India and France to launch solar alliance on opening day of COP21

The UN summit on climate change – COP21 – began today in the northeastern Parisian suburb of Le Bourget amid a backdrop colored by a mixture of hope, frustration and fear that this is the best shot the planet has to convince leaders and decision makers to take decisive action on climate change.

As thousands of people joined climate marches across the globe on the eve of the summit, those with the real power to effect change – heads of state, business leaders and influential climate scientists – jetted in to Paris to attend the opening day of COP21.

And before even the first lunch buffet has been unwrapped, the summit has served up two appetizing morsels of things to come, chiefly the news that France and India are set to lead on an International Solar Alliance aimed at developing affordable solar power for all.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will speak today about his desire to see more than 100 of the world’s solar-rich countries – located mostly in the tropics – to work together to find ways to ensure sustained investment and innovation in solar PV technology and markets.

Domestically, Modi has already begun a seismic shift in India’s attitude towards solar power, with the government’s National Solar Mission targeting the installation of 100 GW of solar PV capacity by 2022. However, the PM wishes for this ambition to be replicated across the globe, and has sought assistance and investment from some of the world’s most developed nations to help deliver this goal.

One such partner is France, and the French President Francois Hollande will join Modi for today’s launch of the International Solar Alliance. France’s solar PV target has been increased to 10 GW by 2018, having surpassed its original target of 5.4 GW for 2020 (set in 2009) by the end of last year. By 2025, France will seek to have lowered the share of nuclear in its energy mix from 75% to 50%, with renewables poised to in-fill the nuclear shortfall during the next decade, particularly solar, which has been set a target of 12 to 20 GW by 2023, according to Deutsche Bank.

"Solar energy is a practical and efficient way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions," said a statement issued on Sunday by the Indian government.

$20 billion pledge on green energy research

The early hours of COP21 also brought encouraging news in the field of green energy research, with 19 of the world’s largest carbon-emitting nations – including the U.S., U.K., China, Brazil and India – pledging to double funding for clean energy research to $20 billion over five years.

This pledge builds upon a similar initiative led by some of the globe’s most influential business leaders. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros and Ratan Tata of Indian firm Tata Power will also announce today a bolstered investment fund designed to help environmental technologies transition from the laboratory to the marketplace.

"This announcement should help to send a strong signal that the world is committed to helping to mobilize the resources necessary to ensure countries around the world can deploy clean energy solutions in cost-effective ways in their economies," said senior White House advisor Brian Deese in a statement.

More than 170 countries have submitted their action plans to the COP21 summit, but as things stand the best case scenario provided all goals are hit would still likely see global temperatures rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 – a threshold climate scientists agree is imperative the world avoids crossing if it wishes to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

However, there is hope that further lobbying can help persuade more of the world’s larger polluters to expand their ambitions and agree to more stringent measures on energy efficiency and a greater adoption of renewable sources such as solar and wind power.

The COP21 summit runs from November 30 to December 7, and pv magazine will be reporting live from the event next week in addition to ongoing coverage of the most pertinent stories to emerge from Paris over the next few days.