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OPINION: After Paris – “About money and determination”, a view from Mihir Bhatt, India


India emerged at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris as a strong voice, demanding that rich countries show the way in cutting emissions and deliver more funds to poor countries, especially for adaptation purposes and “loss and damage” compensation. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of this country of 1.2 billion people, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, announced huge investments in solar energy, but at the same time reasoned that India’s growth should continue to be powered by coal and fossil fuels for many years. Three months after the deal was struck, Mihir Bhatt, CDKN´s country leader for India who leads the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI), talks to CDKN’s Miren Gutierrez about the next steps needed to implement India’s commitments.

The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in India about action on climate change? And on disaster risk management? If so, how?

The national conversation on sustainable development has evolved since the COP21 Paris Agreement. Shri Prakash Javdekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has said that he would ensure that the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) becomes not only a national commitment, but also a commitment by the people of India. In one indication of the government’s eagerness to move, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Surface Transport, has urged Indian businesses to move to adopt the stringent Euro 6 automobile emission standards before the deadline in 2020[1]. Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in fact, moved the conversation even before the Paris conference, from negotiation, theory, data and scientific proof to what individual citizens are already doing and can do to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. The book Rising to the Call: Good Practices for Climate Change Adaptation”, published by CSE, was distributed to over 100 key individuals shaping implementation of INDCs in India by the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) and met a warm welcome from Minister Javdekar.

Similarly, on the Disaster Risk Reduction front, the conversation has moved from looking at disasters and climate risk separately to addressing disaster risk in an integrated fashion, which may include climate-related risks. This is a big shift in a short time. However, what is needed is far more action on the ground. For example, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) needs to move boldly to take up climate change issues, such as mitigating the effects of heat waves, as part of its ongoing activities in India’s cities. Kamal Kishore, Member, NDMA, is striving towards this integration. The District Disaster Management Plans (DDMP) and the District Climate Change Plans (DCCP) across India must integrate with the District Development Plans. The Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) is trying this integration in Uttar Pradesh, and the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), in Odisha. Both efforts are supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). In short, conversation and actions, both are focusing more on what can be done to integrate development with climate adaptation and mitigation measures, and how.

India farming

Indian farmers; courtesy World Bank

India submitted an ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC) – what will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

It will take both determination and money to make the the INDC work on the ground. Road maps are being made by the government as well as by various civil society organisations at several levels. Key think tanks are busy working out ways to move ahead in implementing and verifying the implementation of India’s INDC.

The government has set up the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to use more solar energy at home and abroad – India has contributed US$250 million as well as land and buildings for ISA, while the government of France has invested €300 million to lend to solar energy parks and related industries in India and in other developing countries. What is needed is a series of project development facilities that pull together skills, vision, knowledge and initial finance to set the ball rolling.

I must also mention that Indians will approach the implementation of the INDC from many directions. There is the government’s “growth” approach, which dominates public expenditure. Civil society groups are also exploring the use of what is now called “bioeconomics” with a focus on ecosystems. Meanwhile, leading economists are talking about the “Economy of Tomorrow”, with focus on much broader economics not driven by “growth” but shared prosperity for all including social and ecological gains. Artists are talking about “We in Climate Change” with focus on inclusion. Several concerned voices have been raised to put biodiversity, ecology, inclusion and jobs at the centre of INDC implementations. The way of Anubandh, or mutually beneficial, communities that reduce the distance between producer and consumer as a way of thinking more holistically about economic decisions is being promoted by women’s groups and Gandhian thinkers. There is definitely diversity and richness in the way India aspires to move ahead with the INDC.

Jaipur India traffic

Traffic, Jaipur, India; courtesy Katie and Michael, flickr.com

India has committed to lower the emissions intensity of GDP[2] by 33% to 35% by 2030 below 2005 levels, to increase the share of non-fossil based power generation capacity to 40% of installed electric power capacity by 2030, and to create an additional carbon sink through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. India’s commitment has been rated by the Climate Action Tracker as ‘medium’, can more be done?

More can always be done! But first, all that can be done must be done. And that India is doing. Turning INDCs in to an operational plan is not easy for a country of India’s size and diversity. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is holding a consultation and discussion on the Paris Agreement and India’s INDC, called “Enhancing Preparedness for Implementation and Tracking of Mitigation Actions, Plans and Policies”, on March 14, 2016 in New Delhi to determine possible ways of implementation. The discussions leading up to the March 14 event are exciting. There are calls for the involvement of youth. Groups are demanding that the 100 Smart Cities initiative be made INDC compliant. Large businesses are looking to support rural livelihood creation in India’s craft sector as a low carbon activity. International financial institutions are trying to find ways to “Make a Business Case for the INDC”. The list is growing each week. CDKN in India has drawn up an innovative plan to use lessons learned not as an output but as an input to education, business, and governance that leads to climate compatible development

If you check most INDCs from developing countries, their emission reduction targets are subject to technology development, international climate finance and capacity building. What would happen if the means of implementation do not flow?

If the means of implementation do not flow from the international community, it will give a very negative signal to India and to most other developing countries. Trust built over years of negotiations will be corroded. Developed nations will show themselves in very poor light. The recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) decision on solar energy and technology transfer has not gone well with India or with many Asian and African developing countries[3]. Pressure must be built to make money and technology flow to where it matters the most, and that is to the developing countries.

