In the first day of talks between President Barack Obama and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two leaders agreed to some renewable energy policies in the developing nation, which is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But the talks did not result in a clear-cut commitment by India to curb carbon emissions, such as the pact made between the U.S. and China late last year.
In India, there are currently 300 million people without electricity. As a result, the country has long maintained that it cannot forgo any method of bringing power to its poor, which has led to a substantial reliance on coal. Historically, India’s leaders have also maintained that the responsibility for climate change should also rest in the hands of those who have been most responsible: the U.S., the E.U. and China.
While the meeting between Obama and Modi fell short of addressing some of the larger issues of climate change, it did result in some key agreements related to energy development. The U.S. has agreed to help out technologically and financially with India’s goal to reach 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2022. In addition it will become easier for U.S. companies to build nuclear reactors in India. While the method, and its safety, is certainly controversial, it will provide more electricity without significant carbon emissions.
Finally, the duo agreed to work towards phasing out hydroflurocarbons, which are used in refrigeration and contribute to climate change. In all, the talks saw a cultural shift on the part of the Indian government, in the form of a greater willingness to accept a role in slowing climate change. But environmental groups in the nation still believe that India has far to go.
As Grist notes, there was no clear “indication from India that bringing electricity to its hundreds of millions of poor and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are not mutually exclusive goals.” Greenpeace India had clarified before the talks that “any announcement on India’s climate action needs to address future coal expansion to make the cut.” Meanwhile, environmental groups working in India have found themselves the victims of harassment.
It will likely take significantly more action to quell the skepticism of some environmentalists, but Modi appears amenable: “For President Obama and me, clean and renewable energy is a personal and national priority… We discussed our ambitious national efforts and goals to increase the use of clean and renewable energy.”