New Delhi: The national capital, New Delhi, is geared up to host the second general assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) starting today. 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.

Being held in New Delhi from 30 October—2 November, the first treaty-based international government organization headquartered in India has 81 countries as signatories to the ISA framework agreement. However, 58 countries have ratified it. While those countries who have signed and ratified the ISA framework agreement will attend the second general assembly as members, those countries who have only inked it will be attending as observers.

India also plans to propose 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. The proposals will be presented at the second general assembly power and new and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh told Mint earlier.

A solar park will also be inaugurated by Singh and France’ecology and inclusive transition minister Brune Poirson on Thursday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month gifted ‘Gandhi Solar Park’ to the United Nations when he attended the Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York.

This comes at a time when India has emerged as a clean energy champion in the backdrop of US withdrawal from the Paris climate deal. 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.

“While on 30 October 2019, coordination and consultation meetings on different aspects of ISA programmes and initiatives will be held, the Assembly would meet on 31 October 2019," Indian government said in a statement on Wednesday.

Prominent inter-governmental organizations in the energy sector include the Vienna-based Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA). Interestingly, India has pitched ISA as a counterweight to 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.

“The Assembly will be attended by the Ministers and delegates from member States, Observer States, ISA Partners, and other invitees. Over 400 delegates are expected to participate in the Assembly," the statement added.

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.

India has also earmarked $ 2 Billion for solar projects in Africa out of Government of India's $10 billion concessional Line of Credit (LOC) for the African continent. This is being implemented by the Exim Bank of India in coordination with ISA member countries from Africa.

“ISA is now perceived as key to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change," the statement added.

The global energy landscape has been rapidly evolving. From the London Stock Exchange (LSE) classifying oil and gas stocks as non-renewable energy to the decision of Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, to stop investing in oil and gas explorers globally, there has been a fundamental change in the global investment culture against the backdrop of growing climate concerns.

India has taken the lead as a clean energy champion and is ranked fourth and fifth, globally, in installed capacities for wind and solar power, respectively. India has become one of the top renewable producers globally with ambitious capacity expansion plans. The country has an installed renewable energy capacity of 83 gigawatts (GW) and is running the world’s largest renewable energy programme with plans to achieve 175GW by 2022 and 500GW by 2030, as part of its climate commitments.

With 29,000 MW under construction, India also plans to set up solar and wind projects on fallow land along its international border with Pakistan to address the issue of land availability for clean energy projects.

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