Interview with Trishant Dev, State Climate Fellow, Chhattisgarh, India
Tell us about your work as a State Climate Fellow in Chhattisgarh. What are the most exciting aspects of work you are involved with?
To push for a socio-economic growth model that addresses issues of sustainability and climate resilience, the Government of Chhattisgarh created the State Green Council. As a State Climate Fellow, I’m working with the council to support initiatives in carbon neutrality, renewable energy and sustainable livelihoods. So far I’ve had the opportunity to advance proposals on renewable energy intervention in select districts of Chhattisgarh; study livelihood issues in ‘green sectors’ through field studies and departmental consultations; and initial action on carbon offsetting and accounting in multiple projects across the state.
There are a huge number of sustainability issues that impact people’s lives on a daily basis. And these can offer learnings of all kinds. Accommodating climate concerns in government initiatives is a fairly new area in policy action. I’m fascinated with such a role that lets me hold cross-sectoral consultations and allows me to work on issues that are relatively new to the state.
What unique opportunities does Chhattisgarh present in terms of climate action work? What are your biggest challenges?
Climate change is weighing heavily on agriculture and forestry. These sectors are also the mainstays of Chhattisgarh’s life and livelihood. Worsening droughts, deforestation and forest fires exacerbate poverty in the region – an area that is already multidimensionally poor. Given these difficult circumstances, Chhattisgarh has stepped up its efforts to deal with the climate crisis, for example by making non-binding commitments to limit per capita GHG emissions to two metric tonnes by 2050. To revitalize the green and sustainable identity of villages, the government is aggressively promoting Narwa (streams / rivulets), Garwa (livestock), Ghurwa (compost) and Badi (backyard farm). Theses are the four elements that symbolise the rural landscapes of Chhattisgarh. So, while climate vulnerability is putting us in dire straits, there are enough incentives to strategise climate action in the state.
For us, facilitating partnerships between private entities and the government remains a key challenge across sectors. Especially when the aim is to lend private support to communities, rather than to put them in an unfair market competition. This has been a long-drawn process for us. Nevertheless, we hope that with patience, these efforts will bear fruit. A specific challenge for me (and hence a learning experience) has been to identify projects that are carbon creditworthy. I’ve been responsible for clarifying the mechanism to stakeholders, and this has required a lot of research.
As a young professional, how has your experience been working on climate action at the subnational level with the government?
While most of the present discourse on climate change is focused on highlighting the problem, the reality is that it’s a complex phenomenon, and working to find a solution has many sides. This has had a positive impact on my understanding of workable solutions. For instance, I’ve come to understand the different models of renewable irrigation projects and their suitability to certain conditions. Specifically, this includes the scope of community irrigation through streams and rivulet, as an alternative to groundwater-based, individually distributed solar pumps. This is thanks to my field study and consultation with various stakeholders in Bastar.
The predominant subnational action strategised in Chhattisgarh is climate adaptation. But adaptation solutions are contextual and beyond a one-size-fits-all approach. Working on adaptation solution is different every time and therefore has a lot of learning to offer.
How do you think your fellowship is contributing toward Chhattisgarh's subnational climate action goals?
In recent years, climate action in Chhattisgarh has received crucial and much needed attention from the government. This has helped to create a congenial environment for work in areas of resilience, adaptation and advocacy. As a fellow, I’ve been contributing to the action plan for creating sustainable employment across districts in the region. This will help to address livelihood concerns associated with climate change – something that subnational action prioritises under resilience building. I’m also working to identify governments projects that could benefit from existing carbon markets, therefore incentivising the government’s decarbonization efforts. This includes afforestation efforts and an energy transition in the state.
A dedicated fellowship on climate action in the state provides the opportunity to sensitize stakeholders on risks and opportunities. I think the initiative to place a cohort to support subnational commitments is, in itself, a steppingstone to influence decision-makers.
How has your journey of learning been so far and what do you look forward to as a State Climate Fellow working on subnational action on climate in India?
Altogether it’s a different experience to work for a cause that so thoroughly transcends the human condition. In the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a great variety of projects. When working on climate disruption issues it helps to have a broad view of developmental challenges, human ecology, civic participation and global cooperation. Working to engage businesses on how to deliver a green transition has been a great learning opportunity for me.
Alongside the Green Council, I would like to contribute to a self-sustainable ecosystem of market engagement for green enterprises in the state. In the long term, and on a broad scale, I want to help the state commit to binding targets aligned with the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.