A Useful Climate Step From India

A major Indian state announces an important new Solar Power Policy

One problem in making progress on climate (besides the antediluvian policies of the Bush Administration) has been the refusal of major developing nations such as China and India to agree to emissions caps and reductions. Often, they appear to have rejected any responsibility for doing anything at all. (They have a point: the developed nations created this problem, and should solve it. But if present trends continue, India’s emissions will increase sevenfold by 2031: you just can’t get a handle on climate change without the developing countries.)

That’s why yesterday’s announcement, in the Indian state of Gujarat, of a Solar Power Policy might be very good news. I am not at all sophisticated in reading Indian state documents of this sort, but a couple of things jumped out at me:

1) Solar Power Projects will not have to pay electricity rate tax, which is sort of a backwards way of instituting some form of carbon tax. I have long suspected that while developing nations will reject emissions caps, they might be amenable to taxation-based schemes. This could be a data point in favor of this hypothesis.

2) If I’m reading the document right, the state government is instituting a 10% renewable portfolio standard (it’s in Paragraph 16). The policy lasts until 2014, although it is not clear by when the standard needs to be fulfilled. Still, this seems quite significant.

The Gujarat government says that the state gets 300 days of sunshine a year. That’s a pretty good base. Gujarat is a very major Indian state, in the western part of the country bordering Pakistan. I know it mostly because of the horrific anti-Muslim pogroms there from a few years ago, egged on and inspired by Hindu nationalist politicians. This might not indicate that much has changed in that department, especially in the wake of the Mumbai atrocities, but here is at least some indication that the government is moving ahead constructively on a critical issue.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.