India, other countries signed International Solar Alliance framework agreement

indexSource: The Economic Times, Nov 15, 2016

MARRAKECH: In what is yet another indication that the countries were moving ahead on a low carbon path, the International Solar Alliance transitioned from being an idea to becoming a legal entity. On Tuesday, on the sidelines of the UN-sponsored climate talks, more than 20 countries including India, France, Brazil signed the framework agreement putting the International Solar Alliance on track to becoming an intergovernmental body registered under the UN charter.

Countries have three months to formally join the agreement. The agreement will enter into force after fifteen countries ratify or officially join it. Sources indicated that given that the framework agreement was the outcome of intense discussions and deliberations over the course of the year, the entry of the force of the agreement and wide participation was not in doubt. “Many countries have said that they would sign on to the agreement but would first go through the domestic processes required to join an intergovernmental body,” said a senior official.

With the framework agreement in place, the clock now starts for the alliance to deliver on its promise to serve as a facilitator to ensure that large swathes of the un-served and underserved population have access to adequate, predictable, and cheap energy. “That task starts once ISA comes to legal existence with ratification by the prescribed number of countries,” said Upendra Tripathy, Interim Director General, ISA and former Secretary, New and Renewable Energy.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a joint partnership effort by India and France to bring together countries with high solar resource. The partnership that seeks to bring together some 120-odd countries, with as much as 300 days of sunshine located within the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn was announced at the Paris climate summit in December last year. It has been a long journey for the ISA in a relatively short time.

After detailed discussions between December and late September, a draft framework agreement was finalized. The framework agreement was opened for signature on Tuesday. Officials said that they expect more countries to join the ISA in the coming weeks. “There as many 20 countries that have said they will sign the agreement and are undertaking the requisite domestic processes,” said a senior Indian official involved with the work of the alliance.

There are concerns that developed countries have not yet signed on to the agreement. Stressing that Tuesday was the first day when the agreement was opened for signatures, a senior official working on the India-France partnership venture said, “Countries like the UK, US have expressed their interest to join the agreement. These countries have domestic legislative processes that require time. So it will take time.”

The United States had initially objected to an intergovernmental status for ISA. This appears to be no longer the case. A senior official close to the developments said that the US no longer had any objections and was undertaking the process prescribed domestically to join the alliance. The election of Donald Trump could alter this, but officials said that they would have to wait and watch on that count.

India has offered a contribution of Rs 175 crore (around US $27 million) for creating ISA corpus fund and for meeting the cost of ISA secretariat, based in New Delhi, for the initial five years.

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