A four-point action plan to achieve national targets on climate - Hindustan Times
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A four-point action plan to achieve national targets on climate

Mar 22, 2022 07:26 PM IST

What structural and conceptual frameworks need to be adopted to achieve its climate pledges? 

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent report is a dire warning about the consequences of climate inaction. At COP26, India announced its ambitious aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070 and reduce its emissions intensity by at least 45% by 2030. As a global climate leader, shaping the language of climate action at important world forums, India has a responsibility to head to COP27 with stronger Nationally Determined Contributions to get the world on the crucial 1.5°C pathway.

As India prepares its strategy for COP27, the adoption of such strategies will impart the much-needed coherence between India’s existing global climate commitments and domestic policy decisions. (Amal KS/HT Photo) PREMIUM
As India prepares its strategy for COP27, the adoption of such strategies will impart the much-needed coherence between India’s existing global climate commitments and domestic policy decisions. (Amal KS/HT Photo)

However, climate action at the domestic front presents a challenging picture. Despite a high degree of priority accorded to delivering India’s global climate commitments in the Union Budget 2022-23 speech, the government fell short of making the required allocation to key climate action sectors such as energy, sustainability, and clean tech. Even for a handful of climate action sectors, where there was a rise in budgetary allocation such as electric vehicles (EVs), there is no concrete action plan to guide effective implementation.

With such low budget allocations, how will India effectively accelerate its progress? How can India’s domestic policy decisions and public expenditure be aligned to its global climate commitments? Going forward, what structural and conceptual frameworks need to be adopted to achieve its climate pledges?

First, to effectively address the climate crisis, India needs to redefine growth. India’s policymaking still suffers from a classic struggle between development, ie infrastructure creation, boosting the economy and jobs versus the environmental footprint of such development. This was evident from this Budget, too, where announcements for climate action were not linked with announcements for economic development, and vice-versa. India must make a paradigm shift from measuring economic growth through the conventional statistics of gross domestic product (GDP) to integrating sustainable, inclusive, and green metrics that can capture the interactions between the economic, social, and environmental pillars of development to monitor the “quality of growth”.

Second, bridge the gap between infrastructure creation to provide “futuristic” growth and accounting for the magnitude of future environmental risk and socioeconomic vulnerabilities. With this year’s Budget, the government has been consistent in making big public investments for modern infrastructure. Yet, there continues to be a lack of synergy on how adverse climate, environmental, and socioeconomic impacts will be addressed, including displacement.

Third, shift the focus from a mitigation-dominated climate strategy to one that accords equal importance to adaptation and resilience. India is projected to lose between 3-10% of its GDP annually by 2100. The major brunt of this loss will be borne by the socio-economically vulnerable population. This requires institutionalising resilience as a strategy in climate actions.

The Budget mentioned various mitigation-based efforts such as setting the target of 280 GW of solar energy by 2030, or hefty support to the EV ecosystem or announcement of 19,500 crore for the Production Linked Incentive scheme for solar manufacturing. However, budgetary allocations for biodiversity conservation and the National Adaptation Plan were substantially reduced and financial support to institutions fostering climate action such as the Solar Energy Council of India and Central Pollution Control Board also took a hit. To support adaptation and resilience efforts, strengthening these institutions becomes indispensable.

Fourth, adopt systems that attract climate finance. One of the major drawbacks of the current climate finance regime is its volatility given that the majority of existing global climate finance is coming through private investors. Therefore, enhanced public spending by the government and public sector undertakings towards climate-based projects is vital.

As India prepares its strategy for COP27, the adoption of such strategies will impart the much-needed coherence between India’s existing global climate commitments and domestic policy decisions such as the ones announced in the Union Budget.

Aparna Roy is research lead, climate change and energy, and associate fellow, ORF 

The views expressed are personal

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