climate-related disruptions in poor and emerging countries, are allowed to absolve themselves of any responsibility, adds to skepticism, and weakens the most important argument—that of security—for global action.

Calls for global action sound hollow for another reason—the quantum of commitment made by the affluent nations.While the rhetoric of preserving the planet and human life is pitched high, what we see in terms of response is tokenism.To save the planet, the mightiest nations in the world got together at Copenhagen last year and then at Cancun recently, and committed to a paltry $100 billion each year by the year 2020.2 Let us now place this pledged amount against another recent response by the world community. It is estimated that over $3 trillion was committed by the US, China, EU, and other countries to help the world economy or as some suggest, to ‘save a few banks and large corporations’ (Barbier 2010). Three trillion to save the financial system and a 100 billion to save the planet—a fact that will undermine any security discourse within the climate narrative.

The other extremity of the climate-security narrative is less popular, but fast shaping as a significant line of thought. It focuses on elements of human security outside of the ‘life and property’ paradigm.This debate places the human right to develop, grow, and aspire for a better life as a primary objective of climate action (Saran 2010). Here, too, the western narrative seeks to focus the discourse on poverty reduction within the objectives of climate action, thereby reducing the aspirations of billions in the emerging world to that of survival and poverty-line existence.The fact that the industrial economies of the OECD and their high income populations were assisted and subsidized by carbon-intensive fossil fuels is cast aside as an act of ignorance, and the importance of the use of coal and gas in determining the pace at which India and other emerging countries develop is undermined by real but superficial arguments on ethics and shared responsibility. Poverty and growing aspirations are the two imperatives for any political system in emerging economies, and there would be political unrest if the leadership in these nations were to compromise on these.

However, the climate narrative is beginning to exert itself in the development processes of poor countries. Last year, we saw the US EXIM Bank deny a loan to a coal project in South Africa, and dither on a similar proposal for India citing potential emissions as the reason. If climate positions were to become barriers to trade and finance flows, we could perhaps be discussing the most significant and impending security paradigm for the emerging world.The impact of climate negotiations, and green capitalism that is rearing its head, are some elements that will define climate and security for India and other developing countries.

Let me conclude by posing some queries that policymakers in India and other developing countries will need to respond to. Can we ignore the real threat to life and property from extreme climate events? Can the actions of India reduce this threat? How can we compel the West to vacate carbon space, and cap and reduce lifestyle emissions? How will we be able to allow billions in India and the developing world to aspire and, seek homes, cars, holidays and infrastructure? Should we? Why should the first-time users of electricity in India (nearly 500 million) have to make do with token solar lamps that work for only a few hours? Why should the poorer 80% of the world’s population be made to bear responsibility for expensive climate action going forward? How do we ensure continued access to critical finance and technology required to develop infrastructure, and afford prosperity to millions? How do we carve out a global regime that removes carbon squatters and makes them pay for their historical retention of carbon space? Why should the emerging world support or incubate new technologies, when all major economies seek to place green technologies at the centre of their plans of re-industrialization and manufacturing competitiveness? Lastly, can we ignore the ‘green economy,’ and does it really provide India an opportunity to take a position of leadership in this new world? These are some of the competing dynamics of the ‘climate security’ narrative that we will need to navigate if we are to develop a robust framework that realizes the gravity of the climate and security narrative, and articulates the differentiated needs of the diversely developed regions of the world.


  • Barbier E B. 2010. A Global Green New Deal: Rethinking the Economic Recovery. Cambridge University Press. 171 pp.
  • Ereaut, Gill, and Segnit. 2006. War m Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better? London: Institute for Public Policy Research.
  • Department of Energy and Climate. Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. Met Office, Hadley Centre. Available at http://www.metoffice.
  • GlobeScan. 2010. ‘Climate Concerns Decline since Copenhagen Summit: Global Summit.’ [Press Release 2 December 2010]. Available at: Cancun_climate_release.pdf.
  • Saran S. 2010. The Globalisation and Climate Change Paradox: Implications for South Asian Security. In South and Southeast Asia: Responding to Changing Geo-Political and Security Challenges, edited by K V Kesavan and D Singh. New Delhi: ORF-Knowledge World. 141–161 pp.
  • Stern N. 2007. The Economics of Climate Change:The Stern Review. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
In the News, Water / Climate

Samir attends the Renewable Energy and International Law (REIL) roundtable in Cambridge, 2011

June 20-21, 2011, UK
Link to original website
Feature in Global Energy Review, July 12, 2011
Feature in Business Weekly, June 13, 2011

Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) is co-hosting the prestigious Renewable Energy and International Law (REIL) roundtable in Cambridge from 20-21 June.

REIL is an informal network of international climate change and clean-energy experts. Its members include policymakers, private investors, technology developers and academics, all working to increase the use of cleaner and more efficient energy solutions.

Delegates taking part in the roundtable include Bob Simon, Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Energy Committee; Brad Gentry, Director of the Yale Centre for Business and the Environment; Melinda Kimble, Senior Vice President of the United Nations Foundation; Samir Saran, Vice President of the Observer Research Foundation in India; Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Levi Strauss & Co; and Eomon Ryan, Leader of the Green Party in Ireland.

The event, which is being held at the University of Cambridge’s Moller Centre, will focus on strategies to address climate change and the development of the low carbon economy. Topics for discussion include financing clean technology; the convergence of food, water, and energy issues; and sustainable energy access.

“With long-term international political processes finding it difficult to come to agreements, it is ever more important to be thinking creatively about solutions to climate change and access to energy. REIL brings together key influencers from across the climate change policy and finance world. In particular it offers a unique opportunity for public and private sector delegates from the UK and US to share innovative thinking and approaches to tackling issues within the energy sphere. The group of people meeting in Cambridge for this workshop will examine some of the key challenges that we face and demonstrate that a solution is possible and can be found,” said Dr Aled Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin’s GSI.
REIL members convene regularly, with an annual roundtable held at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. This year, REIL are holding their first ever roundtable at Cambridge University in partnership with the Cambridge Centre on Science and Policy (CSaP) and Anglia Ruskin University’s GSI.

The synergy between REIL, CSaP and GSI is strong, with CSaP acting as a networking organisation dedicated to building relationships between policy makers and experts in the fields of science and engineering.

The GSI is a research institute based at Anglia Ruskin that encompasses a broad portfolio of areas and interests including environment, built environment, technology, tourism, business practice, education and health.

The roundtable will comprise discussions on the following subjects:  

  • Financing Clean Technology (including proposals for Green Investment Banks)
  • Convergence of Food, Water, and Energy Issues
  • UNFCCC: From Cancun to Durban
  • Technology
  • Sustainable Energy Access
  • Financing Energy Efficiency

Event chairs:

  • James Cameron (Founder and Vice Chairman, Climate Change Capital)
  • Bradford Gentry (Director, Yale Center for Business and the Environment, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies)
  • Leslie Parker (Managing Director, REIL)
  • Martijn Wilder (Partner and Head of Global Environmental Markets Practice, Baker & McKenzie and Adjunct Professor, ANU)

Monday 20 June: The meeting will start at 10am and finish with dinner in Trinity Hall.
Tuesday 21 June:  Day two of the meeing will start at 9.30am and finish at 5pm.
Please note that attendance is by invitation only.  There is no fee associated with attending the workshop and dinner.

The Møller Centre
Management Training & Conference Centre
Churchill College, University of Cambridge
Storey’s Way
United Kingdom

Company: Reil (Renewable Energy & International Law)