During the 13th EU-India Summit, held on 30 March 2016 in Brussels, Prime Minister Narendra Modi (India), Donald Tusk (President of the European Council) and Jean-Claude Junker (President of the European Commission) emphasized on the strategic, security and economic potentials of this relationship. This article, however, focuses on a significant but less publicized area of strategic compass between India and the European Union- the Joint Declaration on A Clean Energy and Climate Partnership.
Notably India and the European Union hold an annual Energy Panel Meet since 2005 under the Joint Action Plan and the 2016 Declaration is an attempt to take the commitments adopted under the 2012 Joint Declaration for Enhanced Cooperation on Energy between the EU and India, to a broader and higher level.
In the present scenario, the India-EU green energy cooperation gains significance in the context of some recent events in the global, regional and national energy scenario.
The UN- sponsored Paris Climate Change Pact of 2015, the first ever universal legally-binding global deal, set the target of keeping the rise of global temperature below 2 degree Celsius, if possible to limit it to 1.5 degree, above the pre-industrial level to reduce the risks and impact of climate change, and asked for all concerned parties, to formulate and communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies, in view of their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances. The October 2016 Kigali Amendment to the 1989 Montreal Protocol also put differentiated cuts on the emission of hydrofluorocarbons to reduce global warming level by half a degree Celsius. It is significant to note that India not only ratified the Paris Climate Pact, thereby paving the way of its entering into force in November 2016, but it took a leading and principled stance during the negotiations of both these global treaties to put forward the rights of developing countries to provide economic security to its population, without jeopardizing the global climate change goals and to seek environmental justice for the Mother Earth.
The European Energy Union was proposed by the European Commission in February 2015 through the adoption of the ‘Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy’ to provide secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy for its citizens. The idea of this Union is greatly influenced by the Commission’s 2030 Climate and Energy Package that seeks to reduce green house Gas emission by at least 40 per cent by 2030 and a rise in the share of use of renewable energy to 27 percent during the same period. Three of the five dimensions (apart from ensuring diversification of energy supply and implementation of a fully integrated energy market) of the Energy Policy, that this Union attempts to address, are related to the green dimension of energy security- energy efficiency, de-carbonization of the economy, as well as research, innovation and competitiveness in areas of renewable energy, smart grids, carbon capture and storage and nuclear technology.
India’s new energy policy, as proposed in 2014 by the Modi administration, also envisaged of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022- 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind, 10 GW of biomass and 5GW of hydro electricity- to change its energy mix with an increased percentage in favour of renewable energy. It is important to note in this vein, when India’s candidature for Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in June 2016 was supported by a large majority of members of the Group, it was not only a vindication for India’s impeccable non-proliferation record, unlike some of its neighbours, but also it was an international support for India’s plan to change its energy mix through better access to clean energy, to acquire newest civilian nuclear technology to limit its carbon emission percentage and reduce air pollution from coal-based power plants, as well as to propose plutonium trade for its indigenous thorium-based nuclear programme to gain green energy security.
The Way Forward
It is significant to note that since 2005 India and the EU are partners (along with the United States, Russia, Japan, China and South Korea) in a global project for the advancement of scientific-technological knowledge for determining the future global energy strategy through ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) or the project to re-create the fusion process of the Sun to produce energy for commercial use on earth- an ambitious project to provide green energy to the world.
Also, it is notable that the International Solar Alliance, an initiative by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is the conclave of 121 Sunshine countries, i.e., countries with high solar power potentials, situated between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, was inaugurated in Paris, alongside the global Climate Change Summit in 2015. The foundation for its Headquarter was jointly laid by PM Modi and the French President Francois Holllande in Gurgaon (India) in 2016 to provide a platform for cooperation among solar resource rich countries’ where bilateral and multilateral organizations, corporate, industry and stakeholders can make a positive contribution to the common goals of increasing utilizing of solar energy in meeting energy needs of ISA member countries in a safe, convenient, affordable, equitable and sustainable manner.
The 2016 Declaration concentrates on a number of areas for future energy cooperation- to exchange views and to continue joint activities on regulatory approaches, best practices, business solutions, market access and research and innovation solutions in the fields of energy efficiency and climate chang; development and deployment of renewable energy like clean coal technology, solar and offshore wind energy, and nuclear fusion technology; to develop the EU-India cooperation on smart grids; to explore possibilities for the EU to cooperate in the area of International Solar Alliance Mission Innovation; and to exchange bilateral views and experiences on various international mitigation initiatives under the Paris Climate Treaty and the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances in view of the 2015 Dubai Pathway on hydrofluorocarbons. It also envisages to implement the Partnership commitments through two new mutually supportive Dialogues- Energy Dialogue and Climate Change Dialogue
Energy security is fundamentally significant for the human civilization to progress, but more important is the fact that if the earth- the lone planet in the solar system to have proper conditions for life to bloom- becomes inhabitable for the human life, due to human negligence to balance energy security and environmental concerns, then the only probable option might remain to relocate the global population to Proxima B, the planet with possibly such conditions for life, but the only problem remains- it is only 4.3 lightyears away!
So there is an urgent need for long-term, comprehensive strategizing for global energy interdependence to find viable, alternative and innovative solutions to make life on the earth secure for us and most important, for the future generation, to whom we owe this responsibility, as we inherited the earth from our forefathers.
The 2016 EU-India Energy Partnership Declaration shows aspiration and provides hope to meet and balance these twin challenges to ensure secure, clean, affordable energy for sustainable human development while mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change.