I would like to thank Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for hosting this event, and to acknowledge the participation of other senior officials here in India and joining us from the United States.
I’m particularly excited about partners from City University of New York. My mother is a proud graduate of City College of New York and it’s exciting to be able to partner with you on this venture.
I want to thank Yachneet Pushkarna – or Sonny to his friends – and his colleagues at Govardhan Ecovillage for their energy and resolve in addressing environmental concerns. Whether we are talking about local water conservation efforts as we celebrate UN World Water Day, or the broader need to address climate change around the world, engagements like this Indo-U.S. Sustainability Summit are instrumental in mobilizing society to action.
I am excited to share with you today some of what the United States is doing to address environmental concerns at home, what the U.S. Mission in India is doing with our partners here in India, and to hear about the successes and challenges being experienced by the stakeholders with us this evening.
Climate change is a global phenomenon, but it is experienced locally. Whether its increasing heatwaves leading to crop failure and food scarcity worldwide, or the rising sea levels, land erosion, and flooding faced by coastal communities like Mumbai, the consequences of climate change affect millions of people every day.
President Biden has made fighting climate change a top priority for the United States, and the U.S. – as part of our pledge to address the challenge – has rejoined the global community in the Paris Agreement.
Significantly, President Biden sat down earlier this month with his counterparts from Australia, Japan, and of course, Indian Prime Minister Modi, for the first multilateral summit of his presidency. The Quad owes its existence to our joint efforts to address a natural disaster: the tsunami of 2004. At the Quad Summit, the four leaders reaffirmed their vision for a stable, free, open, and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific; and their commitment to the values of inclusivity, transparency and good governance.
The leaders also identified the climate challenge as a priority for the Quad and the Indo-Pacific; and established a Quad Climate Working Group focused on achieving specific objectives. These include strengthening implementation of the Paris Agreement; advancing low-emissions
technology solutions; and cooperating on climate mitigation, adaptation, resilience, and climate finance.
As a next step, President Biden will host a Leaders’ Summit on Climate this Earth Day, April 22-23, aimed at catalyzing enhanced global ambition to address the climate crisis. We recognize the exigency of holding the Earth’s temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris Agreement. Our present path of a 3.7 to 4.5 centigrade increase will engender fundamentally unlivable conditions, especially for the most vulnerable and poorest people on Earth. In the long term, driving towards net-zero emissions no later than 2050, and keeping a 1.5-degree limit within reach, remain the best policies for climate resilience and adaptation.
The U.S has set for itself ambitious domestic goals, looking to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and to put us on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050. This plan will create millions of new jobs in a U.S. economy focused on clean energy.
For its part, India deserves significant credit for its global leadership on climate change. “Climate Action Tracker,” a reputable website following climate issues, has rated the Government of India’s climate efforts as “2-degree compatible.” India is the only, notably, major economy to receive this rating. We also welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s initiative to establish both the International Solar Alliance, and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
The U.S. Mission in India and the Department of State in Washington are also taking specific, meaningful actions with government and private sector partners to address air quality, promote renewable energy, and reduce waste. For example, did you know that 80 percent of our Immigrant Visa applications are completed through a paperless process? Or that the police stationed around our building here in Mumbai, who previously relied on fires to keep warm during cold weather, now have solar panels on their huts to power heaters? In 2018, the State Department’s South and Central Asia Bureau launched a Council on Air Quality—CAQ—to address the impact of poor air quality on our diplomatic personnel in the region, including local staff. Since that time, the CAQ has partnered with host governments on policy approaches to improving air quality and promoting U.S. best practices, goods, and technology for air quality solutions to reduce pollution.
As part of that initiative, here in Mumbai, we provide access to our reference-grade beta-attenuation monitor—or BAM—for local startups manufacturing low-cost air quality sensors. At a time when the Consulate had the only reference-grade air quality monitor in Maharashtra available to researchers, this access enabled corroboration and validation of the sensors being produced. This access contributed greatly to research on calibration algorithms based on machine learning and artificial intelligence, essential to producing quality products that ultimately provide the public with vital data about the air they breathe.
Our Foreign Commercial Service team is tracking new project announcements for timely collaboration with U.S. suppliers of the latest technology in the areas of pollution control, air monitoring, and wastewater treatment. And the commercial section is planning a visit to India later this year by American EnviroTech companies focused on clean air, weather monitoring, and forecasting, a follow-up to the first environment trade mission, in February 2020, focused on water technology.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has consulted with officials from the Central Pollution Control Board and the Madhya Pradesh and Mumbai Pollution Control Boards on air quality and wastewater management.
Because agriculture is a vital focus in addressing climate change, our Foreign Agricultural Service is exploring areas of technical assistance with the Maharashtra government. India and the United States are both agricultural powerhouses, and we play an important role as guarantors of global food security, as well as meeting a growing demand for fiber and fuel while mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. In this effort our countries must focus on improving soil health, water use, and livestock management practices while investing in conservation technologies and renewable energy. For over 20 years, our Foreign Agricultural Service has trained Indian officials and agricultural professionals in these subjects through its Cochran and Borlaug Fellowship Programs.
The U.S. Agency for International Development—USAID—has long supported India’s low emissions development, working to accelerate the clean energy transition, expand the use of nature-based solutions to climate change, and support resilient communities. Since 2016, USAID in India has supported the deployment of 6 gigawatts of renewable energy, leveraged more than $2 billion for clean energy investments, and reduced greenhouse gases by 13 million tons, the equivalent of removing over 2.5 million cars from the road for a full year. The 70-year India-U.S. development partnership and today’s focus on innovation and engaging the private sector have built the institutions and relationships to help tackle the climate crisis.
The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or DFC, which recently opened an office at the Consulate in Mumbai, has committed over $800 million for solar projects around India. The DFC’s financial commitments include two 300-megawatt solar photovoltaic power stations in Rajasthan, and two smaller stations in Gujarat. The DFC, working in partnership with USAID, also recently signed a risk-sharing guaranty agreement with New York-based Encourage Capital and two Indian financial companies – cKers Financial and Electronica Finance Limited – to support loans to small and medium enterprises in India investing in rooftop solar installations. The agreement mobilizes up to $41.7 million in financing for the purpose. And the DFC has an estimated $550 million of additional renewable energy projects in the pipeline.
We are proud of these achievements, and yet there is much more we can do together. Lowering trade barriers to clean energy technologies, and synchronizing our economic development initiatives to include renewables, are two examples. The imposition of customs duties on the import of solar cells and solar modules, as the Indian Government recently announced it intends to do, may be intended to promote domestic manufacturing capacity. But the proposed plan will also increase the capital cost for solar power projects by 24%. Such protectionist policies are counter-productive and need to be re-examined if we want to address climate change quickly and meaningfully.
The bottom line is that the world is counting on India and the United States to lead on climate change. Our cooperation, together and with our international partners, is essential to addressing this global challenge. We look forward to expanding our partnerships with local governments, environmental NGOs, and other stakeholders, to contribute to this fight.
Thank you for having me here this evening.