UK and India partnership on full show at COP26

By Kealan Finnegan

After two days of discussions, speeches, and announcements, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson have departed the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), where they came together on several occasions for shared UK-India commitments and partnership on climate action.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had urged the world’s leaders to come to Glasgow with greater commitments than ever before. When introducing Prime Minister Modi to the Conference audience, Mr Johnson described him as understanding the potential of renewable energy better than anyone and ‘sharing our agenda’.

And share the agenda they did. Together, Mr Johnson and Mr Modi announced three high-profile commitments that will see our countries work in partnership across renewable energy grids, finance, and disaster relief.

Climate financing

On Monday, Prime Minister Johnson announced the ‘Clean Green initiative’ to help developing countries to scale up public and private investment in quality, sustainable infrastructure in countries around the world, including in India. The initiative will see the UK deliver over GBP 3 billion in climate financing in developing countries over the next five years. In India, the financing will go to schemes such as electric vehicle manufacturing. In addition, The UK will also provide an ‘India Green Guarantee’ to the World Bank to unlock an additional GBP 750 million for green projects in sectors such as clean energy, transport and urban development across India. This is most welcome as addressing the challenges of urbanisation and greener transport can go a long way to improving air quality and reducing congestion, much needed in India’s great cities.

‘One Sun One World One Grid’

Then on Tuesday, our Prime Ministers jointly launched the Green Grids Initiative—One Sun One World One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG), the first international network of global interconnected solar power grids. GGI-OSOWOG is designed to not only reduce carbon footprints and energy costs but also increase energy security and reduce the need for energy storage, considering the day and weather-dependency of solar energy and other renewable types. As PM Modi explained, while there is not sunlight 24 hours a day in one place, there is sunlight covering half the world at all times. By working together, countries can benefit from the endless energy of the sun, using their energy and sharing it with other countries at times when they are in daylight hours. In response, they would receive energy from other countries during night-time hours. Of course, this already exists at a bilateral and regional level, but the One Grid sets out a global energy ecosystem.

The initiative will include: investing in solar, wind, storage and other renewable energy generation in locations endowed with renewable resources for supporting a global grid; building long-distance cross-border transmission lines to connect renewable energy generators; modernising power systems through technological advancement; incorporating the role of electric vehicles to help improve grid flexibility; attracting investment into solar mini-grids and off-grid systems to help vulnerable communities gain access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy; and developing innovative financial instruments, market structures, and financial assistance for solar grid infrastructure.

This oneness philosophy of the initiative is particularly pleasing. Climate change is a global challenge, with unequal effects but shared responsibility. The global response is more effective when our countries work together to share resources and by doing so can harness the world’s energy to the fullest extent and simultaneously reduce environmental harm. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Disaster relief

Finally, on the same day as launching the One Grid initiative, PMs Modi and Johnson then announced our countries’ support for small island nations through the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS) initiative. IRIS is a part of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) that would focus on building capacity and climate resilient infrastructure in small island developing states. As some of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world to climate disaster (and of course the least contributing to climate change) it is vital that developed countries support both mitigation and adaptation in these nations, with better infrastructure a foundation of both.

This partnership on the world stage, between our two Prime Ministers and between our countries, is the latest example of how the UK and India can work together as global leaders for shared goals. These three major announcements will bring much needed technical assistance and financing to developing countries around the world and strongly demonstrate a united UK and India.

In next week’s blog, I will reflect on further announcements as they continue in earnest in Glasgow and look more closely at Prime Minister Modi’s national commitments for India, including to advance non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030 and the commitment to Net Zero by 2070, and the opportunities they present for further UK-India cooperation.

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