Last week President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met and stressed the importance of dealing with climate change and pursuing a clean energy economy. They launched the Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center, building on the Green Partnership set up last year. The new project will invest $100 million in public and private funding for R&D over five years. The initial focus will be on solar, second generation biofuels, and energy efficiency.
While I’m excited to see concrete actions on clean energy come together, the overall Obama visit to India left a bit to be desired. His core agenda was trade, and it’s the continuation of the same old failed free trade model that is not lifting people out of poverty but efficiently lining the pockets of corporate executives from Boeing to GE.
India is the largest importer of weapons and the U.S. is the world’s largest arms exporter. From a military sales point of view, this is a match made in heaven. Ironically, President Obama talked about Gandhi at the same time deals such as GE’s $800 million sale of fighter 107 F414 jet engines to the Indian military were being finalized. I do believe that Obama is sincere in his admiration of Gandhi and what he represents. But when the President’s trip coincides with a who’s who of business executives meeting in India, many of whom represent the military-industrial complex, it’s disheartening to see what was a main goal of the visit. Opening markets, breaking down trade barriers, making money for the Honeywell’s and Dupont’s of their respective industries.
I’m not knocking trade with India. It’s just hard to see how the promises made on this trip will help the 400 million people in India living on less than $2 a day. If even a portion of money spent on the military was spent on climate adaptation, sustainable agriculture, healthcare, or basically any sector you mention that will be impacted by climate change, India might be in a better position to deal with climate problems when they hit with more and more frequency and ferocity.