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Climate Change Mitigation Strategies: UNFCCC and India

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From UNFCCC Goals to India


Climate Change has the potential to alter the ability of the earth's physical and biological systems to provide goods and services essential for sustainable development. Recognition of Climate Change as a significant global environmental challenge has a recent origin. International efforts to address the climate change formally began only a decade ago with the adoption of United Nations Framework Convention to Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992.

India is a party to UNFCCC and the government of India attaches great importance to climate change issue.

India is a vast country covering 3.28 million Km2 with diverse surface features and supports 16.2 percent of the global human population. Endowed with varied soils, climate, biodiversity and ecological regimes, under diverse natural conditions and over a billion people speaking different languages, following different religions and living in rural and urban areas, India is an example for a complex yet successful democratic system. Decentralization of powers through local government, to benefit the grass root level is another significant feature of Indian Government. The 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts, 1992, of the Constitution of India have endowed vast powers to local governments at rural and urban levels respectively. India's commitments to mitigate climate change are reflected in the essence of these two acts and the working and powers given to the local government.

This paper explains and brings to picture how climate change mitigation strategies are filtered in Indian System right from the UNFCCC goals to The Government of India and further to smaller levels of local governments. The paper will explain the hierarchy and working of Indian governance system and highlights the climate change initiatives within this system. The paper will also analyze the constraints and gaps in the institutional setup at local level, which, if rectified, would give more successful results in Climate Change Mitigation Mission of the Government of India.


Over a decade ago most countries joined an international treaty- The United Nations Convention on Climate Change so as to consider the impacts of climate change and to work for adaptation and mitigation initiatives for secure future and sustainable development. The convention, commonly known as the UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994. The ultimate objective of The convention is stabilizing green house gas emissions at a lower level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate systems.

Under the convention the governments-

  • Gather and share information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies and best practices
  • Launch national strategies for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to expected impacts, including the provision of financial and technological support to developing countries.
  • Cooperate in preparing the adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

In 1997, the Kyoto protocol came into being, which shared the convention's objectives, principles and institutions and also significantly strengthened the convention by committing the parties to individual and specially; “legally binding targets” to limit or reduce climate change. The text of the Kyoto Protocol was adopted unanimously in 1997; and it entered into force on 16 February 2005.

India is signatory to various multilateral environmental agreements, including The Montreal Protocol, The convention on Biological diversity, the United nations Convention to combat desertification ,including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) .Government of India attaches great importance to climate change issues. Eradication of poverty, avoiding risks to food production, and sustainable development are three principles embedded in the Convention. At present, information provided in the India's Initial National Communication to the UNFCCC is in terms of guidelines prescribed for Parties not included in Annex I to the UNFCCC and the inventory is prepared for the base year 1994.

India is a vast country. It covers 3.28 million km2 of area having diverse surface features. Also, it occupies only 2.4 percent of the world's geographical area, but supports 16.2 per cent of the global human population. The country is endowed with varied soils, climate, biodiversity and ecological regimes. “Under such diverse natural conditions, over a billion people speaking different languages, following different religions and living in rural and urban areas, live in harmony under a democratic system”( India NATCOM,2004).

Climate Change Negotiations

Global warming issue became a part of the international agenda in 1988. The climate issue, initiated by the small island nation Malta, came up at the UN General Assembly in December 1988, as part of a discussion on 'the common heritage of mankind'. The resolution set up a preparatory committee to work towards an international agreement. The concern for global warming particularly by the industrialized countries geared up since then and 'climate politics' came into being and were refined with a series of international conferences and formal negotiations that followed. The momentum culminated in the signing of a Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and opened for signatures at the Rio Earth Summit in June, 1992. The FCCC aims at stabilization of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations, in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Subsequently, the parties to the FCCC adopted the Kyoto Protocol in December, 1997. However, the developing nations see the Protocol as burdened with loopholes because of the fact that it emphasizes on the economic concerns, rather than ecological or social justice. The main area of dispute between the developed countries and the developing countries lies in the sectors pertaining to equity and sustainability. However, the operational details of the Kyoto Protocol have now been finalised after intensive deliberations at Marrakech, on November 10, 2001, which was participated by 171 countries .

The protocol has been guided by Article 3.0 of the FCCC, and marks the first global attempt to place legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries. The Protocol calls for 5.2% reduction from their 1990 level of GHG emissions by the developed countries during the period 2008-2012. It also specifies the amount each country must contribute toward meeting the reduction goal. Nations with the highest CO2 emissions like the United States, Japan and most European nations are expected to reduce emissions by a range of 6 to 8 per cent. By 2005, all industrialized nations that ratify the accord must also show 'demonstrable progress' toward fulfilling their respective commitments under the Protocol.

