France-India partnership "absolutely essential" for the climate

India – Panel on raising climate ambition in the run-up to COP26 – Speech by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs

New Delhi, 14 April 2021

Let’s make no mistake: the very serious health and economic crisis we’re going through hasn’t made the other crisis – the climate crisis – go away; it’s no less formidable. Far from it.

On every continent, the impact of environmental upheavals is already being felt and calls for a swift, massive, collective response. For us, the fight against climate disruption really is the battle of the century.

That’s why, in my view, the Franco-Indian partnership for protecting the planet is absolutely essential. I’ve just had a meeting with [Environment] Minister Javadekar. This partnership is essential for our common goods, for the new generations and, in a nutshell, for our future.

2021 will be a decisive year for the planet, with the three COPs – among others, Glasgow’s COP26 on the climate. 2021 is also our France-India Year of the Environment.

So there’s a window of opportunity in 2021 for acting together. Our two countries have decided to play a driving role with a view to COP26.

As you know, the Paris Agreement’s goal is to limit global warming to 2°C, even 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. If we don’t manage this, the consequences will be disastrous. The World Meteorological Organization reckons that the period 2016-2020 was the hottest on record. According to the UN, at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, even if all the current commitments made by States are fully implemented, temperatures could rise by 3.2°C this century.

That’s why it is vital for all countries to increase their climate commitments between now and Glasgow’s COP26, as the Paris Agreement asks us to.

Among other things, this raised ambition must include new nationally determined contributions between now and 2030 and long-term strategies aimed at achieving carbon neutrality. Stopping the construction of new coal-fired power stations and gradually ending this method of electricity production are crucial on a global scale.

So it’s a matter of great urgency. But there are also, I believe, genuine reasons for hope. Despite the crisis, there has been good news in recent months. Major emitters have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality, China among others, even though discussions are under way on the timeframe. In total, over 130 countries now share this goal.

The United States is now back in the Paris Agreement and will be announcing its new emissions reduction targets in the next few days.

But beware: this good news certainly mustn’t serve as an excuse for slackening efforts. On the contrary, we’ve got to realize that this positive momentum will yield full results only if we actively keep them up.

In this respect, India and France have a key role to play, because since the Paris Agreement our two countries have always been leaders on the climate and have been able to forge very close cooperation in this area.

As you know, France is one of the countries which pushed for the European Union to pledge in 2019 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and we ourselves included the target in our national legislation. France has also worked extremely hard to get the European Union to adopt a new net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. This new commitment makes the European Union the most ambitious continental bloc in terms of emissions reduction. I say this with some pride.

In line with their 2015 commitments, France and the European Union are also shouldering their responsibilities in terms of solidarity with developing countries. At the Climate Ambition Summit last December, the French President pledged that we would increase our climate finance to €6 billion a year and devote a third of it to adaptation, i.e. €2 billion a year. The European Union as a whole is the world’s leading provider of climate finance, with €22 billion in 2019. I’m proud to remind you of that, too.

For its part, as Prime Minister Modi recalled, India is ahead on achieving the climate targets it set itself following COP21: on issues linked to biodiversity, forests cover a quarter of its territory. India is improving its energy efficiency and developing renewable energy at remarkable speed.

At the Climate Ambition Summit, Prime Minister Modi even announced the development of 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, which is an impressive target.

These resolute decisions, which are in the process of transforming our countries, are not only good for the planet. They’re also a tremendous opportunity for our economies and will enable us to create tens of thousands – or even, in India’s case, hundreds of thousands – of new, green jobs. That’s an aspect we must never lose sight of when we’re planning the ecological transition and telling our fellow citizens about it.

Despite these very promising steps forward, we know many challenges nevertheless remain along this path. So I’d like to restate here that France and the European Union are fully mobilized to cooperate with India so that it can achieve the ambitious targets it has set itself, but also to devise together the essential solutions for tackling the climate challenge, be they in terms of the ecological transition, renewables, energy efficiency, sustainable cities or environmental protection.

