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Climate Change: Catapulting India’s climatic crush into action
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Climate Change: Catapulting India’s climatic crush into action

Happy New Year 2022 can only be happy for the largest democracy and to turn its more than a billion “citizens into happyzens”, through spurring its climatic gears with accelerating climatic action plans

Post by on Saturday, January 22, 2022

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As the world entered into New Year 2022, the largest democracy also wake up, while carrying aspirations of it’s more than 1.40 billion people to make their lives and livelihood happy and healthy in 2022. The trajectory of India’s healing habitat and climatic action pipeline cannot be completed without prioritizing and pressing action across triangular tryst of cutting air effluence, adopting and strengthening climatic adaptive federalism and prioritizing resilient health infrastructural changes in line with adversaries induced by climate change. These tri-laterals are again not a new phenomenon, rather can also be sensed in the national statement made by the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) held at city of Glasgow in Scotland from 31st  October 2021 and 12th  November 2021.

India’s Panchamrit Policy: Journey from Promises to Prospect

The five nectar elements or commitments or Panchamrit made at Glasgow comprised off following-firstly India to take up its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW, secondly fulfillment of 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources, thirdly to cut down its total projected Carbon emissions by one billion tonnes, fourth reducing the carbon intensity of its economy by more than 45 per cent and fifth to achieve net zero emission by 2070. The deadline for starting four pledges is 2030 i.e. in line with the 17 envisioned Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nevertheless, the largest democracy has to put its climatic action card in consonance with focusing upon some key priorities areas (mentioned in subsequent paragraphs).  

Tryst & Twist with Clean Air Plans

This includes giving preference to air pollution measures across state(s) and city action plans (CAPs). As per a joint study titled “How Robust are Urban India’s Clean Air Plans”, conducted by CEEW & Urban Emissions in 2020, the key findings which needs policy attention are- (i) Tight deadline (approx 2 months) before State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) to CAPs, as per the deadline decided by NGT in 2018; (ii) direction less CAPs (collection of measures without specification of goals & priorities); (iii) absence of de jure legal mandate for implementation (except Delhi’s Clean Air Plan-partially notified by the Supreme Court for implementation in January 2018); and (iv) absence of elements of “checks & balances” in implementation as the CPCB approved the plans & directed SPCBs to implement without adding time constraint, no fixation of accountability(also fragmented accountability as 40 per cent of action points listed falls under purview of multiple agencies) and approach in case of overlapping of responsibilities. Ultimately, this first happy New Year climate vertical has to pass the litmus test based on quadruplets of “legislative robust framework, sectoral reduction goals based on source contributions, the cost-effectiveness of the proposed measures, and an apparent demarcation of responsibilities among implementing authorities.  Additionally, integrating health aspect of air pollution across our environmental policies is the need of the hour.

Click the button of “Climate Adaptive Federalism”

“India's unusually centralised form of federalism presents unique challenges to climate action. ... Any effective model of Indian climate governance would, therefore, require each level of government to compensate for the jurisdictional, capacity, and informational constraints of other levels (Pillai & Dubash, 2021).”

 

The statement itself suffices the urgent need of greening the Indian Federal System. As the highly asymmetric nature of Indian federalism, which holds the reins of state finances and constitutes the bulk of planning and bureaucratic capacity makes compensatory relations between the Union and states inescapable in climate governance. Developing practices evolved over the time have involved the use of institutional channels (Finance Commission, SFCs, Grants etc.) of fiscal transfers and federally mandated planning processes to help catalyse climate activity across Indian states and local governments (Municipalities and Panchayats). 

 

States and local governments have taken fragments of the national agenda and tailored them to local political milieu, which are hitherto innocent of ‘climate’ politics phrased as such. These sub-national government layers play the role of marrying broader mitigation & adaptation concerns to local development. In this very process, they contribute to the compensatory dynamic by creating a stream of policy options that then come to define the national retort through channels of federal diffusion. India’s governance architecture must tackle climate vulnerabilities that operate along two axes, one geographic (multiple threats varying from cyclonic storm across 13 coastal states to retreat of Himalayan Glaciers across states falling in Indo-Gangetic plain)  and the other economic (varied economic conditions & governance capacity constraints).

 

In August 2015, Government of India (GoI) established/launched a central sector scheme (CSS) titled National Adaption Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) under the aegis of NABARD (as National Implementing Entity) with an objective to assists States & UTs (which are particularly prone to adverse impact of climate change) in meeting the cost of adaptation. Previously, on 30th June 2008, GoI launched the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) outlining India’s national climate change strategy and propelling its development in line with sustainability (sustainable development). A total of 8 national missions are part of this umbrella action plan.

 

 

As per the 30th report of the Committee on Estimates (16th Lok Sabha), Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) released in December 2018,-19, 32 States & UTs in India have also formulated respective State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) in consonance with objectives of NAPCC. Five missions, i.e., Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystems, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change are adaptation missions, which aim to address the adverse impact of climate change in the specific sectors.

 

With respect to the severe weather events, India Meteorological Department (IMD) has setup a network of State Meteorological Centres for early warning and better coordination. IMD simultaneously shares its forecast and warning with respective national/state/district level disaster management authorities.

 

India’s financial capital city Mumbai joins the growing list (C-40 Cities) of global cities with a climate action plan (CAP), when it becomes the first Indian city to announce for a climate action plan (M-CAP) in August 2021, mainly focusing upon policy hexagonal of “sustainable waste management, green urbanism & biodiversity, urban flooding & water resource management,  energy & buildings, air quality, and sustainable mobility.

Health is Wealth: Distant dream without healing habitat …?

Whilst taking lessons from adverse impact caused due to climate change in forms of rising temperature (urban heat islands), altered rainfall patterns and urban flooding (Chennai, Kerala), rise of bacterial & viral diseases say dengue, chikungunya, also ongoing Covid-19 conundrum highlighted the issue of mental well-being & urban loneliness, and series of natural and man-made disasters, prioritizing health infrastructure and making it resilient one with an approach of periodic interventions, evidence based policy formulation and implementation can be the smile harbinger for more than billion population.

This can again be feasible, while keeping pace with building adequate, efficient and effective health infrastructure (physical, digital, human resources across health sectors) and strictly deviating ourselves as a nation from the “jugaad syndrome” or coming in action mode when the disasters knock our doors.

Thus, Happy New Year 2022 can only be happy for the largest democracy and to turn its more than a billion “citizens into happyzens”, through spurring its climatic gears with accelerating climatic action plans (NCAP, SCAP, CCAP), removing the federal friction and pressing the decentralized environmental governance button, and harnessing the holistic health horizons in line with happy and healthy habitats.    

 

 

(The Author is a Doctoral Scholar at the Department of Public Administration & Policy Studies, Central University of Kerala & was a former Junior Research Consultant (Business, Environment & Human Rights) at a New Delhi based Human Rights Commission. He can be reached at: <linkedin.com/in/shonit-nayan-516205143>) 

 

 

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