Some issues that add to the complexity of the Kyoto Protocol:

Considerations for baseline and its effects - The target of 5.2% reduction beyond 1990 level in the commitment period 2008-2012, were dependent on 1990 emissions. This meant that if a country which had high emissions in 1990 and had reduced them between 1990 and thereafter, then it could actually increase its emission once again, or only stabilize these, and not carry out any reductions.

As an example one can analyse the case of Australia. In 1990, as much as 30 percent of the emissions were from deforestation, which eventually became a blessing for the country - for, instead of penalizing for creating the problem in the first place, Australia has been able to use its emission to its advantage, by winning the right to count any improvement from its 1990 level as its national credit. And as its deforestation rate has been controlled, it actually can increase its emission above and beyond the figure of 8 percent it is expected to reduce. On the other hand, USA and Japan were lobbying hard to change the date of baseline from 1990 to 1995. The reason for this lies in the fact that both the countries have made a significant increase in carbon emissions between 1990 and 1995.

Flexible mechanisms - The Kyoto Protocol includes three mechanisms -

Art.6 (Joint Implementation),

Art.12 (Clean Development Mechanism) and

Art.17 (Emissions Trading),

These mechanisms are meant to pave an explicit way for developed countries to meet their Kyoto targets easily. The cheapest and the most attractive option for meeting the emission targets of the North (i.e developed countries-Annexe I) being the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that will be operated on the project basis invested in the South (i.e under developed countries). This implies that, as global warming is bound to be unsolved even by the end of this century, the South would have to pay a heavy price in future once they have reached a high level of energy efficiency through means like CDM. For by then the cost of carbon cutting will be very high even for the developing countries, which would eventually have to do the carbon cutting on their own. The next issue comes on the question of energy-efficient technology, which the North wishes to push to the South through CDM. As technology up-gradation is a continuous process, hence what is the most efficient technology at the time of implementation of the CDM project, may be obsolete within few years that follows.

Principle of equity: the Kyoto Protocol does not define the rights and responsibilities of all nations within a reasonable frame. So long as the world remains within a carbon based energy economy, equitable sharing of the 'atmosphere' shall remain a critical issue, especially for poor developing countries who need a maximum space for their future economic growth.

The Kyoto reduction, by itself, is inadequate to achieve a stabilization of climate change by 2100. A continual and larger reduction, similar to that stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol for the 2008-2012 period, will be needed in the future in order to begin to stabilize long-term greenhouse gas emissions. Even if stabilization of greenhouse gases is achieved, global warming will still continue for several decades and sea levels will continue to rise for several centuries. This is because Even if the emissions from the developed countries were reduced to zero in the near future, the current trends of growing emissions from developing countries alone could force the atmospheric concentration to exceed stabilization levels of 550 ppm

( Parivesh, CPCB,2006). Thus, participation of all countries, including the developing countries such as India, is essential for a successful worldwide effort to arrest the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

India and Climate Change- The Threats and Vulnerability

Climate Change is a major global environmental problem and an important issue because of diverse impacts not only ecological, but economic, social, political and physical in nature and content. It is a matter of great concern especially for developing countries like India who have limited capacity to develop and adopt strategies to reduce their vulnerability to changes in climate. Global, national and local level measures are need of the hour to combat the adverse impacts of climate change induced damages.

“India being a developing country has low capacity to withstand the adverse impacts of climate change due to high dependence of majority of population on climate sensitive sectors as the agriculture, forestry and fisheries”,( Shukla, et.al, 2003). This is coupled with poor infrastructure facilities, weak institutional mechanisms and lack of financial resources. This is the reason why we are seriously concerned with the possible impacts of climate change. The possible impacts of climate change are mentioned below:

  • Water stress and reduction in the availability of fresh water due to potential decline in rainfall.
  • Threats to agriculture and food security, since agriculture is monsoon dependent and rain dependent agriculture dominates in many states.
  • Shifts in area and boundary of different forest types and threats to biodiversity with adverse implications for forest-dependent communities.
  • Adverse impact on natural ecosystems, such as wetlands, mangroves, grasslands and mountain ecosystems.
  • Adverse impact of sea-level rise on coastal agriculture and settlements.
  • Impact on human health due to the increase in vector and water-borne diseases, such as malaria.
  • Increased energy requirements and impact on climate-sensitive industry and infrastructure.

