After living through a pandemic for 20 months, and the constant threat of new variants, the world continues to navigate the path ahead with caution. Many economies and businesses are gaining momentum and increasing their vaccination coverage.
In an era of uncertainty, multilateral groups of countries are being given new roles. The Quad, which was born in response to a natural calamity, the tsunami of 2004, is once again moving to harness its energies to address another crisis — the pandemic. The Quad is a group of countries united in defending the planet from environmental degradation. Given the climate crisis facing the world today, it is important that there is sustainable economic development.
The first-ever in-person leaders’ summit of the Quad was held last year when US President Joe Biden hosted Narendra ModiYoshihide Sug, Scott Morrison, & Scott Morrison at the White House Leaders set ambitious goals at the historic meeting to strengthen partnership and collaborate on new-age issues such as ending the pandemic; promoting advanced technology; fighting climate change and partnering with emerging technologies.
The two areas in which the Quad nations can have a positive impact are energy and climate change.
A scenario in which rising population will cause an increase in energy demand means that countries cannot rely on fossil fuels for power generation. These fuels deplete natural resources, are expensive to produce and can often emit uncontrollable amounts of carbon. Renewable energy is a viable alternative at a time where the world is struggling from major catastrophes like floods caused by unseasonal rains, forest fires, and the hindering of biodiversity. The Quad can facilitate inclusive energy transitions in finance, technology, and manufacturing.
Quad nations such as Australia and Japan can provide technology expertise to help achieve the energy transition goals. These include OSOWOG (One Sun One World One Grid) and ISA (International Solar Alliance). The US was recently made the 101st ISA member, a sign of its continued commitment to leading the global fight against climate change.
India is well-placed for providing manufacturing infrastructure to support these technologies. To take over from China as the “world’s factory”, it will have to mirror its advantages of large-scale production at low costs. This will create the necessary jobs in the country by achieving success.
Energy transition, like many long-term projects, requires adequate funding. The Quad’s developed nations have an opportunity and a role to encourage capital investments to support developing nations in their transition to sustainable energy. For instance, “climate finance” is required to facilitate global interconnected grids.
We must act quickly in response to the climate crisis. Quad nations are already pursuing climate ambition with a focus on resilience, adaptation, preparedness and deployment. The most commendable commitment is their focus on increasing the Indo-Pacific region’s resilience to climate change by improving critical climate information-sharing and disaster-resilient infrastructure.
Good steps include the creation of a Climate and Information Services Task Force and the construction of a new technical facility through The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. These steps will need to be monitored and reexamined regularly to make sure that there is a real difference.
Japan is scheduled to host the second meeting in person of the Quad group in Japan next year. The focus will be on vaccine diplomacy and supply chain security, as well as infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific. These are important issues, but the summit must not neglect or forgo a followup on energy- and climate action tasks.
The massive investment planned from now till 2050 to reach the 1.5°C pathway illustrates the scale of what needs to be done. Already, nations have shown great commitment to the Quad vaccine partnership in order to improve equitable access to effective and safe vaccines in the region as well as the world. Similar commitment is needed for energy and climate change.
The Quad nations are strategically placed to have an impact on the world’s problems through their collective efforts and tangible strategies. It is now that they can lead the way to a truly sustainable world.
The writer is Chairman and CEO, KPMG India