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All about International Solar Alliance, co-founded by France & India, to promote solar energy

The International Solar Alliance was launched by PM Modi and former French president Francois Hollande in November 2015 to promote solar energy in 121 tropical countries.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged that India would exceed its Paris Agreement targets while addressing the Climate Adaptation Summit 2021 Monday, and raised the importance of “global climate partnerships” like the International Solar Alliance.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was launched by Modi and former French president Francois Hollande in November 2015 at the 21st session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-21) in Paris.

The alliance was formed with the aim to promote solar energy in 121 member countries and to mobilise over $1 trillion of investment for the deployment of solar energy at affordable costs. It is the first inter-government organisation headquartered in India, in Gurugram.

In the wake of Covid-19, ISA has been working towards providing 24×7 electricity to some member countries to power cold storages that will store vaccine.

ThePrint explains how the ISA was formed and how it functions.

What is the International Solar Alliance?

The ISA is a coalition of solar resource-rich countries that lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Eighty-nine countries have signed the ISA’s Framework Agreement and of these 72 have deposited their instruments of ratification. Two weeks ago, India said membership to the alliance will be open to all member states of the United Nations.

The ISA primarily consists of an Assembly, Secretariat and different committees. The Assembly of the alliance is the apex decision-making body and the Secretariat is responsible for its operations and functioning. The body is funded by voluntary contributions by its members, partner countries, the UN and the private sector, while revenue is generated from specific activities approved by the Assembly.

The body aims to scale up solar energy applications, take coordinated action through programmes and activities launched on a voluntary basis and facilitate collaborative research and development activities in solar energy technologies.

Also read: India seeks cheaper renewable energy contracts to spur projects

Founding conference of ISA

The founding conference of the alliance was co-hosted by Modi and present French President Emmanuel Macron on 11 March 2018 in New Delhi. Apart from the French President, 21 heads of states, 6 vice presidents and deputy prime ministers and 19 ministers as heads of delegations attended the conference.

At the time, the US, under former President Donald Trump, was showing lack of interest in matters related to climate change.

Macron also made a veiled reference to Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord during the conference.

“They (ISA member nations) started to act and to deliver complete results. They didn’t wait, they didn’t stop because few countries decided to just leave the floor and the Paris agreement,” he said.

At the conference, the focus was on combating climate change and the need to ensure access to affordable and innovative solar energy especially for developing countries, such as those in Africa and small island states. Scaling up of solar technology and production was also discussed.

France has also been able to leverage its diplomatic network to bring ISA’s goals to relevant multilateral bodies and raise funds in the private sector through bodies like the Syndicat des Énergies Renouvelables (SER), a renewable energies union in France, and MEDEF International, a non-profit organisation for French companies.

According to Upendra Tripathy, director-general of the ISA, the alliance has one primary target in the Framework Agreement and that is to mobilise more than $1,000 billion by 2030, apart from bringing down solar energy cost.

There are also talks on to establish a World Solar Bank, which will be headquartered in India.

The steering committee of the ISA will, reportedly, meet soon to discuss this and India is expected to become a lead member by picking up 30 per cent stake in the proposed bank through a $600 million equity commitment.

Role of US and its past commitments to fighting climate change

The US is also expected to help strengthen the ISA with the recent change in administration, which has been more proactive in matters related to climate change.

US President Joe Biden signed executive orders Wednesday to transform the country’s fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-energy one, a week after pledging to rejoin the Paris accord.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also said there is “strong potential” for New Delhi and Washington to work together in the area of climate change but noted that India is close to catching up with China’s rate of emissions.

In November 2014, the Obama administration had pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, an international fund aimed at helping developing countries like India tackle global warming.

It delivered $1 billion before Trump pulled out of the Paris accord. US special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the US would “make good” on its climate finance promise but didn’t provide any details.

Also read: Covid shows future powered by wind, solar energy is short on batteries


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