The cancelation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s much-awaited visit to India is disappointing but unsurprising. India, a country with nearly 1.4 billion people, is currently confronting a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Though all is not lost as bilateral talks are expected to take place virtually on April 26. High on the agenda remains the launch of Roadmap 2030, which will foreseeably set the tone for India-UK relations in a post-COVID era and pave the way for a free trade agreement.
The Missing Pieces to Avoid a Climate Disaster
This shared vision, forming a critical piece of the “global Britain” agenda and the UK’s post-Brexit foreign policy, is expected to lay out a framework for enhanced cooperation across a much broader set of policy pillars. One such area is climate action, which is a key part of economic growth strategies and the global green energy agenda for both countries.
As signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement — the international treaty on climate change — India and the UK have sizable ambitions to invest in creating cleaner and sustainable energy systems. This time last year, the United Kingdom experienced its longest coal-free run to date, a significant milestone for an economy that generated about 40% of its electricity from coal just a decade ago. While India’s green energy transition is comparatively nascent, it has made significant strides toward expanding its renewable energy capacity, especially in solar power, where it is emerging as a global leader.
Although the two countries have vastly different energy sources and consumption patterns, this creates a unique opportunity for each economy to capitalize on its individual strengths. In offshore wind power, the UK is the largest global player, while India has only begun to scratch the surface of its wind potential. The United Kingdom’s technical prowess will play a crucial role in supporting the growth of India’s offshore wind energy — from the meteorological expertise required to evaluate wind patterns and energy production potential to joint research and development opportunities.
The growth of electric vehicles (EVs) is another area where each market has distinct strengths. India, for example, can rely on the UK’s experience as it undertakes the massive infrastructure exercise of deploying smart charging EV stations. The UK can draw on India’s success with battery-powered three-wheelers to develop sustainable last-mile connectivity solutions. Strengthened bilateral cooperation on these fronts will not only accelerate the EV revolution globally but can also serve to contain China’s dominance in this market.
The Indian and British governments are closely collaborating around climate action. This is evident from recent trips to India by the UK’s Alok Sharma, the president of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) that will take place in Glasgow, and Lord Tariq Ahmad, the minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth.
It is, however, important to expand the scope of these engagements to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which constitute a powerhouse of skill and experience. SMEs based in the UK can play a significant role in supporting India’s energy transition. British companies could adapt their innovations for the local market, while in turn benefiting from India’s strong manufacturing base and engineering skills. To tap into this market opportunity, governments could facilitate SME-focused trade delegations as well as joint-venture opportunities for cleantech startups.
Green financing would play an equally important role in truly unlocking the value of such partnerships. This would be through existing bilateral instruments like the Sustainable Finance Forum and Green Growth Equity Fund or the UK’s soon-to-be-launched revenue mechanism that will mobilize private investment into carbon capture and hydrogen projects. This is especially important for India, which is looking at green hydrogen in a big way and is set to launch its first national hydrogen roadmap this year. As the UK’s carbon capture market grows, this could support India’s plans to produce hydrogen from natural gas, creating new avenues for technology sharing.
If one thing is clear, it is that the opportunities are immense and the existing foundation is strong. With the stage set and the actors in place, Roadmap 2030 could certainly stand to benefit not just India and the UK, but the world at large in delivering a cleaner, more affordable and resilient energy future.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.