Bilateral cooperation between India and the US rests on transfer of technology in the renewable energy sector. Accessibility to climate technology is key to the success of India’s climate action plan, but India must buttress its intellectual property regime to succeed in this critical area
India and the US have an ongoing partnership in the field of climate change and energy. This was materialised with the establishment of the India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership. It intends to augment the climate action plans of both the countries by mobilising finance and speeding clean energy deployment. The partnership also strives to demonstrate and scale up innovative clean technologies needed to decarbonise industry, transportation, and power.
The partnership aims at building capacity to measure, manage and adapt to the risks linked to climate change. It is being operationalised through two main modalities — the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership led by the Department of Energy, USA and the Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue led by the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
The partnership, therefore, has immense potential to further India’s ambitious climate action plan adopted at COP26. It can augment India’s large-scale integration of renewables through smart grids and energy storage, establishment of joint committees on low carbon technologies and by enabling India’s transition in the coal sector.
Further, the US has also brought forth a bill titled The Prioritizing Clean Energy and Climate Cooperation with India Act, 2022 in furtherance of the said partnership to facilitate clean energy cooperation with India and to enhance cooperation with India on climate mitigation, resilience and adaptation. The Bill has been recently referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
For any climate change partnership to be truly successful, it must involve provisions regarding sharing and transfer of adequate Climate Change mitigation and adaptation technology. The potential of technology transfer from the US to India from the said partnership needs to be assessed in the light of the recent Special 301 report released by the US and the climate change denial that continues to exist in the US.
Climate technology transfer and Special 301
In 2021, the US was ranked first in climate technology investment with a total investment of $48bn between 2016 and 2021 in a report by London & Partners and Dealroom Co. The report was titled Five Years on: Global Tech Investment Trends since the Paris Agreement. Further, according to a report titled State of Climate Tech 2021 published by PwC, the US has the highest investment in climate technology.
This is evidenced by the presence of six key climate investment hubs located in North America as well as due to its mature venture capital market. In addition, The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and The CHIPS and Science Act, 2022 passed by the US Congress recently has also brought forth significant investments to the tune of $369 billion in climate and energy related funding to maintain the country’s technological competitive edge. India was ranked at number nine in the world for climate technology that prioritises investment and development of climate technology.
The partnership presents immense potential for India to capitalise on the US’ leading technical expertise in climate technology sector to bolster India’s ambitious climate action plan. Despite promising potential, it has to be assessed in the light of the Special 301 Report released by the US Trade Representative every year. For the past 29 years, India has been included continuously in the Priority Watch list for inadequate IP protection and enforcement.
The Special 301 report for the year 2022 suggests that India continues to maintain high customs duties in IP intensive products which include solar energy equipment. Further, weak enforcement by IP enforcement authorities, high degree of counterfeiting and piracy, absence of any centralised IP enforcement agency were stated as the reasons for retaining India in the Priority Watch list.
The report has received severe criticism by IP experts for not taking into account significant progress made by India in the recent years in the realm of IP protection and enforcement. This resounding and unrelenting position of the U.S in the Priority Watch list presents a very disturbing outlook to the prospects of any successful climate technology transfer under the partnership.
Climate change denial was definitely a significant factor in the US during President Trump’s administration that resulted in adverse implications such as removal of all restrictions in the coal industry and the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement (2015). Although, President Biden has reinstated US’s position under the said Agreement, climate change denial still exists in the US.
According to a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress, there are still 139 elected officials in the 117th Congress including 109 Representatives and 30 Senators who refuse to acknowledge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change. These Congressmen have received lifetime contributions from the coal, oil and gas industries. Further, Trump continues to be the most popular Republican leader. If re-elected, the same may result in a drastic reversal of the efforts undertaken by both countries under the said partnership.
The challenges that the Indian pharmaceutical sector faced in accessibility of technologies due to the Special 301 report of the U.S should be remembered to ensure that a similar situation is not replicated in the Climate Change sector under the present partnership.
Climate Change has every potential to assume a COVID 19 like crisis and the harmful implications of Climate Change are affecting all countries. Therefore, it is clear that the potential IP challenges that may act as a barrier in climate technology transfer from U.S to India are addressed in a manner that will permit India to maintain its flexibility in implementing its IP regime conducive to its domestic interests.
(The authors work for CUTS International, a global public policy research and advocacy group.)