Climate action takes centre-stage in UK-India enhanced plans
A woman fishes along the banks of a river near the island of Satjelia in the Sundarbans, India. The Sundarbans have been one of the worst hit areas by climate change.Reuters

Climate action takes centre-stage in UK-India enhanced plans

From co-chairing a disaster resilience initiative to sharing expertise in offshore wind energy, the Enhanced Trade Partnership expected to be signed next month has a very clean target.

Addressing the virtual International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (ICDRI) inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the Indian PM’s “fantastic leadership” in the global fight against climate change.

India and the UK are Co-Chairs of the CDRI, as part of which they are working together to create a new multi-country facility to support Small Island Developing States in creating climate and disaster resilient infrastructure.

Johnson said: “We have a shared vision for a sustainable future for our nations and global community and I very much look forward to discussing this and many other issues with Prime Minister Modi on my upcoming visit to India.

“I applaud my friend Prime Minister Modi for his commitment to this excellent initiative, the Coalition for Disaster Resilience Infrastructure (CDRI). The UK is proud to be its co-chair and I am delighted that since its launch, the coalition has made such a great start with 28 countries and organisations now signed up.”

Wealth of expertise

The UK embarked on its journey to make its infrastructure more disaster-resilient over 10 years ago and boasts of investing £5.2 billion in bolstering flood defences, with a “wealth of expertise to share”.

Johnson noted: “If our battle with Covid-19 has taught us anything over the past year, it’s that we must be ready for whatever challenges may be coming next.

“And, as the world’s climate changes, we must not only do everything in power to strive for Global Net Zero, an ambitious 2030 emissions reductions target, but we must also adapt to its damaging effects and build more resilience to disasters – our roads, our bridges, powerlines, our schools and hospitals – all the infrastructure that we rely on to keep our economies moving and our communities safe. They must be made ready.”

All eyes are now on the COP26 United Nations climate conference being hosted by the UK in Glasgow this November and India has been declared as one the key partners on the road to that summit.

“Let’s take action now so that as we build back better from the pandemic, we do so cleaner and greener, making all our communities stronger and more resilient,” added Johnson.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed PM Modi’s “fantastic leadership” in the global fight against climate change during the recent virtual International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (ICDRI).
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed PM Modi’s “fantastic leadership” in the global fight against climate change during the recent virtual International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (ICDRI).Reuters

Joint research

Research and collaboration links to tackle climate change also formed the centrepiece of a recent five-day India visit by the UK’s minister in charge of South Asia affairs.

“India has quadrupled wind and solar capacity in the last decade and committed to net zero emissions in the Indian Railways by 2030. I saw first-hand how we can work even more closely together on tackling climate action by sharing our solutions and expertise. Deepening UK-India collaboration will be crucial to building up to a successful outcome at COP26,” said Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth in the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

He also flagged science and technology partnerships between the two countries as playing a vital role to tackle the most pressing global challenges, including ending the Covid-19 pandemic through joint work to provide doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured in India, to developing countries.

“The UK and India have an invaluable partnership, including tackling Covid-19, with the Serum Institute of India manufacturing doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – drawing our brightest minds together to save lives as a global force for good,” said the minister, whose visit was a precursor to Boris Johnson’s visit at the end of April.

Solar and wind

The visit covered meetings with leaders from Tamil Nadu to discuss how the UK could share expertise with India on offshore wind energy at the headquarters of India’s National Institute of Wind Energy in Chennai. The UK has the largest offshore wind capacity in the world, and the minister said he looks forward to India attending the Global Offshore Wind Summit 2021 in London in September.

The FCDO noted Tamil Nadu’s ambitious target for all taxis, two and three wheelers in the state’s six major cities to be electric by 2030.

Ahmad also attended a roundtable at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras Research Park to build on links between the state and Dundee Council, which is a world-leading city in adoption of electric vehicles.

“Both the UK and India are proud signatories to the Paris Agreement, and the UK is keen to work with India ahead of COP26 in November to lead the global shift to a low carbon economy and expand access to sustainable energy,” the FCDO notes.

The ministerial agenda also covered Delhi, where Lord Ahmad met with senior Indian government ministers and visited the Lotus Temple for a roundtable on freedom of religion and belief. He also visited Chandigarh, where he met with agri-tech businesses, before heading to Chennai.

Indo-Pacific focus

The minister’s tour coincided with the launch of the UK’s Integrated Review, which calls for a stronger UK focus on Indo-Pacific partnerships, ahead of Johnson’s visit to India when he is expected to sign off on an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) as part of a roadmap towards a free trade agreement in future.

It built on the meeting between UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Prime Minister Modi in December 2020, which set out further cooperation on medicines and vaccines to address global healthcare.

The partnership between the Serum Institute of India and Oxford University demonstrates the UK-India relationship at its best, ensuring developing countries receive vaccines, and is an ongoing example of the two countries working together to save lives as a global force for good in the world, the FCDO said.

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