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Two Democracies and the Fight Against Climate Change: India and the US sign the US-India Climate Action and Finance Dialogue

Climate change

Earlier this week, India and the United States marked yet another milestone in their combined fight against climate change. During the visit of the Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change, John Kerry, to India, the two partner countries signed the US-India Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD). One of the two tracks of the U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership announced in April 2021 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden at the Leaders' Summit on Climate, the CAFMD comes just in time for the 26th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to be held in Glasgow in early November. 

The CAFMD emphasises the need for swift climate action along with inclusive and sustainable economic development. It builds on one of the core principles of the Paris Agreement of 2015: mobilising global finance for developing countries’ transition to a clean economy. India has set an ambitious goal of achieving 450 Gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy by 2030, a goal that was acknowledged and commended by Special Envoy Kerry. While India has already accomplished 100 GW of installed renewables capacity, government estimates suggest that further developments in the sector require an annual investment of $ 20 Bn over the next decade. The CAFMD will be closely coordinated with the U.S.-India Strategic Clean Energy Partnership and enable speedy technological innovations and deployment. It can, therefore, become a key enabler in India’s clean energy transition. 

In addition to financing, the CAFMD also promotes US-India collaboration on bilateral and multilateral climate action by advancing technical collaboration and developing implementation pathways. As the second and fourth-largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, respectively, the US and India both have tremendous potential in curbing emissions and leading global decarbonisation efforts. In both countries, transport and industries are the largest GHG emitters (after the power sector) while buildings in the US and agriculture in India, too, contribute to total national emissions. The CAFMD has the potential to infuse all these sectors with emerging technologies that reduce carbon dependencies and overall emissions. 

Furthermore, the dialogue acknowledges the vulnerability of India and the United States to adverse weather events. Both countries have suffered from intense cyclones and hurricanes this year that have led to the loss of life and damage to property amounting to billions of dollars. The CAFMD will build capacities to correctly measure and manage the risks of climate change while leading adaptation efforts in both countries. It will also promote resilient infrastructure that can withstand the projected impact of multiple extreme weather events that climate change has already made commonplace. 

Last, the CAFMD will promote sustainable forestry and reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. This is an important ambit of the new dialogue given the centrality of forests as natural sinks that absorb carbon dioxide and improve air quality. This also underscores the urgency of amending the long-established parameters of human-natural interaction to address contemporary challenges of a warming planet worsened by decreasing global green cover. 

The US-India Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue is a critical and opportune mechanism that will shift domestic and global attention towards climate change and its increasingly obvious impacts. By focusing on financing sustainable projects, the dialogue will create an ecosystem wherein governments and businesses will incorporate climate-sensitive policies and map a more sustainable future.