One of the various reasons for vulnerability of India depends on its typical and diverse climatic conditions. India is subject to a wide range of variation in climatic conditions from the freezing Himalayan winters in the north to the tropical climate of the southern peninsula, from the damp, rainy climate in the north-east to the arid Great Indian Desert in the north-west, and from the marine climates of its vast coastline and islands to the dry continental climate in the interior. The Indian summer monsoon is the most important feature in dictating meteorology of the Indian subcontinent and, hence, its economy. Almost all regions of the country receive entire annual rainfall during the summer monsoon (also called the SW monsoon), while some parts of the south-eastern states also receive rainfall during early winter from the north-east monsoon. Therefore, India could be more at risks than many other countries from changes in temperature and sea level.

Models predict an average increase in temperature in India from 2.3 to 4.8 °C for the bench mark doubling of carbon dioxide scenario (Lonergan, World Bank Technical Paper No.402, 1998). Temperatures would rise more in Northern India than in Southern India. In the North Indian Ocean, under a doubling, the average number of tropical disturbance days could increase from 17 to 29 a year (Haarsma et.al Climate Dynamics, Vol.8, 1993); while, without protection, approximately 7 million people would be displaced, and 5,760 Km2 of land and 4,200 Km of road would be lost (Asthana, JNU, New Delhi, 1993). Further, in the Indian context, climate change could represent an additional stress on the ecological and socioeconomic system that are already facing tremendous pressure due to rapid urbanization, industrialization and economic development.

Options for Mitigation

The ability to adapt to climate change depends on the level of income and technology, as well as the capacity of the system of governance and existing institutions to cope with change. The ability to mitigate GHG emissions depends on industrial structure (the mix of industrial activities), social structure (including, e.g., the distance people must travel to work or to engage in recreational activities), the nature of governance (especially the effectiveness of government policy), and the availability and cost of alternatives. In short, what is feasible at the national level depends significantly on what can be done at the subnational, local, and various sectoral levels”(Climate Change 2001: Working group III: Mitigation; IPCC,2001).The challenges of climate change mitigation involve diverse issues - economic, political, social and environmental. Governance is one of the prime issues in mitigation of climate change impacts. A structured governance system is the only tool through which any policy framework or initiative can be achieved. The importance or role of governance in mitigation thus can be described through its three pillars:

  • Organizational Structure- Through governance the qualities of organization participation, transparency and accountability can be achieved in the mitigation exercise at all levels..
  • Financial Mobilization- This involves ensuring financial commitment globally, at national levels and also at local levels of the government
  • Legal Framework- It ensures empowerment, enforcement and compliance of mitigative strategies and supporting environmental laws.

As the National GHG inventory for India shows, the major increase in GHG emissions over the next 20 years would be related to energy consumption. As India has abundant coal deposits, it is beyond doubt that coal will be the dominant source of energy. Therefore, energy efficiency measures in this sector remain our prime concern. Power generation in India is expected to reach a peak demand of 176 GW by 2012, and the total energy requirement will be 1058 billion units (Parivesh, Central Pollution Control Board, 2006).

This is why; increasing the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the form of low carbon options are the two main measures that can greatly reduce GHG emissions. We will now simultaneously specify what scientific mitigation tools for climate change are available for various sectors and the corresponding governance measures to actually target the process of mitigation.

The energy sector:

  • Fiscal incentives and taxes, voluntary emission reductions, green rating, and capacity building etc. Another area of importance is the transmission and distribution losses, which is energy loss.
  • There is considerable scope of reducing losses, meant to translate into a large mitigation potential.
  • Two major categories of Barriers hinder adoption of electricity conservation and demand management in India.

a) Macro-level barrier - At the level of governance system; either policy induced or due to lack of

appropriate policies and;

b) Micro-level barriers - related to the consumers and the economic environment they face.This

can be equated to lack of awareness about possible alternatives on the

part of the consumers and lack of awareness drives on the part of the


The forestry sector:

IPCC Second Assessment Report categorizes three broad options for abatement viz.

  • Conservation management: This strategy attempts to conserve the existing carbon storage capacity of forests by halting or slowing down forests deforestation and forests degradation.
  • Storage management : This strategy attempts to increase carbon strategy in woody vegetation and soil in existing degraded forests, as well as to create new carbon sinks in areas where forests do not exists or have been cleared. These may be achieved by promoting natural regeneration, reforestation on deforested lands, aforrestation of non-forest lands and agro-forestry on crop and pastureland.
  • Substitution management: This strategy attempts involves the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable fuel wood or other biomass products.