India is the French Development Agency’s main partner in the world. That underlines the strength of the cooperation uniting our two countries. The pace of new commitments is very sustained, with an average volume of activity of some €250 million a year. All the AFD’s activities contribute to the fight against climate change and to protecting the environment in India. The cooperation projects are concentrated in key areas for our economies’ transition: urban transport, green energy, water and sanitation, sustainable urban development, and biodiversity.

I’d like us to go even further together.

I’m thinking in particular of the energy transition.

As India has understood very well, the transition to a decarbonized electricity-production system that draws on every energy source is a major strategic challenge if we want to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, create new jobs and improve the quality of the environment.

The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) has been present in India for a long time and has forged close cooperation ties with its Indian counterparts to develop the next generation of photovoltaic cells and establish an Indian production network or support the development of nuclear energy.

Many French companies are investing massively in this field in India – for example, Total, which recently acquired a 20% stake in Adani Green Energy Ltd for the sum of €2.1 billion, to develop solar energy in India.

I’m also thinking of the development of new, especially promising cutting-edge technologies. And among other things, I’m convinced that hydrogen – provided, of course, it’s produced in a decarbonized way – can play a key role in reducing CO₂ emissions from our energy system and our industries. Now that France and India have both devised national strategies in this area, we must further deepen our cooperation in order to create, as quickly as possible, an industrial network that is competitive and enables us to lower production costs for decarbonized hydrogen.

Our cooperation will be especially fruitful because we share similarities in terms of our energy mixes, which are based on both renewable energy and nuclear energy and are a strong asset when it comes to developing our decarbonized hydrogen production.

These new technologies certainly represent major opportunities that India and France must grasp together. Already in 2019, our two countries, through the CEA-Liten research institute and India’s National Institute of Solar Energy, signed a memorandum of understanding with a view to launching industrial demonstrators. We must continue making progress in this direction.

The strategic partnership uniting India and France also enables us to bring our determination to the international stage.

That’s the purpose of the International Solar Alliance, which our two countries launched in 2017 and currently co-chair: to encourage the faster deployment of solar energy around the world, particularly in developing countries.

In the space of just a few years, it has acquired the status of an international organization and been joined by 75 countries. Dr Ajay Mathur, who is a world-renowned expert on the energy transition, has just been elected its director general, and we congratulate him.

France is contributing to the operation of the Alliance’s secretariat by making several experts available to it, and has pledged via the AFD to fund solar projects in the member countries to the tune of €1.5 billion, €1.15 billion of which has already been committed.

France is also contributing to the implementation of the project to create a network of training centres for solar technicians, promoted by the Alliance in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

France and India are also cooperating together in the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, launched by the Indian Prime Minister in 2019. From our point of view, this coalition has a very important role to play in the Indo-Pacific region in adapting infrastructure to the consequences of climate change. There too, France will also make a practical contribution by posting an expert to that body in New Delhi.

France and India could also work together on the fight against single-use plastics. Our countries are taking strong decisions on the issue: the national policy being ambitiously conducted in India should bring results in 2022; for its part, France has started banning a number of single-use plastic products. It would be in our interest to invite other countries to join in the momentum, and – why not? – work on a moratorium on single-use plastic.

Finally, France knows it can count on India to send an ambitious message alongside it, with a view to the major international meetings in this crucial year.

As was already the case in 2019 under the French presidency, your country will once again be taking part in the G7 summit in June. India’s presence there is all the more essential because – with our British partners holding a dual presidency with that of COP26 – this meeting will be very much focused on climate ambition.

We’re also lending our support to the Italian G20 presidency, which would like to boost our cooperation on more sustainable cities and the transition to low-carbon energy – both key themes for the Indian economy!

Because it’s begun marking out a pragmatic path in keeping with the climate emergency, India can be – in Asia but also further afield – a model for many countries, alongside France and the Europeans, who also intend to lead the way.

Together we must shoulder our historic responsibilities, because the position we take between now and Glasgow will have a direct impact on the scale of our partners’ mobilization and the success of this decisive COP for our planet.

Thank you./.

Published on 16/04/2021

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