Given the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change will wreak havoc on our planet, you’d think the international community would be doing everything it can to promote better energy habits. The good news is that India has spent the past few years working to develop its own solar energy technology. The bad news is that the United States would prefer India to use the U.S.’s technology and is ready to call for trade sanctions to make it happen.
Currently, India is primarily reliant on coal for its energy, meaning that there’s a lot of pollution coming from the world’s second largest nation. As Indian leaders cultivated a solar energy plan, they stipulated that at least half of the components had to be manufactured domestically, reports the Huffington Post. The hope is to simultaneously improve the environment and the country’s economy.
However, the United States is once again putting concerns for climate change second to its own economic concerns. U.S. leaders seem willing to jeopardize India’s progressive solar energy plan by involving the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. wants no restrictions placed on its own solar technology entering India and has called the country’s current plan “discriminatory” against the United States. Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, announced, “We are determined to stand up for U.S. workers and businesses.”
However, environmental activists from around the world are displeased that the United States would interfere with something that benefits the entire planet. From their perspective, it seems counterproductive for the U.S. to pursue this particular matter with all of the other potential trade disagreements it could focus on instead.
The U.S. isn’t without a strong argument of its own, though. It points out that by limiting the market from which Indians can buy solar products and technology, that will effectively drive up the price. Most likely, more Indians will be able to adopt solar technology if it is more affordable.
Representatives from both countries have already met in an attempt to end the dispute, but they were unable to negotiate an agreement. If India and the United States cannot settle the matter on their own within the next two weeks, the WTO will have to make a ruling, at which point it could impose trade sanctions on India.
Notably, the United States and China also have an ongoing dispute related to solar energy. Two years later, the WTO is still trying to sort out this pair of country’s disagreement over solar panels. In the meantime, each country has imposed special taxes on the other’s solar panels to effectively shut them out of their respective markets.
Meanwhile, many have interpreted this newer disagreement as an attempt to stifle India from developing its own successful economy. “India has to create domestic manufacturing capacities,” said Anand Sharma, Commerce Minister of India. “India must have those capacities. Otherwise, we will end up importing for the rest of our lives.
Anjali Jaiswal, head of the India Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), disagrees with this philosophy. She believes that India can develop its manufacturing capabilities while still allowing U.S. solar imports. She points to an NRDC study that found that the economic benefits of solar energy in India go beyond which country makes the products. Just selling and installing new solar technology in India would create new jobs in itself.
Other environmentalist groups in both nations (including the Center for American Progress and India’s Ananta Centre) have refused to take a side on the issue, instead urging a speedy resolution so that energy advancements are not delayed further. Petty trade squabbles, they argue to not address the larger problem at hand: climate change. Ideally, both countries will come to understand that profits are secondary to taking care of the planet.