Here, governance plays an important role based on it a capacity to generate and bring about changes in the management of forests and augmentation of use of renewable products.

The agriculture sector:

Methane emissions from rice cultivation remain the major contributor of GHG emissions. Other sources being enteric fermentation, manure management, agricultural soils etc. Abatement strategy in this sector in India can be achieved given the scientific expertise available in India, but require gearing up by proper governmental intervention at the level of ministry of agriculture, as far as policy initiatives are concern, and through local governments for implementation and monitoring.

The industrial sector:

As the national inventory of GHG shows, major contribution came from energy intensive sectors like iron & steel, fertilizer, cement, aluminium, paper & pulp etc. A few option available for energy efficient options in power, industrial and domestic sector are given as follows:

Source: Teri, New Delhi.

These can be supported by further subsidizing use of energy efficient options and where required made mandatory by the government under the periphery of the existing environmental laws of the country.

Mitigation through sinks:

Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by a number of processes that operate on different time scales, and is subsequently transferred to reservoirs or sinks. The Kyoto Protocol through its Ariticle 3.3 allows afforestation as a sink to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Further, Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol states that additional human induced activities in the agricultural soils and LULUCF categories may be added to the three mechanisms (Joint implementation, Clean Development mechanism and Emission trading) subject to certain conditions.

In India, forestry is dominated by government based institutions. These institutions need new insight so that they can effectively incorporate mitigation policies and measures in their resource management activities. According to the central Pollution Control Board, India has been persistently implementing one of the largest reforestation programs in the tropics with over one million hectares planted annually. Nearly half of this reforestation is on degraded forests and village common land. It is estimated that the carbon uptake in forests, degraded forests, and plantations is estimated to offset the gross carbon emissions from the forests sector. Carbon dioxide emissions in India are projected to increase from no-net emissions in 1990 to 77 million tonnes by 2020( Parivesh, CPCB,2006).

Barriers to mitigation:

Greenhouse gas mitigation measures are compounded by several barriers inherent to the process of development. In India, inequitable distribution of income and wealth forms a core feature of barriers to effective implementation of any type of intervention in India, leave apart climate change. Available instruments to limit domestic GHG emissions can be categorized into market based instruments, regulatory instruments, and voluntary agreements. For the developing countries, however, domestic structural reforms and policies on trade liberalization and liberalization of energy markets act as barriers to GHG reduction. These policies coupled with macroeconomics, market oriented reforms, set the framework in which more specific climate policies would be implemented. The IPCC Special Report on technology Transfer (IPCC, 2000) identifies various important barriers that could impede environmental technology transfer, such as:

  • lack of data, information, and knowledge, especially on emerging technologies;
  • inadequate vision about the understanding of local needs and demands;
  • high transaction costs and poor macro economic conditions;
  • insufficient human and institutional capabilities;
  • inappropriate technology adopted and
  • Poor legal institutions and framework.

These hold good for the overall barriers of mitigation in Indian Context also. In terms of governance and its intervention, technology transfer can be traded off with some of our own indigenous technologies. This will ensure equitable exchange and also promote indigenous Indian Science.

National Policy for Climate Change Mitigation

We, as present generation have inherited this environment and atmosphere from our ancestors. Further the consequences of climate change will be faced by our children in the future. And so it can be said that climate change is an inherently different and irreversible problem as compared to other environmental problems. Also, the assumption that prior experience of problems like air pollution has failed at many levels as a good model upon which policy decisions on climate can be based. Options to mitigate climate change include actual emission reductions carbon dioxide sequestration and investments in developing technologies that will make future reductions affordable and easily available since cheap relative to their current costs. Since the inception of UNFCC in 1992, the Govt. of India has been an active participant in the climate charge negotiations. India being a party to the UNFCC was the 38th country to ratify it on November 01, 1993. The Ministry of Environment & Forests is the nodal Ministry for all environment related activities in the country and is the nodal Ministry for co-coordinating the climate charge policy as well. The working group on the FCCC was constituted to oversee the implementation of obligations under the FCCC and to act as a consultative mechanism in the Govt. for impacts to policy formulation on climate change. To enlarge the feedback mechanism the Govt. of India has constituted an Advisory group on climate charge under the chairmanship of the Minister of Environment & Forests.

