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A Breath of Fresh Air in India

Vehicle ownership in India is projected to hit 400 million by 2040 from the 170 million recorded in 2015, which could prompt a five-fold increase in poisonous gases emitted by cars and trucks. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Vehicle ownership in India is projected to hit 400 million by 2040 from the 170 million recorded in 2015, which could prompt a five-fold increase in poisonous gases emitted by cars and trucks. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

NEW DELHI, Mar 20 2018 (IPS) - With India’s citizens clamouring for breathable air and efficient energy options, the country’s planners are more receptive than ever to explore sustainable development options, says Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

Rijsberman, who was in India to attend the first International Solar Alliance Summit on March 11, told IPS in an interview that the GGGI was prepared to support the Indian government to explore energy alternatives and improve the country’s growth model.

India is not yet a member country of the GGGI but is recognised as a partner, says Rijsberman. He points to the fact that GGGI has had small but successful projects running in India such as a collaboration to get India’s first electric buses running in Bangalore city.

“The electric buses are an example of how local level innovation can yield positive results in energy efficiency,” said Rijsberman. “The success of this project is in line with India’s Intended  Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) commitments to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.

GGGI’s recognition of the potential for expanding its activity in India can be seen in the fact that  the organization has been recruiting top managerial talent for its India country office.

Frank Rijsberman. Credit: GGGI

“For us, it is a bit of restart in India trying to position GGGI well at a time when the Indian government clearly wants to have more leadership internationally and project its own cleantech or green growth initiatives,” Rijsberman said.

So far, the successes have not been on the scale of what India is capable of, says Rijsberman. “In other countries we sit with ministries — the ministry of planning and investment in Vietnam and Laos for instance — and help with national green growth strategy or in the next five-year plan.

“Last year, said Rijsberman, “we helped member countries get 500 million dollars’ worth of green and climate finance – we’ve had no such breakthrough in India.”

Still, Rijsberman finds encouraging the “growing concern over deteriorating air quality and other things that is convincing citizens and politicians that the quality of growth really matters — we are looking at what GGGI can do to help the Indian government shift to a model of growth that is cleaner and more sustainable.”

India has experience in increasing the share of renewable energy in its overall energy mix and GGGI is keen to work with the government, particularly the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the International Solar Alliance (ISA), to share India’s expertise, and knowhow with other developing countries facing similar developmental challenges

“India has wonderful experiences that can be shared with countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and in other cases we could help share experiences from other countries that could support India’s green growth initiatives,” Rijsberman said.  

It has not all been smooth sailing though. Last year, Rijsberman said, GGGI had worked with the MNRE to find a combination of financing from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and other sources to improve India’s small and medium industries. “In the end we could not get the seal of approval from the environment ministry — so it has got a bit stuck.”

An important international finance mechanism, the GCF is  mandated to support developing countries to access international climate finance by developing projects to achieve renewable energy targets.

India country representative for GGGI, Shantanu Gotmare, said the project has not actually been shelved and is still in process. “We haven’t given it up yet,” said Gotmare, a career bureaucrat who has taken a break from government work to lead the GGGI in India.

Gotmare explained that much of GGGI’s work, so far, has been with provincial governments like those of Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab states. “We have developed comprehensive green growth strategies and supported these state governments in adopting integrated analytical approaches to assess green growth challenges and prioritise opportunities in energy, water, agriculture and forestry.

“We supported these three state governments in implementing specific green growth opportunities by formulating detailed project proposals, policy implementation roadmaps, and capacity building initiatives,” Gotmare said.

The plan for the immediate future is to scale up GGGI’s programmatic activities to launch green growth interventions at the national level.

“Our aim is to support the government to deliver on its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ambition by helping to develop policy frameworks, mobilising domestic and international climate finance and helping to introduce clean technologies and finally to create and share green growth knowledge and best practices,” Gotmare said.

There is an immediate opportunity to finance off-grid energy (OGE) access to millions of households in India that have limited or no access to electricity. GGGI is designing an innovative finance mechanism to support the government’s goal of ‘electricity for all’.

“This is a plan that is expected to simultaneously achieve social, economic and environmental  benefits,” Gotmare said.

According to Gotmare, as India’s citizens demand more power, it is a challenge for the government to make sure that there are energy options that are cleaner than the traditional coal or diesel-fired power plants. “This is precisely where GGGI comes in,” he said.

GGGI’s experience, says Rijsberman, allows it to work closely with the government to rapidly ramp up India’s electrification plans in a clean and sustainable way and use solar solutions to extend electrification services to India’s most marginalised households.

 
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