A BRIGHT FUTURE: THE INTERNATIONAL SOLAR ALLIANCE

A BRIGHT FUTURE: THE INTERNATIONAL SOLAR ALLIANCE

The globe is facing a climate crisis and although still far behind, the states are coming up with various policies and initiatives as a sustainable way to move forward in order to fight climate change. One of the major concerns is the emission of Green House Gases (GHGs). There is a dire need to reduce global GHG emissions. According to recent data by Our World in Data, the energy sector alone is responsible for 73.2% of global GHG emissions. Looking at the numbers, it cannot be more clear that we need major changes in our energy sector. One of the important measures is to shift towards renewable energy sources i.e., wind, solar etc. Renewable energy is not only widely available but also they do not produce any GHGs or any other polluting emissions.

Despite knowing the advantages and the need for renewable energy why are we still heavily dependent on fossil fuels? It’s because, despite all the advantages offered by renewable energy, there are several challenges to expanding their usage. The problems range from issues of accessibility, lack of technological know-how and financial risks, to the various domestic and international game of power and politics.

In the face of all this, countries and other organisations need to come together to ensure the availability and accessibility of clean and green energy. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is one such alliance, which can prove to be a major boon for the globe as a whole, and the developing countries in particular.

Global greenhouse gas emission by sector
Hannah Ritchie, 2020 | Source: Our World in Data

Background

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a treaty-based intergovernmental organisation. The alliance was launched by India’s PM Narendra Modi, along with the former President of France, François Hollande in the COP-21 in Paris in 2015. The International Solar Alliance was launched as a coalition of “sunshine countries”. These are solar resource rich countries which lie completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. In 2018, the ISA was opened to all the Member States of the United Nations to join in order to expand the membership beyond the Tropics.

The International Solar Alliance aims to create a “multi-stakeholder ecosystem where sovereign nations, multilateral organizations, industry, policymakers and innovators work in together to promote the common and shared goal of meeting energy demands of a secure & sustainable world”.

Leaders of the members of International Solar Alliance at the founding conference headed by PM Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron | Credit: Indian Diplomacy

Main Objectives of the International Solar Alliance

Conforming to the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance, the main interests and objectives are:

  • Address the common key challenges in order to obtain maximum use of solar energy applications and reduce the dependability on traditional non-renewable energy sources.
  • To take coordinated action through programmes and activities launched on a voluntary basis, aimed at better harmonization, aggregation of demand, risk and resources, for promoting solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, R&D, capacity building etc.
  • Reduce the cost and risk of finance to increase investments in solar energy in member countries by promoting innovative financial mechanisms and mobilizing finance from institutions. Furthermore, the alliance aims to mobilize investments of USD 1 trillion by 2030.
  • Facilitate collaborative research and development (R&D) activities in solar energy technologies among member countries. This objective aims to reduce the gap in terms of knowledge and training, especially in developing countries. One of the major projects in this field is supported by the Indian government. The Government of India has been supporting the International Solar Alliance by providing training to master trainers in the field of solar energy through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Scheme. The duration of the training is 21 days and all costs are borne by the Government of India.
  • Promote a common cyber platform for networking, cooperation and exchange of ideas among member countries. The alliance has a 24×7 Solar Cyber Centre. There is also the International Solar Alliance Infopedia Portal which is accessible to everyone for information regarding the use and promotion of solar energy.

Through these objectives, the International Solar Alliance aims to achieve international collaboration and sharing of sustainable energy source by 2030.

Geopolitical Significance of the International Solar Alliance

The energy sector in general, and the concentration of oil in particular, plays a major role in the international geopolitical scenario. The power hold of Western Asia and the USA is the perfect example. Thus, a shift towards renewable energy can also reconfigure world politics.

In terms of international politics, organisations like the ISA can play vital roles. Apart from the goal of achieving clean and sustainable energy, the organisation reflects the leadership capacity of India and emphasises on the rise of India as a major player in international politics. Furthermore, having both the developed and developing nations as its members, and providing representation to countries like Fiji and South Sudan, the organisation has the potential to reduce the gap between the global “north” and global “south”.

The possession of oil reserves by the West Asian countries and the USA, as discussed above, gives them a great deal of power which is used to compel or manipulate the domestic matters of many states. The International Solar Alliance’s aim to provide solar energy will ultimately help countries to challenge the monopoly of the current oil-rich nations. The alliance also aims to bring various joint co-operations among member nations, and also with other organisations. Steps like these will strengthen the trans-regional solidarity in the international arena.

Latest Developments

The International Solar Alliance held its Third Assembly virtually in October 2020. India and France were re-elected as the president and co-president respectively. Apart from that, vice presidents were also chosen to represent the four regions of the International Solar Alliance. The meeting also saw discussions about the ongoing projects, new initiatives and programmes, mobilisation of future investments and the various challenges. One major highlight of the assembly was the setting up of ISA CARES in the wake of a global pandemic. This initiative was launched with the objective of deployment of solar energy in the healthcare sector in LDC/SIDS ISA member countries.

Conclusion

The International Solar Alliance is seen as a major foreign policy tool for India. It is also viewed as an attempt to counter China’s One Belt One Road initiative. The organisation as an initiative of India shows a great deal of potential in the present times when there is a growing need to provide clean energy. Another important aspect of the International Solar Alliance is its trans-regional nature. It has members from around the globe. However, the success of ISA will depend on how it tackles the many challenges that the renewable energy sector has faced in the past and how it achieves the vision of “One Sun, One World, One Grid”.

Treaties, friendships and alliances have always been an important part of world history and politics. The ongoing Covid pandemic has taught us the importance of solidarity. In times like these, the International Solar Alliance can manifest into a far greater body, providing not only green energy but also aiding its member countries in times of needs.

Smriti Pathak

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