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NEW DELHI: India and France came together to reiterate their commitment to provide leadership to slow down global warming and transition to a sustainable and low carbon development pathway to economic growth and development. As the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance got underway in New Delhi, co-hosts Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron left little room for doubt that concrete action would be the defining principle of the alliance.

“Now let’s get to work”, French President Macron told leaders at the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance. Macron called on the leaders from the ISA member countries to use the opportunity of the summit make concrete announcements that would pave the way for rapid deployment of solar energy.

“We have not come from all continents to deliver speeches that soon be forgotten. We have come to put plans on the table and give access to solar energy in the world,” said the French President. Heads of state and government from 23 member countries are attending the day-long summit being held at Rashtrapati Bhavan to formally inaugurate the platform for the mass deployment of solar energy especially in developing countries.

“With Prime Minister Modi, we are committed and we have the same obsession: creating momentum, inspiring people and bringing them together to deliver results. But we’re obsessed by concrete results, so now we are creating new momentum, we take new commitments to deliver concrete results for our countries and our planet,” Macron told the gathering.

Taking the cue from his co-chair, Prime Minister Modi outlined a ten point strategy that would make possible a solar revolution on the global scale. “We have to ensure cheap and affordable access to solar energy, increase ratio of solar in our energy mix, encourage innovation, consensual and risk free financing for solar projects, develop regulatory aspects, develop consultancy support for bankable projects in developing countries, create a network of centres of excellence, develop solar energy policy in the context of development.”

The prime minister stressed on the need to make the ISA secretariat “strong and professional”. India has provided $62 million for establishment of the ISA Secretariat. As part of its plans to provide proactive leadership in the diffusion of solar energy, Prime Minister Modi announced that India “will provide 500 training slots (in solar technology) every year to ISA member countries.”.

India has already provided assistance worth $143 million for 13 solar projects that have been completed or in stages of implementation across the world. Continuing with this co-operative effort, Modi said, “India will be providing assistance to the tune of $1.4 billion for 27 new projects in 15 developing countries”. These solar projects are in Bangladesh, Mali, Seychelles, Tanzania, Mali, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea.

“We have prepared facilities for project preparation which will give consultancy support for bankable projects to countries. I am also pleased to announce that India will start a Solar Technology Mission which will have international focus,” the prime minister said.

Modi has consistently said that climate change is biggest challenge facing humanity and that effective response requires collaborative and cooperative response. “If you want all of humanity to benefit, then I am confident that we all will come together and think like one family, so that we are able to bring unity and solidarity in our objectives and efforts. This is the way we will be able to achieve what ancient monks used to pray for when they said ‘Tamaso ma Jyatirgamaya’ which means “From darkness, lead me to light.”

The International Solar Alliance is concrete effort to fulfil the goals agreed to by all countries at Paris. Launched at Paris round of the UN climate conference in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then President of France Francois Hollande, the International Social Alliance is a concrete expression by India of its commitment to move away from traditional fossil fuel-energy systems. And that it was looking at collaborations, and not handouts or aid, to make the transition.

The ISA is a major diplomatic feat by India. It was an outreach to countries of the global south to fill the crucial demand for affordable, reliable, clean energy crucial to improving living standards and way out of poverty for millions. “You made a dream and we did it; it was about this international solar alliance. Two years ago, it was just an idea at that time. We decided all together to act concretely and today is a big change,” Macron said.

India and France have emerged as proactive leaders on climate action, even as United States has retreated from global action. Referring to the Solar Mamas, a group of women solar engineers from developing countries particularly African countries who have been trained at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Macron said, “our solar mamas didn’t wait for us. They started to act to deliver concrete results. They didn’t wait and they didn’t stop because some countries decided to leave the floor and the Paris Agreement. Because they decided it is good for them, their children, grandchildren – they decided to act and keep acting. That’s why we are here in order to act very concretely.”

The ISA founding conference is yet another reminder of the serious commitment of countries to addressing climate change and transitioning to a sustainable development pathway at a time the United States continues to withdraw from addressing this global challenge to the planet.

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