Development of National Guidelines & Policy Options for reducing GHG Emissions

The national guidelines or framework for monitoring GHG emissions and policy options for reducing GHG should emphasize not only on issues associated with climate change but also include the following:

  • Emission Forecasting
  • Setting goals
  • Policy criteria
  • Policy evaluation
  • Organizational and political issues

Climate change and GHG emission and sequestration may include many sectors of society and extend far into the future. Furthermore, policy measures to address GHGs overlap with many other public policy objectives, however in a complimentary way. Policy formulations involve:

  • Understanding the issues at hand,
  • Having a broad vision of the range of actions that governments can take to address those issues,
  • Selecting from within this the approaches that offer the most potential far achieving multiple public goals.

More importantly, the policy formulation process must respond to local circumstances and must address institutional, fiscal, political, and other constraints. The Govt. of India has nevertheless addressed a large number of local and regional environmental issues in its developmental strategy that are complementary to the climate change issue.

Institutional Arrangements So Far For Climate Change Related Strategies

In Area of Research

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Ministry of Science and Technology (MST), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Ministry of Non Conventional Energy (MNES), Ministry of Defence (MoD), Ministry of Health and Family welfare (MoHFW), are the main ministries of the Government of India which promote and undertake climate and climate change-related research in the country. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is also am important agency involved in working of this area and is under the direct governance of the Prime Minister.It supports all the above agencies with satellite-based passive remote sensing. The MoEF, MST, MHRD and MOA operate under the umbrella of many premier national research laboratories and universities. The most prominent being the 40 laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an autonomous body under the MST; and the vast network of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under the MOA. The CSIR is the national R&D organization which provides scientific and industrial research for India's economic growth and human welfare. It has a countrywide network of 40 laboratories and 80 field centers. The ICAR network includes institutes, bureaus, national research centers, The Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the MST coordinates advanced climatic and weather research and data collection over the Indian landmass. There are three premier institutions under DST that are solely dedicated to atmospheric science viz. the IMD, the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF) and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM).

Apart from the Indian initiatives, climate change research promoted by international organizations like the World Climate Research Program (WCRP), International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP), International Human Dimension Program (IHDP) and DIVERSITAS are being strongly supported by various Indian agencies like Indian Climate Research Program (ICRP) under DST, National Committee- International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (NC-IGBP) constituted by Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and Geosphere-Biosphere Program (GBP) of ISRO. Agencies like CSIR, also provides infra-structural and financial support to carry out research in the area of global change

In Area of Development

The single most important feature of our post-colonial experience is that the people of India have conclusively demonstrated their ability to forge a united nation despite its diversity, and to pursue development within the framework of a functioning, vibrant and pluralistic democracy. In this process, the democratic institutions have put down firm roots, which continue to gain strength and spread. A planned approach to development has been the central process of the Indian democracy, as reflected in the national five-year plans, state plans,departmental annual plans, and perspective plans of various ministries of the central and state governments. For the last five and a half decades, the guiding objectives of the Indian planning process have been sustained economic growth, poverty alleviation, food, health, education and shelter for all, containing population growth, employment generation, self-reliance, people's participation in planning and programme implementation, and infrastructure development.

The National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development, 1992, provides the basis for the integration of environmental considerations in the policies of various sectors. It aims at the achievement of sustainable lifestyles and the proper management and conservation of resources.

The Policy Statement for Abatement of Pollution, 1992, stresses the prevention of pollution at the source, based on the ‘polluter pays' principle. It encourages the use of the most appropriate technical solutions, particularly for the protection of heavily polluted areas and river stretches. The Forest Policy, 1988, highlights environmental protection through preservation and restoration of the ecological balance. The policy seeks to substantially increase the forest cover in the country through afforestation programmes. This environmental framework aims to take cognizance of the longer-term environmental perspective related to industrialization, power generation, transportation, mining, agriculture, irrigation and other such economic activities, as well as to address parallel concerns related to public health and safety.

The statutory framework for the environment includes the Indian Forest Act, 1927, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Other enactments include the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995, and the National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997. The courts have also elaborated on the concepts relating to sustainable development, and the ‘polluter pays' and ‘precautionary' principles. In India, matters of public interest, particularly pertaining to the environment, are articulated effectively through a vigilant media, an active NGO community, and very importantly, through the judicial process which has recognized the citizen's right to a clean environment as a component of the right to life and liberty.

