India's Prime Minister Modi Joins Obama in Redoubling Pledge to Act on Climate Change
Redoubling their pledge to act on climate change, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama vowed to early ratification of the Paris climate agreement this year during the U.S.-India Summit on Tuesday.
The two leaders committed to work toward a global agreement to cut heat-trapping climate pollutants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol this year and an expansive partnership on clean energy finance that fights climate change and grows clean energy markets. Tuesday's announcement builds on years of concerted efforts by both countries to deepen the U.S.-India strategic partnership on climate change.
The U.S.-India commitment to achieve an amendment to the Montreal Protocol this year dramatically boosts prospects for a global deal this year to phase down HFCs. The new clean energy finance initiatives provide greater opportunity for business and government cooperation on solar, wind and energy efficiency to reach the Paris targets. The leaders also made agreements on a range of other environmental issues: wildlife conservation and combatting wildlife trafficking, G20 outcomes to improve heavy-duty vehicle standards, greenhouse gases from aviation and research and development on Mission Innovation.
In her letter to the president before the visit, the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) President Rhea Suh urged President Obama to seek agreement on real steps to implement the Paris agreement. Cooperation on clean energy technology, finance and policy is essential to scaling up clean energy markets, providing clean energy access and fighting climate change.
The Obama-Modi Joint Statement on redoubling efforts to ratify the Paris agreement declares:
“Both countries are committed to working together and with others to promote full implementation of the Paris agreement to address the urgent threats posed by climate change. India and the United States recognize the urgency of climate change and share the goal of enabling entry into force of the Paris agreement as early as possible. The United States reaffirms its commitment to join the agreement as soon as possible this year. India similarly has begun its processes to work toward this shared objective."
These two leaders are showing their desire to roll up their sleeves and start the critical work of implementing the Paris agreement, as my colleague Jake Schmidt explained.
Stronger Climate Change Cooperation: HFC Phase Down
The commitment by both countries to reach an amendment to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol significantly increases the odds of achieving a global agreement this year in October 2016, during the final Montreal Protocol meeting in Kigali and before COP 22 in Marrakesh. According to the Joint Statement:
“The two countries resolved to work to adopt an HFC amendment in 2016 with increased financial support from donor countries to the Multilateral Fund to help developing countries with implementation and an ambitious phase-down schedule, under the Montreal Protocol pursuant to the Dubai Pathway."
Under the Montreal Protocol, chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), used largely in vehicle and room air conditioners, must be phased out, but the default replacement chemicals are HFCs. Unfortunately, HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases with global warming potential that can be up to 10,000 times higher than that of carbon dioxide. HFC emissions from many markets are growing exponentially and air conditioner usage is increasing equally fast, especially in developing markets. If HFC use in both room and vehicle air conditioners is not reduced substantially, the resulting emissions could undo progress and climate change will occur at a much faster rate. Fortunately, commercially viable alternatives are emerging rapidly and transitioning to these alternatives can be safe and feasible, especially with financial support from the multilateral fund (MLF).
As research by NRDC and our partners shows, a growing number of Indian companies are leapfrogging to coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that don't heat the planet. Business cooperation among international companies, including those in the U.S., China, Japan and elsewhere, can advance the HFC phasedown. As my colleague David Doniger explained, now is the time to accelerate momentum and urge negotiators in the upcoming Vienna meeting to be steadfast in working through final details, including assurances on the MLF, technology-transfer and accelerated timeframes that respect developed and developing country positions.
Expanding Clean Energy Partnerships and Financing
With clean energy as a centerpiece for both the U.S. and India climate targets, programs to scale-up clean energy finance are vital. Prime Minister Modi and President Obama announced two major programs on clean energy. Focused on unleashing international and domestic financing, the counties are creating a $20 million U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance initiative to “mobilize up to $400 million to provide clean and renewable electricity to up to 1 million households by 2020." The program includes establishing a U.S.-India Clean Energy Hub to coordinate government efforts and drive investment. In order to increase access to clean energy, the governments will also create a $40 million U.S.-India Catalytic Solar Finance Program to provide off-grid renewable energy for villages that are not connected to the grid, which “could mobilize up to $1 billion of projects." Both programs are jointly funded by the U.S. and India.
The U.S. also reaffirmed India's ambitious national goals to install 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy, including 100 GW from solar energy by 2022. As part of the partnership, the U.S. also supports efforts of the International Solar Alliance, launched by Prime Minister Modi during the Paris meetings and research and development under Mission Innovation, as my colleague Sameer Kwatra explained.
While the U.S.-India Summit made significant progress on climate change, one promise from Paris that needs much more action is climate resilience—especially programs on preparedness and air pollution. Strong on-the-ground resilience programs are critical to implementing the Paris agreement. Attention to mitigation efforts far outweighs resilience efforts in both international and bilateral programs. As the impacts of global warming bear down on communities around the globe—from deadly heat waves in Gujarat to devastating droughts in California—climate resilience needs much more focus.
President Obama and Prime Minister Modi's joint actions show commitment following the Paris agreement that puts both countries on a path to a more sustainable future that supports economic growth and improves the lives of millions. Over the past few years, both countries have taken sincere action to build momentum and goodwill on climate action. Solidifying the leadership roles of the U.S. and India is essential to combatting climate change and encouraging a stronger global response, with benefits not only for our two countries, but also for the world.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
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<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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