NEW DELHI : International Solar Alliance (ISA), the first treaty-based international government organization headquartered in India is a ‘political project’, said France’ ecology and inclusive transition minister Brune Poirson on Thursday.

This comes in the backdrop of the US withdrawal from the Paris climate deal and China’s attempts to co-opt countries into its ambitious One Belt One Road initiative, a programme to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and power grids, across Asia, Africa and Europe.

“What we mean is that more than ever France and India need to work together to actually combat climate change...Cleanly, the US is about to leave the Paris agreement. We can only regret it. We think its a bad decision. However, it gives us hope that we have very strong partners such as India who have decided that they will actually not stop fighting," Brune Poirson said in response to a Mint’s query.

With India and France front-ending the attempts to set up the ISA, it has become India’s calling card on climate change and is increasingly being viewed as a foreign policy tool.

“In this context it means that the International Solar Alliance is really a political project. It is about showing that some countries around the world not only care about climate change but also do things concretely on the ground to tackle the issue of climate change. And I think its particularly important to have that sort of partnership both with France and India and more globally," Poirson added.

India’s power and new and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh was quick to state that ISA shouldn’t be seen in the context of international political relations.

“When you talk about political deals it means that this is something which is important for the people of the world," Singh said.

India is also planning a global electricity grid that may initially aim to link countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam with the Indian sub-continent, as part of an evolving energy security architecture.

Speaking at the second general assembly of the ISA being held in New Delhi from 30 October—2 November, Brune Poirson lauded India’s efforts in the solar energy field and it being a leader.

Initially, ISA envisaged 121 sunshine countries situated between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn as its members. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pitched for a global electricity grid while inaugurating the first general assembly of the ISA in October 2018. He had also announced the “universalization" of membership with India moving the proposal to make all United Nations members eligible for ISA membership in the assembly.

“The cost of solar energy has reached a record low. It is very optimistic," Poirson said and added, “ISA’ goal is to lowering the cost of solar energy investments."

India has witnessed a record low solar tariffs of Rs2.44 per unit. Of the targeted 175GW of clean energy capacity by 2022, 100GW is slated to come from solar projects. Of this, 60GW will be from ground-mounted, grid-connected projects, and 40GW is to come from solar rooftop projects.

ISA is also leveraging the demand from the member countries to reduce costs by aggregating the demand from member nations and then call for tenders. To start with, this approach is being explored for bringing down the cost of solar powered agricultural pumps and solar photo-voltaic (PV) modules.

According to ISA, 24 member countries have submitted their off-grid and distributed solar energy needs valued at around $5.1 billion. Of these solar pumps account for around $2.7 billion.

Interestingly, India has pitched ISA as a counterweight to Vienna-based Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), with the fossil fuel consumers calling for a global consensus on “responsible pricing" against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf post the 14 September drone attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Company or Saudi Aramco’s facilities that caused the biggest ever-disruption in global crude oil supplies.

ISA has 89 countries as signatories to the ISA framework agreement. A total of 29 member countries are attending the second general assembly.

Of the $ 2 billion earmarked by India for solar projects in Africa out of Government of India’s $10 billion concessional Line of Credit (LOC) for the African continent, around $1.4 billion worth of projects has already been signed and committed, said Singh. This is being implemented by the Exim Bank of India in coordination with ISA member countries from Africa.

“We will make additional Line of Credit available," Singh said.

In addition, India has earmarked a fresh Line of Credit of $350 million for the Pacific island countries and a grant of $150 million.

This comes at a time when India has emerged as a clean energy champion. India, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, has been pushing for a clean energy fuelled economy. India plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in 2015.

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