Baroness Verma is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. She gives an account of her recent visit to India in which she visited five cities in six days meeting parliamentarians, state legislators, business people and students to discuss climate change, clean energy and women’s empowerment.
Throughout my visit I was struck by three things:
First, the importance of the relationship on energy and climate change. India’s population, currently 1.25 billion, could be 1.6 billion by 2040. The huge strides India is taking to reduce poverty mean that more Indians than ever before are enjoying a better quality of life and are able to afford air conditioning, televisions, computers, motorbikes and cars. This reduction in poverty is a wonderful thing which should be celebrated. But it also poses a challenge: how to provide the increased energy required by a growing and prospering India, without increasing the risks of the most severe impacts of climate change.
The energy choices India makes today will dictate how much impact India will have in reducing global carbon emissions and tackling widespread and dangerous climate change. So it is in our interests to engage with India as it makes these choices. It was good to see first-hand what this engagement means in practice, this includes helping legislators to understand what climate change will mean at a local level, deepening government to government relationships, establishing networks to support business to business collaboration, and working closely with Indian institutions to provide support to some of the poorest in society. A particular highlight was my visit to see the DFID funded TERI work on business models for the dissemination of clean cookstoves and solar lanterns. I was delighted to meet the women entrepreneurs who were providing the services and those who were benefitting from the programme to hear about the co-benefits of the more efficient and cleaner stoves to their health, income and even the cleanliness of their household.
Second, I was struck by the positive amount of activity already underway to combat climate change. The Government of India published its National Action Plan on Climate Change in 2008, which identified eight “national missions” to combat climate change. These include the national solar mission to install 20GW of grid connected solar power by 2022 and the national mission on enhanced energy efficiency, which by 2012 had resulted in an estimated 11GW of avoided power capacity. Additionally, many states have developed state action plans on climate change which mandate action at a state level around renewable energy, off-grid clean energy, smart grids and a host of other new technologies. Indian policy-makers, business people and researchers are taking real action on climate change – and the UK is working with them as they do so.
Closer collaboration between India and the UK could be extremely valuable. India is a huge and rapidly growing market. Even in the current economic environment its economy is still growing at over 5% a year, and in the medium term it should return to sustained stronger growth
Thirdly, in my interactions with Indian businesses, I was struck by their appetite for Indian-UK collaboration on developing clean energy systems and energy efficiency technologies. Closer collaboration between India and the UK could be extremely valuable. India is a huge and rapidly growing market. Even in the current economic environment its economy is still growing at over 5% a year, and in the medium term it should return to sustained stronger growth. Again and again when I spoke to Indian business people in different parts of the country they highlighted their interest in collaborating with UK companies. Building that collaboration not only makes sense from an economic point of view, creating jobs and growth in UK and India, it also makes sense from a climate change point of view, building cleaner and more sustainable businesses in the UK and India. The UK and India’s economies are a natural fit when it comes to clean energy and sustainable business. We should build on our already strong relationship for the benefit of all our peoples.