French President Emmanuel Macron pledged over $850 million for solar projects in emerging economies, as both India and France called for affordable solar technology for emerging nations at the first conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) held in New Delhi.
The alliance was co-founded by both countries two years ago on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit to boost the use of solar power, countering the impact of climate change.
Dozens of country leaders, including many from Africa, attended the meeting in the Indian capital and emphasized the need for access to solar technology and concessional financing to address massive energy shortages in many of their sun-drenched nations.
Promising more loans and donations for solar projects by 2022, Macron stressed the need to remove obstacles in scaling up clean energy.
“We only have one planet, and we are sharing it,” he said.
Pointing to African women called “solar mamas” who are trained in India to use solar technology to light up homes and villages, Macron said they had continued their mission, even after "some countries decided just to leave the floor and leave the Paris agreement" — apparently alluding to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to quit the Paris climate accord.
“Because they decided it was good for them, for their children, their grandchildren. They decided to act and keep acting, and that’s why we are here, in order to act very concretely,” Macron said amid applause.
One hundred and twenty-one countries, situated between the tropics, have signed on to the ISA. Backed by the World Bank and other multilateral agencies, it aims to raise $1 trillion for projects by 2030 for a massive deployment of solar energy.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is chairman of the African Union, pointed out that half the members of the ISA are African countries.
“The sunniest countries in the world should not lack for energy," he said. "The fact that they do is an unacceptable irony.”
The solar alliance initiative is seen as a bid by India to be at the forefront of countries addressing the challenge of climate change — a departure from its stand some years ago that developed economies should cut their emissions more drastically, rather than pressure developing countries.
After the U.S. walked out of the Paris accord, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to abide by it. India, which is the world’s third largest polluter, is ramping up solar energy rapidly in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint. The country plans to source at least 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030.
“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 in our objectives and efforts,” said Modi, advocating a solar revolution worldwide.
United Nations environment chief Erik Solheim, who attended the meeting in New Delhi, called the ISA a "milestone" in the fight against climate change and pollution.