New U.S.-India Green Partnership improves prospects for global climate deal

This guest post is by Julian L. Wong, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress

Yesterday, the chances improved for meaningful progress at Copenhagen, the UN conference on climate change that is less than two weeks away.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have signed a series of cooperation agreements in the launch of a U.S.-India “Green Partnership” on energy security, climate change and food security. These agreements come just a week after the United States and China have entered into a similarly impressive range of agreements (see previous guest posts “U.S. and China announce “positive, cooperative and comprehensive” plan for collaboration on clean energy and climate change” and “Announcements of U.S.-China cooperation create a path to Copenhagen success”).

There are three features of the U.S.-India announcements that are compelling:

1. Commitment to a strong outcome in Copenhagen, grounded in “full transparency”

As we enter the final few weeks before the Copenhagen climate summit, it is striking that the United States, as the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has engaged the largest emitter (China) and fourth largest emitter (India) at the highest levels to hammer out a common approach for a successful outcome in Denmark. India agrees with the United States that an outcome from Copenhagen “must be comprehensive and cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.” Both countries “resolved to take significant national mitigation actions,” but just as importantly, both countries agreed to “stand by these commitments” and are committed to the implementing these commitments with “full transparency through appropriate processes.”

After months of internal deliberation, these declarations are strongest signs yet that the Indian leadership is willing to reflect their climate actions in and international agreement and to be held accountable by committing those actions international standards of “measurement, reporting and verification” on which a successful global climate treaty so urgently depends on.2. Comprehensive collaboration on clean energy research and deployment

The economic opportunity of clean energy is becoming increasingly clear. Both countries recognize that “transitioning to a low-carbon economy is an opportunity to promote continued economic growth and sustainable development in all countries.” An Indo-U.S. Clean Energy Research and Deployment Initiative, including a joint research center, was established to begin innovation activities on a wide range of clean energy solutions, including solar energy, wind energy, energy efficiency, smart gird, unconventional natural gas, second generation bio-fuels, cleaner combustion of coal, transportation and micro-hydro power. The two countries will also cooperate on reducing emissions from land use changes such as deforestation.

Such a collaboration takes both countries beyond the finger-pointing on climate responsibilities that has characterized previous dialogues, lays the ground work for the necessary acceleration of clean energy deployment over what would be possible if our two nations tried to do it alone, and has the potential to also enhance clean energy job creation and investments in both countries.3. Capacity building in India for climate adaptation and environmental governance

A final important aspect of the cooperation agreements is the commitments of both countries to cooperate on capacity building initiatives for climate change adaptation and environmental enforcement. Capacity building assistance for India is crucial, considering Indian per capita GDP is just a mere 6 percent that of the United States.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will work with Indian’s Ministry of Earth Sciences to develop tools for more accurately forecasting monsoons and related warning systems. Food security is of particular concern in the context of climate impacts to India. A new Memorandum of Understanding on Agricultural Cooperation and Food Security between both countries creates channels for cooperation in crop management, education, nutrition, scientific innovation and private sector investment in the agriculture sector.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will help the Indian government “create a more effective system of environmental governance, regulation and enforcement” in the form of a newly established National Environmental Protection Authority.

This three-pronged approach with India of forging a positive commitment to Copenhagen, collaborating on clean energy solutions, and capacity building assistance tracks closely the approach that the United States took with China last week. In the space of a week, President Obama has not only created strengthened climate change position amongst three great countries that together account for nearly half the world’s emissions, but has also laid the foundation for the joint acceleration the deployment of clean energy solutions and increased accountability, transparency and capacity in our collective climate actions.


Coupled with today’s announcement that President Obama will attend the Copenhagen climate conference and bring U.S. targets to the negotiating table, a prospect that was all but ruled out just a few weeks ago, there is strong reason to believe that we are now on much better footing in the path toward reaching a robust global deal on climate change.