Comment: Indian states act on climate change

16 September 2009


by Preeti Malhotra, India Director of The Climate Group


As India's government progresses its National Action Plan on Climate Change, it falls to state governments to enact it fully. The good news, writes Preeti Malhotra, is that - from Himachal Pradesh to Maharashtra - India's state governments are already taking action.

With over 1.1 billion of the world's people, India has among the largest bureaucracies in its 28-state, 7-Union Territory (UT) Federal system and an economy that is closely tied to its diverse natural resource base. The climate change scenarios and projections for India indicate that its population is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as changes in forest and water resources and sea level rise.

The Indian Government has taken steps at the national level to address the above through the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), environmental laws and energy policies.


The National Action Plan on Climate Change


On June 30 2008, the Prime Minister released the NAPCC, intended to provide a concrete road map detailing how India plans to move forward in combating climate change. The NAPCC sets out eight 'National Missions' with the focus on 'promoting understanding of climate change, adaptation and mitigation, energy efficiency and natural resource conservation'. On June 5 2009, at a function to mark the World Environment Day, India's President Ms Pratibha Patil said that India is committed to contributing to the global effort on climate change and that, of the eight missions, "those relating to solar energy, energy efficiency, water, sustainable agriculture and sustainable habitat will be launched this year."

It will fall to India's states to translate these missions and their goals into reality, as is commonly acknowledged (see here, for example).

The good news is that state governments have already begun taking action.


State-level action underway


On August 20 2009, the government of Maharashtra approved the state's climate change action plan. Prepared on the lines of the NAPCC, the State Action Plan would be applied at the regional, sub-regional, block and taluka (administrative division generally consisting of several towns and villages) levels, and also to different sectors of the economy.

In 2008, the state of Himachal Pradesh introduced a voluntary 'green tax' on vehicle-users to create a fund for combating climate change - one of the first of its kind among Indian states. The government, which aims to become India's first carbon neutral state, also announced formulation of an environment master plan in 2008.

Other states are also proactively addressing climate change, adopting climate policies and promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Chief Minister of the coastal state of Gujarat, for example, announced in February 2009 the establishment of a special department to prepare a comprehensive policy on issues related to climate change and global warming.

To speed such initiatives along, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh asked all state environment ministers to prepare state-level action plans on climate change at a conference of state ministers held on August 19, 2009. The state-level plans, he said, should be consistent with the strategies identified in the NAPCC and include investments in new clean technologies.

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