The process of development encompasses broader societal issues than merely economic growth. The conventional paradigm of economic development, which was woven around the optimal resource allocation, is now extended to include participative processes, local initiatives and global interfaces. Under the emergent development perspective, while efficient resource allocation is best addressed by market mechanisms, the governance process is also a key component in a nation's capacity to use resources optimally and manage initiates effectively. Thus, the institutions and policies have an important role in welfare maximizing development. The strong link between government policies, organizational capacity, and social development is duly recognized. The provision of resources for social services and the creation of new partnerships for the delivery of services are important, and must be implemented within a framework that provides mechanisms for efficiency and accountability which can be achieved through proper government mechanism and appropriate institutional framework to support it. The establishment of appropriate institutional frameworks to implement various development programmes has been an important component of development policies throughout India's planning effort since independence. These provide platforms to implement adaptation strategies for dispersed and informal sectors like watershed management, agriculture, rural health and forestry.

The three-tier Panchayati Raj institutions for local governance are the most fundamental system, transferring decision-making power to the grassroots level.

Constitutional provisions and legal requirements have been used to achieve various standards and norms needed for development programmes. A variety of environmental regulations have been enacted to achieve goals of environment protection and preservation. Some of the major legislations for environmental protection include the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act (1974), the Forest Conservation Act (1980), the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act (1981), and the comprehensive Environment Protection Act (1986), the Energy Conservation Act (2001), and the Electricity Act (2003). Constitutional amendments were also made to incorporate environmental concerns into development programmes. The forty-second amendment of the Constitution (1977) enjoined both the state and the citizens to protect and improve the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife. The seventy-third Amendment (1992) made the Panchayats responsible for soil conservation, watershed development, social and farm forestry, drinking water, fuel and fodder, non-conventional energy sources and maintenance of community assets. Various national policies, such as the National Forest Policy (1988) and the National Water Policy (1987 and 2002), are all important moves towards ensuring the sustainability of natural resources. The Tenth Five-Year Plan also reflects the Government of India's commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (2002). The UN goals include halving extreme poverty, halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, halting the spread of HIV/ AIDS and enrolling all boys and girls everywhere in primary schools by 2015. Many of the Indian national targets are more ambitious than the UN millennium development goals, like: doubling the national per capita income by 2012, all villages to have sustained access to potable drinking water by 2007, halting HIV/ AIDS spread by 2007, and all children in schools by 2003 . They reflect the commitment of the Government of India to the UNFCCC, the Rio Declaration (1992) on Agenda 21 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the Millennium Declaration at the UN Millennium Summit, the Johannesburg Declaration at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002), and the Delhi Declaration (2002) at the Eighth Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC.

Multiplicity of Institutional framework and conflicting roles of the organization has created an impasse in the governance arena. But, in spite of this, strong governance practices are pivotal to working and implementation of any policy.

Governance as a Tool:

For Equitable Sustainable Development:

There are fundamental and scientific links between development, equity and sustainability issues and climate change. Economic, social and environmental attributes are the three gauging tools for sustainable development. The need is to have integration of development, equity and sustainable development to develop an effective and practical climate change strategy. Many national policies taken today like the environmental laws, the water policy, the forest policy etc. could well affect the future climate change prospects significantly; hence, policy making system in the governance process plays a crucial role. However, the concept of governance extends beyond the government. It can be understood as the sum of the ways through which individuals and institutions (public and private) plan and manage their common affairs( UMP Asia City Consultations, April,2002).

Equity in the context of a social decision requires a fair and just outcome. It is an important element of the collective decision-making framework needed to respond to global climate change for a number of reasons, including: a) moral and ethical concerns; b) facilitating effectiveness; c) sustainable development; and d) requirement of the UNFCC. The principles of justice and fair play is a fundamental human right. Most modern international agreements including the UN Charter, enshrine moral and ethical concerns relating to basic equality of all human beings and the existence of inalienable and fundamental human rights. Equitable decisions generally carry greater legitimacy and encourage parties with differing interests to co-operate better in carrying out mutually agreeable decisions. Therefore, a successful implementation of a collective human response to the problem of global climate change will require the sustained collaboration of all sovereign nation states. While penalties and safeguards will play a role, decisions that are widely acceptable as equitable are likely to be implemented with greater willingness and goodwill than those enforced under conditions of mistrust or coercion.

The Government Setup and the System of decentralization of powers to local governments:

Transformation of the present day “Para static” development paradigm from top down to bottom up and from centralized to decentralized systems of determining policy, resource allocation, and programme implementation, is the essence of good governance. Effective decentralization is integral to improving governance. In many developing countries, the process of decentralization is in nascent stage.

The key common feature of the governance is the expanding functional jurisdictions of local governments. Another common characteristic is the increasing pressure to mobilize local resources, as the revenue base of the local government has not expanded correspondingly to their enhanced responsibilities. In most cases, the devolution of functional responsibility and resources from national and sub national to local governments in adherence with the principle of subsidiary, is neither completely understood nor implemented. India owes the federal structure with unitary spirit amongst its constituents, i.e. union government, state and local governments.

