Key takeaways from India’s climate progress and challenges this year

This year has been extremely challenging for the world, with increasingly severe and unpredictable climate impacts. As the 7th most vulnerable country to climate change, India’s development challenges are compounded by its climate risks. And yet, we have also made significant progress this year in charting our climate ambition. We reflect on climate learnings and progress this year, and the challenges that remain, as we move towards our 2030 goals to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

A year of loss and damage

 

With over 75% of India’s districts vulnerable to extreme weather events, India recorded nearly one disaster every day in the first 9 months of 2022. These disasters took 755 human lives, affected 1.8 million hectares of crop area, destroyed over 416,667 houses, and killed close to 70,000 livestock.

Photo credit: Sushavan Nandy

Such data shows that climate risks are no more a long-term threat — they are a threat to our present and immediate future, affecting lives as well as India’s economic and social development. For example, the World Bank’s recent report indicates that India could become one of the first places in the world to experience heat waves that break the human survivability limit. Today, 380 million people depend on heat-exposed labour in India, which contributes to nearly half of the country’s GDP.

In the coming decade, localised risk assessments such as CEEW’s and ICC’s ongoing efforts to build a Climate Risk Atlas, and CSE’s extreme weather report, and the Department of Science and Technology’s climate vulnerability assessment for adaptation planning, must inform how policies are designed and implemented, and climate finance deployed, in India and across the global South, such as under the loss and damage fund established at COP27.

Photo credit: Matthew Henry

Vision for climate action in the coming decade

 

Although our climate risks are increasing, climate action has made meaningful progress this year. According to the Climate Change Performance Index 2023, India is now ranked 8 on its climate change policies and actions. In 2022, the Indian government ramped up its climate ambition under its broader ‘LiFE’ or Lifestyle for Environment and Panchamrit strategy announced at COP26.

 

India submitted its updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the UNFCCC at COP27, with a commitment to reduce its GHG emissions intensity by 45% of its GDP by 2030, from 2005 levels, and to produce 50% of its cumulative electric power from non-fossil-fuel-based energy resources by 2030. The updated NDCs also provide a framework for India’s transition to cleaner energy for the period 2021–2030, decoupling economic growth from GHG emissions and accounting for development of vulnerable sections of society. Most state-level action plans for climate change (SAPCCs), under India’s National Action Plan for Climate Change, are presently being updated, with a focus on mitigation and adaptation; few states like Kerala and Haryana have recently revised their plans.

 

At COP27, India also submitted its Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy, to plan India’s transition away from fossil fuels in a just and inclusive manner. Policy priorities include: decarbonising the transport sector, through the use of biofuels and green hydrogen; ensuring energy access, security and employment in the industrial sector; enhancing carbon sinks through increased forest cover; and building climate resilience into development. These priorities will shape pathways for climate finance in the coming decade.

 

The Rajya Sabha passed the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which aims to increase energy efficiency and proposes a carbon credit trading system. Under this, major power consumers will have to meet a certain portion of their energy requirements through renewable energy sources, including green hydrogen, biomass, and ethanol.

Photo credit: Saravanan Dhandapani

Implementing our climate ambition

 

While India has stated it is on-track to meet its NDCs under the Paris Agreement by 2030, and achieve net-zero by 2070, the UNEP’s recent report suggests that the world is not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2030. Policies currently in place are projected to result in global warming of 2.8 degree Celsius over the 21st century.

 

G20 members are far behind in delivering on their mitigation commitment for 2030, resulting in an implementation gap. With its ongoing G20 presidency this year, India has the opportunity to focus on climate finance, energy security, and green hydrogen in the energy sector, driving climate ambition and implementation for the developing world. The G20 Development Working Group has discussed the need for a just green transition, how to align LiFE globally with SDGs for economic growth and development, and how to address existing gaps in data for development and bottlenecks for sustainable finance.

 

In addition to India’s mitigation priorities, priority adaptation measures for India must include making new infrastructure and water management more resilient, strengthening early warning systems, and improving dryland agriculture crop production.

 

However, along with increasing technological and knowledge capacity, India faces significant challenges in galvanising the required climate finance to address these priorities. To implement its mitigation ambition, India requires an estimated USD 2.5 trillion till 2030; in 2021, tracked green finance across clean energy, clean transport and energy efficiency amounted to only 25% of this amount. Further, India’s annual adaptation costs are an estimated USD 45.3 billion, and loss and damage from floods and storms alone cost India USD 7.6 billion in 2021. While waiting for developed countries to deliver on the (unmet) promise of USD 100 billion, and for the operationalisation of the loss and damage fund established at COP27, India must call upon a variety of domestic funders to galvanise the massive capital required to address our climate challenges.

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