From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much.
Mains level : Paper 3-Climate change and India's SAPCCs. India acting at state level.
The recent global climate summit, the annual Conference of the Parties (COP25), held in Madrid was a failure and that the multilateral process to address the climate crisis is broken. The growing global stalemate gives India the chance to focus on the State and sub-State levels.
COP 25 at Madrid and what future prospects
- Wealthy countries disowning responsibility: At several discussions on finance, ambition, transparency of support and pre-2020 action, wealthy countries were recalcitrant.
- Disavowing obligations: Although responsible for using the bulk of the carbon space in the atmosphere, they now disavow their obligations. With some even denying anthropogenic climate change.
- Complete severance of science from negotiations: At this stage, there is a complete severance of climate science from the negotiations and agreements at the global level.
- The question is, what can we do now?
- What can happen at the next COP?
- Hope of little change: The next COP will be held at Glasgow, U.K. (in late 2020) and there may be little change in the outcomes.
- The global political order may not alter much. The fact that we live in an unequal and unjust world is not going to change either.
- What else can happen on the global level?
- Right leader: The right political leaders could nudge action in a new direction.
- Green New Deal could pass: Younger members could be elected to the U.S. Congress and the Green New Deal could pass sometime in 2021.
- Growing activism: In the meantime, climate activism is increasing awareness and having some success in removing insurance and financial support for fossil fuel companies. But these kinds of changes will occur slowly.
- Participation of other stakeholders at next COP: At least one expert has called for a parallel action COP at future summits where sub-state actors, civil society groups, non-governmental organisations and academics can share ideas and nudge action.
The chance for India to develop climate change action at State and Sub-state level
- Chance to develop climate change action: The stalemate at the global level offers India the opportunity to focus earnestly on developing its climate change action at State and sub-State levels.
- Peripheral status of climate change: In the states, the environment and climate continue to be relegated to peripheral status.
- Damage to the environment: This neglect has led to the destruction of ecosystems, forests, water-bodies and biodiversity.
- Vulnerability and economic costs of the neglect: Numerous studies have shown the high economic and ecological costs and loss of lives due to extreme events.
- We do not need more data to stimulate action. As is also well recognised, India is extremely vulnerable to the effects of warming.
Progress made by the states so far
- The first round of SAPCCs: With support from bilateral agencies, States initially took different approaches in the first round of State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs).
- Some of them set up separate climate change cells while some collaborated with academic institutions.
- A few produced detailed action plans while others developed strategy documents.
- Still, others integrated improvements in energy efficiency (contributing to reducing emissions), while almost all focused on adaptation.
- The synergy between climate change and development:
- Attention to climate change offers co-benefits to India for development. For instance-
- Efficiency reduces pollution: Improving energy efficiency in industry reduces costs and local pollution.
- Transport and congestion: Improving public transport reduces congestion, pollution and improves access.
- Natural farming and fertilisers: Using natural farming methods reduces fossil fuel-based fertilizers, improves soil health and biodiversity.
- These examples show that there are synergies in the steps to be taken for good development and climate change.
- Next round of SAPCCs and strategies
- The next round of the SAPCCs is being drawn up, under recommendations from the Centre.
- Where should be the focus? The focus ought to be on integrating the response to climate change with the development plan in different departments.
- States together to contribute NDCs: Since the States together are to deliver the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that India has promised, it means that they require guidance from the Centre.
- Unfortunately, most State government departments are handling climate change as a fringe issue and do not seem to recognise its urgency.
Integration of various sectors for climate action
- Identification of sectors: Line departments for government schemes and programmes in key development sectors, such as agriculture, transport and water, should be identified for carefully integrating actions that respond to climate change.
- Integration at district level: This integration should also take place at district and sub-district levels. But only a demonstration of its success in some departments would show how this can be done.
- The realisation of climate as an important issue: But first and foremost, States need to get the signal that climate is an urgent issue.
- Funds for implementing SAPCCs
- How funds for implementing SAPCCs will be obtained is not clear.
- There will not be enough from the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund and bilateral agencies to support all States unless new sources are found.
- Use of coal cess: The coal cess in India is a good initiative, and as others have pointed out, could be used for environment and climate-related expenses.
- Alternative sources: Alternative sources from high emissions’ industries and practices would be an option, but still probably insufficient.
- Performance analysis of first SAPCCs: There is also needs to be a clear analysis of how the first round of action plans fared.
- Challenges and performance: What were the challenges and how did they perform?
- Reasons for success and failures: Which approaches and projects were successful and ought to be scaled up and what lessons do the failures offer?
- Finally, what institutional structure works best?
- Need for the greenhouse gas inventory: The country needs reliable greenhouse gas inventories.
- Individual research groups and the civil society initiative, GHG Platform India, have been producing such inventories.
- Such inventories would be useful in synchronising and co-ordinating State and Central mitigation programmes.
- Programmes with longer timelines: States must also develop their programmes with longer timelines.
- With mid-course correction based on lessons and successes that can be integrated into the next stage of the plan.
- If the second round of SAPCCs were treated as an entry point to long-term development strategy, the States and the country would be better prepared for climate change.
- Ultimately, climate should be part and parcel of all thinking on development.