The Paris Push to Renewables: Scope for India-Japan Cooperation

The Paris Push to Renewables: Scope for India-Japan Cooperation


Parul Bakshi

“The only way forward, if we are going to improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved.”
– Richard Rogers

Richard Rogers, an Italian-British architect, perfectly encapsulates the intention behind international agreements such as the Paris Agreement[1]through the abovementioned quote. Paris Agreement of 2015, proven to be a watershed event, acting as a catalyst to further global climate and sustainable development ambitions. A unique aspect of the Agreement is that instead of prescribing specific mitigation actions or emission level targets to be achieved in a specified time; it focuses on individual Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). It has further been suggested by Resources for Future Report 2018, that NDCs can reveal a country’s preferences regarding climate policy, economic development, and other priorities.

As a result, the collective responsibility towards a sustainable future and protecting the environment from continuous adverse human impact have become common accepted goals of the international community. It creates a favourable environment for bringing together the strengths of each country to combat the common challenges ahead. This creates a space for countries to strive together towards their ambitions, as can be seen in the case of India and Japan.

Japan-India relations have historically been very positive and they today share what has been termed as a “Special Strategic and Global Partnership”, encompassing a wide array of areas for cooperative assistance and mutual development. The Tokyo Declarationsigned by Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Modi in September 2014 recognizes the critical dependence of both the economies on energy imports as well as the volatility and vulnerability it creates. As the awareness regarding environmental crisis broadens and consumers begin demanding green energy, the governments are being coerced to take stronger action.

Therefore, a scope for confluence evolves as both the countries might be able to assist each other in overcoming their respective challenges. In this regard, the areas of broad mutual convergence which emerge are:

Technological cooperation

Innovation is central to a sustainable energy; and Japan, can resume its position of technological leader by utilizing its scientific knowledge combined with human resource and market access offered by India to further renewable energy affordability and accessibility. Japan’s Long-Term Strategy under Paris Agreement 2019and India’s NDC also call for enhanced international actions on technology development and transfer to accelerate low carbon technology diffusion. This can be done especially in areas of energy storage, mini and micro grid technologies, electronic passenger and commercial vehicles, among others. International Energy Agency Report 2019 on Technology Innovation to Accelerate Energy Transitionshas also reiterated the need for government partnerships between stakeholders at the most advanced knowledge frontier (like Japan) as well as from markets with highest potential for innovative technology adoption (like India). The National Energy and Environment Strategy for Technological Innovation towards 2050 which has been put forth in line with Paris Agreement by Japan, and can act as a bridge between the two countries to promote technological innovation.

Financial cooperation

The new Climate Report 2018highlighted that 71% countries considered cost of implementation as the key issue while considering raising NDC ambition. Furthermore, it has been estimated that even to achieve the NDC target in 2030, India needs investments of around 2.5 trillion USD in the next 15 years. Herein Japan has a well-established system of Official Development Assistance (ODA) through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and India is its oldest receiver of such assistance. The achievements of JICA projects in the energy sector stand with the fact that such projects have contributed about 9.3 GW to India's total installed capacity (1GW renewable energy) of about 350 GW by 2019, however this value has stayed the same since 2016 (JICA 2019, 2016). This relationship can be harnessed so as to enhance renewable energy in India to aid its growth and development as well as to meet the aim of 100% rural electrification with quality infrastructure. Areas of investment may include solar parks, PV manufacturing units, etc.

Policy Cooperation

Both the countries are striving to strike an equilibrium which helps achieve the right balance between dependence on conventional sources as well as sustainable energy. Enhancing existing forums like the Bilateral Energy Dialogue can prove to be the first step towards cooperative policy brainstorming. The recent 9thIndia-Japan Energy Dialogue held in New Delhi in 2018 reinstated the resolve to transition towards “reliable, clean and economical energy” as pertinent for economic growth. Further both countries agreed to initiate discussion on electric vehicles by collaborating on "Policy dialogue on next generation/Zero emission vehicles" while working together to promote well-functioning energy markets. Electric vehicles could prove to be a promising potential sector of cooperation also aligned with Japan’s “Well-to-Wheel Zero Emissions policy” which ultimately reduces GHG emissions from energy production and vehicle travel to zero.

International Cooperation

Despite being members of same international organizations/agreements working towards expanding renewable energy the two countries haven’t had a unified stand on issues. This could change if both can further understand the similarities in their objectives. Utilizing the platform created by International Solar Alliance, existing forums like G-7, as well as enhanced cooperation in other developing nations may prove to be beneficial to both. Moreover, since the 1980s international cooperation has been central to India’s renewable energy strategy, a continuation of which has been seen in references to the same in India’s NDCs. Already as many as 35 bilateral/multilateral cooperation frameworks between India and other countries for new and renewable energy have been signed between 2007 and 2015. Also, Japan’s 3L Policy – Low Cost, Low Carbon, Low Risk, as is being implemented in Africa’s Energy Sector Development, can be adapted to meet Indian requirements as well. An Indian version of recently launched Japan Climate Initiative, which is a network of non-state actors actively involved in climate action, might also help both nations push domestic efforts towards their NDC ambitions, which at a later stage may be converted into a multilateral forum engaging local governments.

The World Energy Outlook projections of India suggest that, India would move to “the centre of global energy affairs, accounting for 25% of the rise in global energy use to 2040.” It would not only be a major player in renewable energy but also the second-largest solar market in the world. This would prove to be a golden opportunity not only for India but also for investing countries like Japan which can capitalize on the economic gains by catering to such an extensive market. Japan, given the present scenario, would also tremendously benefit by the economic gains through increased renewable energy investments.

With USA taking a step backwards and China and Germany venturing extensively into green economy, it falls upon countries like India and Japan to define the roles they would like to play.

[1] Paris Agreement or Accord de France is an international commitment agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is a multilateral treaty in which both developed and developing countries have come together to work towards the global goal of keeping global temperature “well below” 2°C while also pursuing effort to stay below 1.5°C. As of August 2019, it has been ratified by 185 Parties of the 197 Parties to the Convention

Parul Bakshi is a research scholar at the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.