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From Paris to Dubai: India’s Climate Action Journey


The least said, it is apparently clear that the Government of India had set its priority in meeting the climate goals that had been continuously featured, argued and highlighted in most of the global-level climate negotiations in recent years

By Salam Rajesh

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s World Economic Outlook Report (July, 2023) projected India as the fastest-growing major economy in the world at a 6.1 percent growth rate during 2023. The report’s projection cast a phenomenal transition of India’s progress at a time when the global growth ‘would see a downturn from 3.5 percent in 2022 to 3 percent in 2023 due to many factors, including the long-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic’. This, in short, is India’s story of resilience despite the global uncertainties and many domestic challenges.

Edging on with the national accomplishment, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC, Government of India) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together released a report last year-end, “From Paris to Dubai, India’s Climate Action Journey – Resolve to Result” (2023).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reflecting on the report says, “Our firm belief in following a lifestyle based on sustainable practices becomes clear when the world sees that India’s per capita carbon footprint is 60 percent lower than the global average. It is the manifestation of the same conviction that drives our Mission LiFE – Lifestyle for Environment”.

Outlining India’s climate action journey, the MoEFCC & UNDP report profiles the kickoff since the year 2006 when the country took stock of its environmental concerns to ‘identify key vulnerabilities of India to climate change, (and) assess the need for adaptation to future climate change’.

With this broad objective in view, an Expert Committee on Impacts of Climate Change was constituted in 2007 to ‘study the impacts of anthropogenic climate change on India and identify measures to address vulnerability to these impacts’.

The proposal comes in the wake of the general assessment that India is third next to the United States of America and China as nations with maximum load of carbon emission from different sources. In 2019, an assessment by the international climate observer – Climate Watch – placed India at the tenth position with the United States and Russia as top carbon emitters. This assessment finds reflection in the MoEFCC & UNDP 2023 report profiling India’s commitment to lowering its position as one amongst the top carbon emitting countries in the world.

Progressing through the succeeding years from its commitment to formulating a National Action Plan on Climate Change (2008) down to the Climate Change Action Programme (2014) India relentlessly strove to achieve its commitments. This was strengthened through the formation of an Apex Committee for Implementation of the Paris Agreement in 2020 with the broad perspective to ‘create and strengthen scientific and analytical capacity for assessment of climate change; to establish an appropriate framework for research, policy, and implementation of climate change-related actions’.

Climate Change process is primarily studied from two angles, that which is naturally occurred (Nature-induced Climate Change) and that which is inherently influenced by humans (Human-induced Climate Change). In current terminology, it is more on the latter process that the world is primarily concerned with, as anthropogenic influences are seen as more critical at this point of time. It is assessed that dramatic changes in the climatic conditions worldwide have been hastened by different human activities that are critically negative in outlook and in effect.

In 2022, the National Designated Authority for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement was constituted with focus on the updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to ‘enhance India’s contribution towards the achievement of the strengthening of global response to the threat of climate change, as agreed under the Paris Agreement’. This signified the country’s leadership’s thrust on achieving the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius by the year 2030.

There were, and are, hard criticisms that the world had failed on many fronts to achieve its climate goals, including the worst-case scenario on the failure of not meeting the objectives set in the Aichi Targets nor of the Kyoto Protocols, and much less said on the Paris Agreement. The Dubai 2023 climate negotiations were mired in controversy on fossil fuel promoters sidelining the main objectives on meeting climate goals post-Paris Agreement.

The MoEFCC & UNDP 2023 report highlights India’s thrust on Climate Change negotiation as reflected in the 2023-2024 Union Budget with its Green Growth game plan, which is envisioned as a quick-gain step for enabling climate action in India by introducing Seven Priorities (Saptarishi) to speed up the ground-level priority action on Climate Change mitigation and adaptation measures.

The Saptarishi are Inclusive Development, Reaching the Last Mile, Financial Sector, Infrastructure and Investment, Unleashing the Potential, Youth Power and Green Growth. This broadly looks at balancing the act between investing in green infrastructure while addressing the needs of the marginalized sections of society. With programs around green fuel, climate-friendly farming, green buildings, low-carbon mobility, and policies for efficient energy use across various economic sectors, the 2023-24 Budget lays a strong foundation for pushing hard on the green growth trajectory.

Quite interestingly, the 2023-2024 Union Budget features the GOBARdhan (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan) scheme with an outlay of INR 100 billion allocation to ‘establish 500 new “waste to wealth” plants under the scheme for promoting a circular economy and the production of bio-energy’. The plan includes proposal for setting up 200 compressed biogas plants (75 in urban areas and 125 in rural areas), and 300 community or cluster-based plants.

Other schemes initiated by the Union Government for meeting its climate goal targets include the Pradhan Mantri Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth; Green Credit program; Sustainable Ecosystem Development; setting up 10,000 bio-input resource centres to facilitate adoption of natural farming; promotion of energy transition and energy storage projects; promotion of coastal shipping for energy efficient transportation; and funds allocation for fleet replacement of government vehicles.

Another of India’s initiative in meeting its climate goals is the Sovereign Green Bonds (SGBs) scheme. The SGBs scheme, flagged off on 25January last year, has reportedly achieved good response from global as well as domestic investors. SGBs amounting to 1.91 billion USD (INR160 billion) are reported issued in the last financial year for mobilizing resources for green infrastructure projects. The Government issued the bonds in two tranches of USD 959 million (INR 80 billion) each on 25 January and on 09 February last year. The proceeds are being deployed into public sector projects that contribute to expanding renewable energy production and reducing the carbon intensity of its economy.

The least said, it apparently is clear that the Government of India had set its priority in meeting the climate goals that had been continuously featured, argued and highlighted in most of the global-level climate negotiations in recent years. The world is said to be headed for climate catastrophe unless countries heed to their commitments as outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.

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