By Ankit Pandey
Climate change is already having an effect on people, ecosystems, and livelihoods all across the world. It causes hotter temperatures and more extreme weather, as well as rising sea levels and decreasing water resources. Every living thing, including plants and animals, is impacted.
We are currently on a precarious path to averting a climate catastrophe. The industrial revolution has caused an average increase of 1.1°C more warming resulting in planetary impact. We must act quickly and drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if we want to prevent hazardous warming of more than 1.5°C.
The current challenges highlight the need to shift gears from ‘climate ambition’ to demands for ‘climate accountability’. Unfortunately, the world is significantly off course, as evidenced by each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the run-up to COP-27 last year. While we have multiple bold and ambitious targets for both emission reductions and finance, it is essential that commitments made by all actors are backed by effective and accountable actions.
The world is anticipated to warm by 1.5–1.6°C by 2040, according to the best projections in the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, which was published the same year and examined very low–very high GHG emission scenarios. There will be significant repercussions for human health and livelihoods, food security, water supply, security of the individual, and economic expansion.
The role of local and regional stakeholders
Countries, especially like India, must make use of every tool at their disposal to shift to a low-carbon future while enhancing the resilience and adaptive capacity of all of their citizens since there is so little time left.
In particular, it is the duty of national governments to promote effective action. But each city, town, and village also contribute significantly. Most interactions between citizens and authorities take place at the local levels. India has to find the “know-how” to design and implement climate policy at local levels. Focus needs to be on how the communities, especially marginalized and vulnerable groups, can participate in climate action in sustained and significant ways at local levels.
Decentralized governance systems can be crucial in ensuring a just transition towards sustainable development in developing countries like India. The decentralization of decision-making powers and resources can empower local communities and enhance their participation in the development process. This, in turn, can lead to more equitable and sustainable outcomes, particularly in the context of climate change and the transition to low-carbon and renewable energy systems.
Just as local and regional governments are direct providers of services and information that people rely on for their lives and livelihoods, these leaders also serve as important sources of influence in their communities, and so play a prominent role in introducing important courses of action and innovative approaches.
To drive localized climate action, partnerships between the commercial sector and members of civil society are also crucial to attaining ambitious goals for resilience, adaptation, and emissions reduction, as it would require collective efforts in improving systems and processes for decentralization. This would require the transfer of necessary capacities and resources, establishing accountability mechanisms, ensuring inclusivity, integrating with other sectors and levels of governance, transparency and having an ongoing monitoring, review and evaluation process.
Decentralized governance for climate action
An integrational approach of inter-and-intra sectoral and levels of governance is required. This includes creating linkages between local and national governments, as well as between different sectors such as energy, transportation, land-use planning and others. This can help ensure that policies and programs are coordinated and integrated across sectors and levels of governance, and that the needs and perspectives of local communities are considered in developing national policies and programs.
All levels of climate planning must include local players, and the NDC, as well as finance and implementation methods, must properly account for their contributions. NDC must also be included in plans for local and subnational development. India has developed and implemented efficient, context-specific policies that are anchored in a shared vision through persistent collaboration and coherence across all levels of government.
Additionally, there is an increasing trend in which municipal, regional, and other subnational governments are stepping up and taking center stage in climate change initiatives, as the UNFCCC’s NDC Synthesis Report in 2021 showed. They are becoming more transparent and open to scrutiny – providing transparent information on how decisions are made, how resources are allocated, and how programs are implemented.
Concrete examples of climate action that can be accomplished at the local level include efforts to make buildings more energy efficient, increased access to clean and affordable energy, and low-carbon public transport. Communities and cities can scale up sustainable waste management, produce more food locally, make cities greener with parks and gardens, and leverage nature-based solutions. Cumulatively, these efforts can have an enormous impact on national, and therefore global, efforts to cut emissions, while also providing a significant boost to local economies.
As we focus more on solving the climate crisis, it becomes equally important to look at our economic drivers. Currently, cities are growing significantly to be economical and thermal hotspots, and we can’t ignore their crucial role in climate action. Cities’ efforts to climate action will be essential due to their massive populations and energy usage. By 2050, roughly two-thirds of the world’s population—more than half of all people—will reside in metropolitan areas. Cities use nearly 80% of the energy produced worldwide and produce more than 70% of the GHGs. Additionally, they are home to nearly 800 million people who are at risk from the effects of storm surges and rising sea levels. Therefore, how we organize and develop our cities will be crucial in the years to come.
As per ADB Report, we won’t be able to keep global warming to 1.5°C unless we immediately and drastically reduce emissions across all industries. Unfortunately, the IPCC has noted that this 1.5°C objective is not likely to be fulfilled within the 21st Century based on an estimate of predicted world GHG emissions in 2030 as cited in the round of updated NDC submitted ahead of COP27.
India must look into every option to meet and keep raising the ambition of their climate commitments as the window of opportunity closes. At every level, they must make the most of their abilities and resources. Additionally, they must plan an all-encompassing response that incorporates action from all angles.
Incorporating a strong local element in climate action offers many concrete benefits that are:
Ankit is a senior associate (Climate & Sustainability) at Swaniti Initiative.
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