A domestic climate action strategy

India needs to strengthen climate cooperation at domestic level, with better centre-state and inter-state coordination


Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

India recently ratified the Paris Agreement, assuring it a seat at the 55/55 table—ratification by at least 55 countries and accounting for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was required for the agreement to come into force—where countries will negotiate the mechanisms and provisions under the agreement. With the ratification, India has demonstrated leadership in climate negotiations but left some with concerns about signing an agreement without realizing its full implications.

While the ratification indicates intent to implement the agreement in its true spirit, it raises critical questions. Does India have a domestic implementation strategy? Have there been sufficient consultations with state governments and others to take stock of our climate preparedness? Do we have sufficient information about sub-national contexts, to keep in mind domestic concerns while we negotiate?

Like many countries, India too has built in caveats in its ratification instrument, where it clearly mentions that climate action will be in the context of India’s developmental goals, existing national laws and available means of implementation. Given the lack of clarity around the manner in which provisions of the agreement will take shape, this caveat is important. But this also means that India has its work cut out in the pre-2020 scenario to ensure that legislation and provisions required to implement the agreement domestically, are in place. J.M. Mauskar, member of the prime minister’s council on climate change, has reiterated the same, highlighting the need for inter-ministerial and state consultations.

One integral step that we have missed has been to realize the roles and responsibilities of state governments, who are the ultimate implementing authorities of climate policies. There have not been any detailed discussions with the states on the implications of the Paris Agreement for them, either before or after the ratification.

India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) goals include a 175GW renewable energy target, and an overall emissions-intensity reduction of 33-35% over 2005 levels. For this, the first step would be to allocate mitigation burden among states and also prioritize adaptation efforts. Some key issues India will have to pay special attention to include a transparent GHG emissions accounting and monitoring, review and verification framework, and a detailed implementation plan. To ensure that we are on track, both national and state plans need to be reassessed and reviewed to build the necessary capabilities for states to implement climate plans in the context of both, their developmental and NDC goals. Among the various state action plans submitted, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh are the only two states with a detailed sector-wise GHG inventory, and most state action plans lack clearly defined targets and timelines. Also, different states have given varying importance to different sectors, an indication of what they identify as vulnerable sectors, in both mitigation and adaptation efforts, but there exists no standard framework to assess these priorities. If we can at least build state-level profiles of GHG emissions from different sectors, it can help inform us about different focus areas for each state, since the funds for climate action are limited and must be utilized in a cost-effective manner.

To implement its NDCs, India would need $2.5 trillion up to 2030, for which external finance would be critical, in addition to our domestic budget allocations. This fiscal, $1.27 billion was transferred to the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) through collection of coal cess, with $750 million allocated to renewable energy, $380 million to the ministry of water resources, and $150 million to environment and forests. While multilaterals such as the World Bank have committed to raise $1 billion in 2017 for promoting India’s solar mission, we must strategically seek other sources such as the Green Climate Fund and leverage the International Solar Alliance, if we are to meet our NDC targets. India will also have to look at state capacities towards mitigation action and thus work out inter-state financial and technology transfers to assist the socio-economically backward states.

In addition to mitigation costs, India also has a significant adaptation burden. Recent studies by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) estimate that India has already faced about Rs1 trillion worth of direct damage costs due to extreme climate events such as floods, cyclones and temperature changes, over the last five years. CEEW research further estimates that the costs of adaptation for India may increase to about $360 billion by 2030. In such a scenario, securing the livelihoods of over a billion people and minimizing the risk towards development outcomes due to climate change becomes imperative.

Going forward, we need to enable a transparency regime with the cooperation of state governments with data being generated at the state level. Also, if we are to extend the Paris Agreement domestically, we can include “common but differentiated responsibilities” and respective state-level capabilities to allocate mitigation targets and adaptation efforts on the principle of equity. Finally, while India continues to strengthen international cooperation, the same needs to be done at the domestic level, with better centre-state and inter-state coordination, to turn what may seem to some, a distant dream, into reality.

Aditya Ramji and Shruti Nagbhushan are researchers with the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, New Delhi.

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