Modi and Trump on Energy and Climate: Reading the Tea Leaves
On June 26, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met U.S. President Donald Trump for bilateral talks. The much-awaited official statement, Prosperity through Partnership, covered a wide range of issues – including energy and climate.
The bilateral statement is a pretty stark contrast to Prime Minister Modi’s earlier claims for India’s climate leadership and going “above and beyond” the Paris Agreement. Here’s the relevant paragraph, with commentary by yours truly:
“President Trump affirmed that the United States continues to remove barriers to energy development and investment in the United States and to U.S. energy exports so that more natural gas, clean coal, and renewable resources and technologies are available to fuel India’s economic growth and inclusive development.”
- Here we see Trump’s influence on the statement: include “clean coal” in a statement when the cost of renewable power capacity is collapsing in India.
“Prime Minister Modi and President Trump looked forward to conclusion of contractual agreements between Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India for six nuclear reactors in India and also related project financing.”
- President Trump has advocated nuclear power, though without any real policy effort, but India has also expressed interest in expanding its nuclear power generation capacity. This part of the statement is likely of interest to both sides.
“Both leaders welcomed upcoming visits between India and the United States that will expand energy and innovation linkages across the energy sector and deepen cooperation, including on more efficient fossil fuel technologies, smart grids, and energy storage. They supported financing of energy projects, including clean coal projects, by Multilateral Development Banks to promote universal access to affordable and reliable energy.”
- Innovation has been a cornerstone of U.S.-India energy cooperation for years, and it’s encouraging that it remains on the radar. Here, again, we see Trump’s influence in emphasis on “efficient fossil fuel technologies” and “clean coal projects.” The call for Multilateral Development Banks to consider clean coal is a little preposterous, though.
Overall, Trump appears to have had a lot of success in steering the discussion of energy cooperation. The text is pretty underwhelming compared to what Modi said about the Paris Agreement. That’s not surprising, given that the statement covers many issues that are of critical importance to India, ranging from terrorism to China.
To wrap it up, the bilateral statement is not a bad way to understand India’s budding climate leadership. India sees genuine value in promoting clean energy for energy security, electrification, and air quality. But India’s commitment to climate issues is not strong enough to stop compromises on “clean coal” and other non-starters that Trump alone values. Modi’s ready to tone down his climate rhetoric whenever he expects gains from doing so.
Photo Credit: Sanyam Bahga via Flickr