After Independence, spatial dimension to socio-economic investments was needed. But, it was addressed as late as in 1992, in form of constitution amendments, 73rd Amendment (Rural / Panchayat - Rural self governance, 1992-a) and 74th Amendment (Urban / Municipalities - Urban Local self governance, 1992-b).

The enactments of 73rd and 74th Amendments came into force in 1993 with objectives of establishing institutional mechanism for integrating urban - rural development and promoting political, administrative and financial role of local bodies.

The Constitution makes a distinction between urban and rural local governments. It specifies panchayats as institution of local self-government in rural areas, and municipalities in the urban areas. With the 73rd and the 74th constitution Amendment opportunities and space has been created for common people to participate and contribute in governance process, in rural and urban areas respectively.

The Indian Politics underwent a major change on account of the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendments that had the effect of providing constitutional status to the local bodies in the country and possibility of public participation as well.

The 74th Constitutional Amendment provides a broad structure for organizing urban governance with an accountable and decentralized system. It has made the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) as the principle representative platform for urban population in the country. The 74th Constitution Amendment and the conformity legislations in the states are expected to address the issue of urban environment, also, by enabling each urban settlement to develop its own agenda for environment management and use the resources available to it for promoting the ecology of these areas.

The 74th Constitution Amendment highlights the need for strengthening the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in following critical areas:

  • Political Decentralization
  • Functional devolution
  • Financial / fiscal devolution
  • People's participation
  • Framework for Urban Planning- Economic development and social justice
  • Agenda for Urban Environmental Management

Out of these let us now discuss about the functional devolution and the agenda for urban environmental management as stated in the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act and which falls in our perview of climate change and environmental issues:

Functional devolution:

The 74th Constitution Amendment envisages extending powers to the municipal authority, relating to the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice as well as for implementation of various development schemes. It appended the twelfth Schedule in the constitution that provides the basis for state legislatures to assign functions to the municipalities. The twelfth Schedule lists the following eighteen functions; for urban local bodies which includes Urban Planning including town planning and Urban Forestry, protection of the environment and promotion of the ecological aspects apart from other 16 functions.

The issue in functional decentralization, on one hand, focuses on the extent of powers and functions transferred to the urban local bodies and on the other, the manner in which these functions have been assigned to the local bodies- as mandatory or as discretionary functions.

Agenda for Urban Environmental Management:

The 74th Constitution Amendment has pre-empted the need and importance of environment in urban areas and has consequently suggested to state government to create provisions whereby municipal bodies would be able to address the emerging environmental needs.

Important issues on urban environment spelled are as follows:

  • Urban environment management tasks should be appreciated in terms of linkages, between the city economy, infrastructure, productivity, poverty, environmental health etc.
  • Cities are net consumers of natural resources and exporters of wastes
  • Environmental degradation in any city affects the poor and the other vulnerable groups the most including the children.
  • Many of the environmental damages are of an irreversible nature and hence, should be handled cautiously and timely.

The objectives of the environmental management at the local level have been defined to include; preparation of environmental strategy and action plans; establishing adequate institutional and regulatory framework for implementation, enhancing the capabilities of the agencies for better environmental management. The 74th Constitution Amendment gave an impetus and new shape to urban local governance in the country.

Interrelating, linking and including the overall setup of the government to enhance climate change related governance issues

India is the world's largest democracy; the legislature, the executive and the judiciary constitute the three building blocks of the Indian Constitution. The legislature enacts laws, the executive implements them, and the judiciary upholds them. The Indian Parliament consists of two houses, the Rajya Sabha(Upper House) and the Lok Sabha (Lower House).

India has a unique system of federation with a manifest unitary character. The spheres and activities of the union and the states are clearly demarcated. The exhaustive union list and the state list placed in the seventh schedule of the Constitution distinctly outline the respective jurisdiction and authority of the union and the states. Some of the sectors belonging to environment and energy are listed in the concurrent list, wherein both the union and the state have concurrent jurisdiction to enact laws. The Constitution also devolves powers to the lower levels—‘lower to the people'—through the institutions of Panchayats and Nagar Palikas (local municipal bodies), with a view to ensure administrative efficiency in concordance with the broader concept of good governance.

The government accords high priority to the environment. The MoEF is concerned with planning, promoting, coordinating and overseeing the implementation of environmental and forestry policies and programmes. It also serves as the nodal agency for international cooperation in the area of environment, including the subject of climate change.

