Though the process for state climate action plans is under way in India, the project by project approach could lead to several problems, including ad-hoc selection of proposals that are not long-term

( Image by Judith)

( Image by Judith)

It’s been six years since the process of preparing state climate plans in India was first initiated. So far, 28 states and union territories have prepared the climate action plans, making it one of the largest initiatives in domestic sub-national climate planning globally. However, the plans may become a repository for select adaptation and resilience projects rather than being mainstreamed into the state planning process.

Faced with repeated requests from states to finance state climate plans, the government of India recently said that a limited amount of financial (as well as technical) support would be offered to states on the submission of specific project proposals. In addition, states are expected to identify plan objectives that align with any of the centrally sponsored or central sector schemes and tap into this available pool of money. The former approach suggests that states would need to select specific proposals from their climate plan rather than expect funding to implement the plan in its entirety.

Such a project by project approach of selecting climate action raises some important concerns:

First, a project-based process will likely result in an ad-hoc selection of proposals, and may not result in climate proofing across sectors in a manner that is consistent or long-term. Climate action needs to be dovetailed into governments’ annual and other cyclical plan processes and can be an important consideration in designing future development and resilience projects. Failure to do so could result in serious adaptive deficits in the context of future climate change across sectors going forward.

Second, much depends on how specific projects are selected. Given that the central government has a small pool of funding for project implementation, a systematic approach –necessitating the establishment of a framework for selecting and prioritising actions  –  is key. The government’s call for projects needs to precondition such a selection mechanism, recognising the region’s vulnerability profile and existing development priorities. As of March 2015, 19 state climate plans have been endorsed; the states that have prepared them are expected to develop implementation plans, which are a further prioritisation of stated recommendations. But the basis of this prioritisation remains unclear.

Third, there are shortcomings of a default approach of conflating existing development work with adaptation action. There are indeed significant overlaps between building development resilience and adaptation. However, there is additional knowledge to be gained and more specific actions that could be developed by factoring in the specific impact of additional climate stressors, using both historical data and model based projections to capture future climate impacts.

Fourth, a project-based approach where any department can put forward a proposal for implementation might further undermine efforts at streamlining climate efforts in the state.

Already coordination between various line ministries and the nodal agency on climate change has been problematic. Some state governments are concerned that certain line departments are duplicating work on climate change by directly responding to central ministry requests to implement specific national missions under the National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC), bypassing nodal agencies that have prepared the climate plans. Coordination between line departments and climate nodal agencies was already a major concern during state climate plan preparation. A project-based approach to climate planning (as opposed to an economy-wide approach), does not build a case for centralising co-ordination on climate action within the states.

Lastly, the government’s proposal to fund only state adaptation projects is blind-sighted to the need to encourage local mitigation efforts that offer strong development co-benefits like energy efficiency gains, energy security, and clean air.

All of the aforementioned factors,of course, deal with state projects competing for a small pool of central government money. But that may not be the only technical and financial lifeline for states. A host of bilateral and multilateral agencies are helping states in implementing climate actions. They have, in turn, created a space for a host of consultant organisations and NGOs to carry out the work.

Their degree of engagement, however, is highly varied and raises three questions: To what extent is the support financial? Does the assistance extend to plan implementation in its entirety? And would it be based on existing recommendations in the state plans? GIZ, which continues to support pilot projects through its rural adaptation programme, has assisted local organisations and bodies access international funding through the United Nation’s Adaptation Fund Board (AFB). Other organisations may follow suit. But the AFB itself (as well as the Green Climate Fund, now being operationalised) encourages a project-by-project approach.

At the national level, as the deadline for the submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC approaches, it is as yet unclear how the state plans would play a role in terms of India’s adaptation contribution in 2030. One perceivable barrier is that state plans suffer from huge variances in the size, scale and specificity of their recommendations. While states are currently under pressure from the central government to update sectoral chapters by including objectives under some of the national missions like agriculture and water, many states  (there are exceptions) are not keen to revise plan chapters.

Following extreme weather episodes, states like Odisha have chosen to fund some climate initiatives from their own resources. If other states, recognising the importance of climate proofing their economy, choose to do the same, then the current fiscal trend, towards a greater devolution of untied funding from the centre to states as outlined in the 14th Finance Commission, could go some away in equipping states – at least financially – to mainstream climate action.

Anu Jogesh is a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Research and has completed a study with Dr Navroz K. Dubash examining State Action Plans on Climate Change

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