Given India’s geographical diversity, states need to tailor their climate change plans to local concerns

India is the world’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China and the United States, and the fifth most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change, according to the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index.

India’s National Climate Action Plan and its National Climate Action Plans are receiving renewed attention in light of the November 2021 Glasgow Climate Summit, during from which Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his “panchamrita” commitments, or five-point programme.

Among the commitments is India’s goal to reach net zero by 2070 and to increase the share of renewable energy to 50% of the energy mix by 2030.

Given the country’s size and demographic weight, with many states having populations comparable to the entire population of some European countries, the incentives and disincentives in state climate action plans have enormous implications for Indian and global climate resilience.

In a federal system like India’s, one would ideally expect climate action plans to be tailored to mitigate and adapt to the unique challenges that each Indian state faces. Plans could also be expected to incorporate input from a wide range of stakeholders, including regional and local climate experts with intimate knowledge of the particular challenges in their regions.

However, a review of India’s National Climate Action Plans recalls the limits of true decentralization, evident in the outsized influence of a few consultancy firms, resulting in standardized, standardized plans that marginalize the contributions of various regional and local stakeholders and are narrow in focus.

India’s backsliding on developing progressive climate policies at the state level stands in stark contrast to its 2008 National Action Plan on Climate Change, released long before major global collective action began with the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The National Climate Change Action Plan encouraged all states to develop their own plans and adopted a mission-based approach consisting of eight priority areas: the National Solar Mission, the National Mission for the Improvement of Energy Efficiency, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Mission for Water, National Mission for Maintaining Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission for Green India, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture and National Mission on strategic knowledge for climate change.

The National Climate Change Action Plan also urged states to formulate climate change mitigation and adaptation policies by enjoining that “at the level of state governments, several agencies should expand and redefine their objectives and their areas of activity” and that “State governments can also use fiscal instruments to promote appropriate options and measures.

At a time when most countries lacked a coherent climate change mitigation framework at the national level, India’s galvanization of state climate governance planning was a proactive approach by the central government. , resulting in 29 State Climate Action Plans with the seven upcoming Union Territories as well. with such plans.

So how has India gone from a climate visionary to a climate laggard in the 14 years since? The analysis of state climate action plans reveals two main shortcomings. The first problem is the outsized role of a few select consultancies in advising state governments on their climate action plans.

For example, of the 29 State Action Plans, nine States were assisted by the United Nations Development Programme, eight by the German Society for International Cooperation and three by the Institute for Energy and Resources, or TERI.

Figure 1: Institutions involved

The outsized role of the above-mentioned organizations probably explains why the state plans are organized according to a standardized structure, with orientation either by mission – like the National Plan – or by sector.

In a country like India with diverse geographies, topographies, demographics and vulnerabilities, the question arises whether mission-based approach and sector-based approach are the only two possible ways to build a climate plan to address highly diverse and context-specific climate change. risks?

The dominance of climate planning at the Indian state level by a few consultancies not only results in standardized and sub-optimal plans, but also runs counter to the fundamental principle of federalism and policy-making. that encourage contextual appreciation and creative governance approaches at regional and local levels. . Decentralization should ideally encourage the contribution of many stakeholders to state plans such as research institutes, civil society organizations, academics and local media.

It should also involve honestly collecting and consolidating input from diverse stakeholders into tangible policy solutions. Further, decentralization should prompt states to transcend the mission-based versus sector-based binary and tailor their own plans to address the unique threat profile posed by climate challenges at the local level. For example, Manipur’s goals, strategies and institutional mechanisms for climate action should be different from those of a geographically, demographically and culturally distinct state such as Maharashtra.

Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh should have similar but context-specific local policies that help mitigate melting glaciers and frequent landslides that cause flooding. The arid areas of Rajasthan, the cyclone-prone Andaman and Nicobar Islands and West Bengal, as well as high rainfall regions such as Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, all need their own formulas for local climate mitigation strategies that help stop area-specific problems such as precipitation and storm surges.

The Kerala State Climate Action Plan is a good example of context-specific planning, with a section on local self-government and clear identification of different stakeholder groups such as farmers, fishers and communities. tribal. Mizoram and West Bengal followed a sectoral approach that highlights key concerns and adaptation strategies for different local regions.

On the other hand, the climate action plans of states like Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh are entirely focused on aligning state programs with the eight national missions outlined in the National Action Plan for Climate Change.

Figure 2: Sector mission

Overall, the standardized state climate action plans indicate that state governments have voluntarily given up the policy autonomy afforded to them by federalism in favor of a ready-made model plan structure and practice provided by the consultants. The National Climate Change Action Plan was a good framework that provided significant leeway to localize climate action, but states failed to take advantage of this opportunity.

Progressive state climate action plans must include bold targets, have the right incentive structures, include input from a wide range of stakeholders, and achieve the right mix of standardized alignment with the national plan and custom planning tools for unique climate challenges at the state and local level.

The current climate policy architecture in India leans excessively towards standardization at the state level. National action plans for climate change have been formulated for five years. While some plans will soon be obsolete, other states are in the process of renewing/creating new action plans for climate change governance.

It is important that state governments formulate more effective and localized climate action plans to advance the cause of effective and decentralized governance as it relates to climate change. States should avoid, again, opting for a cut-and-paste model inspired by the council.

Smriti Jalihal is a research associate at the Center for Knowledge Alternatives, FLAME University. Chaitanya Ravi is Assistant Professor and Chair of Public Policy at FLAME University

Teresa H. Sadler