Environment ministries/ departments at the state level deal with state-specific environmental issues and concerns. Scientific and technical staff, as well as institutions and experts support environment administrations at union and state levels.

India has a strong and independent judiciary. Environmental issues have received a further boost through the judicial processes, which have recognized the citizen's right to a clean environment as a component of the right to life and liberty. Further, matters of public interest are articulated through vigilant media and the active NGO community.

Environmental governance

Environmental concerns are integral to the governance of India. Prior to the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, at Stockholm, the Government of India had established a National Committee on Environmental Planning and Coordination (NCEPC) under the aegis of the Department of Science and Technology. This commitment was a major step taken by India which was one of the pioneering nations in the world to amend its constitution to incorporate provisions to protect its environment. The constitutional provisions are backed by a number of laws—acts, rules and notifications. There are more than two dozen laws enacted to protect and safeguard India's environment. The allocation of resources to various sectors is directed by the Planning Commission working within the framework of the five-year plans. Environment management is guided at the central level by the MoEF and at state levels by the Departments of Environment. Natural resources (like water, forests and oceans) are managed by separate ministries and departments. Inter-ministerial coordination committees and working groups deal with the cooperation and conflict of interest issues. Indeed, in a large country this is perhaps inevitable. The implementation of government policies on resource use is directed by the multi-tier administrative structure. The administrative units at the central and state levels coordinate resource allocation and project implementation. However, the implementation of all programmes is done at the field level under the overall supervision of the district collector. Local bodies such as Panchayats and city councils also have a stake in implementing various schemes in accordance with the instructions and directives of the collector, who is a civil servant. Several participatory management schemes dealing with environmental issues have been successfully carried out at the local level.

The Problem of Scale

The question of scale arises where the characteristic of the problem addressed is multidimensional and interdisciplinary and where a host of institutions and governance tools need to be applied for mitigation of the problem. The question of climate change is a global problem involving dimensions of continents and countries. But its impact are felt till the last and least unit of the country i.e the man and its communities. When we address climate change globally from whole to part the planet earth is the larger fabric and countries and continents are its specific parts. On the other hand when we talk of governance tools for mitigation and adaptation impacts of climate change, the individual country becomes the whole and its masses, the specific parts or targets of the governance.

Indian governance system has two distinct features that make the management go; the democratic system at political level and the bureaucratic system at administrative level. Good governance involves integration of strengths of both. The democratic system hits the decision making whereas, the bureaucratic system cater to the implementation part. In the nutshell , Indian governance system is a politico- administrative governance system where, political interest define the administrative initiatives to a great extent. And that is why the nature of local authorities; has turned to be more of a political mechanism than a development body. Secondly, scientifically India has been doing well. Its researcher and development initiatives for climate change issues have been world class and have collaborated with many pioneering global initiatives in the field. On the other hand, however, very ambitious plans and programes supported by prestigious institutions, both national and global have not been able to trickle down their findings ( research) and their reforms ( socio-economic/ adaptation-mitigation) to the masses. Thus the overall scenarios of mitigation in India seem shaky because of lack of comprehensive and integrated planning mechanism with the ongoing research activities. The need is to find out a link between new knowledge base and implementation of the same for the mitigation of impacts of climate change. It is pertinent to add here that small sectoral initiatives are not sufficient to address a huge threat of climate change and its varied impacts; also, initiatives at global level/ macro scale are not able to address problems at root level.


The need of the hour is to address the larger interest of sustainable development and secure environment. In recent years, it has been recognized the world over that effective governance requires a shift from technocratic processes to more inclusive process involving wide spectrum of actors and stakeholder. Environmental governance, as related to climate change issue involves actors in differential scales in space and time; need intervention at various hierarchical levels; geographical, political and administrative. Beyond the sectoral and scientific or technological capacity needs on climate change, the critical need in India is to integrate the diverse scientific assessments and link them with policy-making. Needless to say, that this understanding would give way to a more realistic view of the overall issue in question. It is worth mentioning here that to achieve ambitious goals of the millennium declaration, the governance should have to improve be more iterative, process focused and last but not the least, output oriented. Assessments of different stages should be done very frequently to get more specific direction for further stages.

Besides this the local environment impacts and adaptation and mitigation issues have to be addressed through local governance mechanisms. Local institutions can enhance their role by analyzing and bringing out the local issues in a language that is understood by their global partners. The need at the local level is to lead the process of needs assessment. Global partners can assist by analyzing local policies and priorities in relation to climate change. The results of the analysis can then be used to design mitigating measures.


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