At the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, Indian Power Minister Piyush Goyal and French Environment Minister Segolene Royal announced that the two nations will launch a programme to promote solar energy in developing countries. As well as demonstrating the good relations between France and India, it has the potential to put a serious amount of money into green energy. This programme will be essential in enabling countries to develop without relying on fossil fuels, and will also spur on technological advancement in the field of renewable energy.
The proposed programme has to potential to provide $1 trillion of funding for members of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which includes massive economies like the US and China as well as developing countries like Cameron and Bangladesh. Even if the figure is half of this target, investment in renewable energy will have increased by such an extent that the benefits will be coming down the pipe incredibly soon. The goal of the ISA is explicitly to not replicate what is being done by other existing organisations, but instead to focus on policies that could improve the development of solar technology. ISA have specifically spoken about knowledge sharing, using innovative techniques to improve electricity systems in developing countries, and collaborating to form governmental policy.
As well as the obvious benefits to countries that are solar rich but do not yet possess the technology to harness this power, the investment will drive down the cost of producing solar technologies. This will result in more businesses making the purely economic choice of embracing solar power, as the expense of this type of electricity has often been a legitimate reason for businesses sticking with conventional forms of energy. However the technological advancements will also bring about greater efficiency. As solar panels and cells get more advanced, more power will be able to be converted in less space, and this enable communities to gather the energy they need from solar panels without the necessity of having huge power stations run by the state.
In the debate over climate policy, one of the key arguments used by developing countries to delay adopting emissions targets and other such measures was that it was unfair that the West had become economically advanced through using fossil fuels and that the West then lectured other nations about pollution. Irrespective of the strengths and weaknesses of this argument, it was an influential point of view especially as countries that held this view, such as India and China, were some of the worlds biggest polluters. This bold step from the Indian government seems to mark a shift away from this line of argument.
If the $1 trillion investment does materialise then countries from all over the developing world will be able to become more economically self-sufficient as well as being able to develop without polluting the environment. The fact that this announcement came in the same week as the news that China and the US would sign up to the Paris climate deal indicates that there does seem to be a realisation that climate change needs to be addressed. The amount of money put forward for the ISA is a good thing but we need to remain vigilant and hold countries’ to account if they hesitate in delivering these funds.