India is determined to move ahead, so even if technology does not come to India’s businesses and households, the country will attempt to stand on its own feet. Should India need to invent its own green technology such as for “carbon fixing” or advanced solar energy, or super wind turbines India is capable of doing so on its own, as declared by Piyush Goyal, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy, at the recent Raisina Dialogue[4]. As a participant at the recent “We in Climate Change” film festival organised by CDKN and tve South Asia in Delhi, Anshul Ojha warned that “peace, resilience and jobs will be undermined” in a world where INDCs are used, directly or indirectly, to perpetuate poverty and disparity across or within countries.

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2C, as close to 1.5C as possible. India’s emissions are fast growing – how do you reconcile this need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in the specific case of India?

India is committed to moving ahead with co-benefits: that is, to reduce emissions and poverty both with the same effort. More planning is needed in setting up co-benefits focus so that one benefit does not grow at the cost of another. Plans are being made by the government to generate jobs in forestry; new employment in solar and wind energy; more livelihoods in water harvesting and traditional irrigation; new skills in renewable energy and craft sector and so on. All these, and many more initiatives aim at both, lowering emissions and lowering poverty. Needless to say, far more work is needed to align ambition with results in India.

Have you any reflections on how the process India went through to come up with its INDC will affect what happens next?

The process was most consultative! The INDC formulation process was as inclusive, open and inviting as a government process can be. Prakash Javdekar took time to meet and listen to the potential of this process. The UN system, think tanks, European countries, federation of businesses, civil society, farmers, youth and women were consulted on the direction, pace and content of the INDC in India. This was in addition to the engagement of experts, such as Dr Dubash of Centre for Policy Research, Dr. Parikh who headed Low Carbon Economy Task Force of Government of India; and Pradipto Ghosh of The Energy and Resources Institutes (TERI). As a result, there is wider ownership of the INDC and consequently, its implementation will also be widely owned.

To build on this wide-spread involvement, it is necessary that citizens make their own plans to implement the INDC at the individual level. To me this is most important. Similarly, cities must make their own plans and industries must make their own plans to lower emissions and fix carbon. “Many efforts from many directions to achieve one result” is the only way to go for India according to Dileep Mavalankar, Director of Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar.

The SDGs have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in India in the coming years?

The convergence of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the INDC has yet to take place in any formal and operational manner in India. Both may agree and overlap in many aspects, but both may still have elements that go in two different directions. And this is natural for any entity which is growing in many directions simultaneously.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is leading meetings with the civil society to converge Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), and COP21 Paris Agreement onto one platform for youth and children. The focus of these meetings is on the poor and vulnerable. Participants at a recent meeting in New Delhi hosted by UNICEF on Post-2015 Children in Changing Climate clearly indicated the need to converge and integrate various global frameworks such as the SDGs, COP21 and SFDRR into a creative and concrete approach to human development.

Having said so, let us not forget that this is India, and we must remain prepared to have conflicting and contradicting elements coexist within each of these efforts. Far more efforts will be needed to harmonise these approaches than to standardise them. A focus on the basic human needs for water, food, shelter and connectivity is a good way forward for harmonising. Similarly, measures to enhance income and build assets of the poor are also vital steps in the direction towards the benefits of harmonising reaching the poor. We cannot leave out the importance of finance, access to finance, energy and markets either.

Are there any development initiatives in India that, for you, provide perfect examples of how the country can meet the high aspirations of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs?

There are several! They are both formal and informal, by the government and by civil society. Take the recent national planning meeting at the India Meteorological Department in Delhi, where a Heat Action Plan for 2016 was shaped by the government, with at least three state governments and officials of five cities. This upcoming summer should see over 10 million citizens of India get information and guidance on how to better protect themselves from the negative impacts of a heat wave. Furthermore, they will take part in efforts to reduce the possibility of heat waves in cities. For the first time in India, maybe in Asia, such a large number of citizens and cities are simultaneously addressing an adaptation and mitigation challenge as an urban development opportunity.

Measures such as boosting green plantation, water harvesting, constructing green buildings, covering roads, as well as measures to lower emissions, adapt to heat and protect the livelihoods and income of the poor citizens will be unrolled. Beginning with Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the heat action plan will move to Bhubaneswar in Odisha and Nagpur in Maharashtra. There is a great hunger to act, to do something, at the subnational level in India. To address this need, a strong effort is lead by Indian cities in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) of USA, which is offering technical know how, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) UK, which is offering support.

There are many more examples of efforts by poor women to produce salt with solar pumps, and cooperative banks loans to enhance renewable energy and more. The reality of a vast and diverse nation like India is that we have such human resource and great local innovation, which the country can tap to create its climate-resilient and low carbon future.

This blog is part of a series, ‘After Paris: Perspectives from developing countries‘.

[1] This was at the recent Global Partnership Summit: Smart Cities: Smart India, organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) on February 10, 2016 in Delhi. “Most car manufacturers in India are making Euro 6 compliant engines in India and exporting them. They have the technology available and time till 2020,” said transport minister Nitin Gadkari. Bharat Stage-VI is equivalent to Euro 6 emission norms.

[2] Units of energy per unit of GDP. It is an expression of the energy intensity –which a measure of the energy efficiency of a nation´s economy.

[3] In February, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) found India´s solar initiative broke trade rules because it gives domestic manufacturers a 10% quota for the supply of panels. The government-funded programme includes a domestic content clause, which would require part of the solar cells to be produced nationally..

[4] Organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi

 

 

Image: courtesy DFID

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