| EU-India Research for Climate Change
The fragile Himalayan climate
Research cooperation between the European Union and India dates back all the way to the First Framework Programme in the mid-1980s. It was formalised into an EU-India Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement, signed first in 2001 and renewed in 2004 (and due for further renewal at the end of this year). As the Indian government itself stated, commenting on the 2004 “EU-India Strategic Partnership”, science and technology cooperation is the most promising area for EU-India cooperation.
The first EU-India steering committee for research cooperation in 2004 identified five research themes as priorities for cooperation: information and communications technologies, surface transport, nanotechnology and multifunctional materials, health, and climate change and natural disasters. Over 20 projects were funded through the FP6 in the period 2003-06 that involved Indian partners or were focused on India.
EU-India environmental research collaboration has been growing, especially since FP6. In 2004 environmental researchers from Europe and India participated in a “climate change and natural disasters” workshop, a chance to gain knowledge of each others’ research and to make concrete plans for international collaboration. As a result, five EU-India research projects fell within the “Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems” research area, while a further five FP6 international cooperation activities projects had sustainable development themes.
The focus on climate change and environmental risk is a natural choice for EU-India research cooperation. India has well-developed climate change research capacities, and specific research interests include the tropical monsoon cycle, the effects of global warming on the Himalayan climate, air pollution, and climate change impacts on agriculture. There are state of the art research facilities and scientists in academic centres like the University of Delhi, the Indian Institute of Technology, the Indian Met Office and the Institute of Tropical Metereology in Pune, Maharashtra.
The European interest in greater climate change research collaboration is also obvious. Since climate change is a global phenomenon, there is a pressing need to increase our knowledge of climate systems outside Europe, and in that way to discover the interactions between different climate systems around the world. Greater collaboration also allows more leverage of Indian expertise in the field.
The February workshop was held in New Delhi, India and was organised by the Environment Directorate. It brought together more than 50 scientists with the objective of pinning down future research needs of common interest to both European and Indian scientists. Discussions were centred around three main research themes: climate change and air quality (including such topics as air pollution and monsoon circulation studies); climate change impacts and extreme events (for example, modelling climate change and researching the impact of climate change on agriculture); and finally adaptation and mitigation strategies (for example, the development of clean technologies like clean coal power generation).
The latter theme was developed as a direct response to Indian concerns that the focus on climate change might compromise the high economic growth levels needed to lift the local population out of poverty. The idea is that, through combined research and technology transfer, India can move onto a sustainable growth trajectory that allows high economic growth without prejudicing the local or global environment.
The next stage, following the February workshop and the definition of mutual research priorities, is to build on the momentum to elaborate a specific international cooperation action (SICA) that will be launched during 2008. SICAs aim to ensure a fair level of collaboration between third countries and EU member states and are geared towards the research and development needs of third countries. SICAs, previously part of the International Cooperation programme in FP6, have now been mainstreamed in FP7, meaning that they can be found in each research theme.
Furthermore and in parallel with increased EU-India research collaboration in other fields, European and Indian officials will explore the possibility of implementing a coordinated call for climate change research, the first of its kind between the EU and India. A coordinated call means that the research authorities on either side will coordinate the launch and budgeting of a research project to allow research teams from both sides to collaborate on their work. The coordinated call requires a strengthened institutional relationship between the Research Directorate-General and its homologue in India, the Department of Science and Technology. It will offer the prospect of more brains and more resources working together to tackle the climate change threat common to us all.