Accompanied by a long-term strategy for effective output, a revision of state action plans on climate change is the need of the hour
Scientific evidence and documentation of communities' lived experiences reveal that climate-induced impacts in the form of extreme weather events are increasing. German Watch, a German think-tank, ranks India second globally for the number of fatalities occurred and fourth for revenue loss ($13,789.86 million) at purchasing power parity, as a result of extreme weather events in 2017.
Moreover, poor and vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected owing to livelihood-related greater dependence on natural resources. Tamil Nadu is a case in point — several types of research confirm the increasing vulnerability of coastal communities and those on the Eastern Ghats.
In the Indian context, State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC) serve as the primary policy document at the sub-national level to address vulnerabilities and increase resilience. To implement the plans and targets laid out under SAPCCs, several pilots and demonstration projects are conducted, with funds from designated agencies and by the national government under the National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change.
We refer to one such pilot/demonstration project. Between 2011 and 2013, under Indo-German bilateral cooperation, GIZ implemented an innovative pilot with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation on Integrated Mangrove Fish Farming.
By building bunds and developing new mangroves to provide a protective shield to the coastline from storm surges, cyclones and sea-level rise, the project focused on additional and sustainable sources of livelihoods to reduce vulnerabilities of communities. With the ensuing success, the project was later up-scaled using funds from the global Adaptation Fund Board and replicated in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Gaps and loopholes in SAPCC implementation
Based on our experiences of working with several state governments, we have identified certain challenges in the implementation of SAPCCs which needs careful reconsideration.
First, in most states, SAPCCs have functioned as a stand-alone document with limited recognition of the activities of other line departments, which if integrated, can bring forth collective climate action.
Moreover, the scope of SAPCCs is largely restricted to state jurisdiction, without a clear vision at further de-centralised governance systems. Districts and cities are still largely neglected areas for climate action in the SAPCCs.
Second, pilots and demonstration projects, in general, have emerged as a useful tool, but nevertheless suffer from lack of in-built design of upscaling. We found that our practice with upscaling and replication of demonstration is not a prevalent one.
Further, for undertaking climate actions and replication, while the focus is largely concentrated on finance, its access and its mobilisation within means of implementation and capacity building need a greater focus. Building institutions and structures are a crucial component of capacity building – an aspect largely marginalised.
With such limitations, SAPCCs have not been able to achieve the original intent of providing a directional shift in the business-as-usual development pathways.
With SAPCCs being revised with a view to national and global climate commitments, we offer a few recommendations in the context of the above-stated gaps.
Recommendations for climate actions
Develop upscaling/ replication strategies for successful pilots in the planning stage: Such strategies cannot be developed ex-post facto. In the absence of such strategies, pilots would remain expensive investments of human and financial resources which could rather have been deployed more effectively in supporting approaches that have already been mainstreamed.
Mainstream Adaptation in Line Departments: Currently, SAPCCs are being revised in view of the national and global climate targets. This provides a unique opportunity for coherent and integrated climate actions by mainstreaming adaptation in the activities of the line departments such as agriculture, water, environment, forests and rural development. A critical aspect in the mainstreaming is the allocation of finances from the development budget aimed at climate-proofing development programmes.
Increase focus on institutional and human capacities: As the final point, strengthening of human and institutional capacities would be the critical driver for upscaling, replication and mainstreaming of climate actions. To this end, the role of state-run institutions and civil society organisations is crucial. Without strong structures and institutions of building human and institutional capacities, the challenges of alleviating the vulnerabilities of local communities would remain a distant unachievable goal. Our experience shows that states such as Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, which have stronger institutional structures have been able to deliver their SAPCCs and NAFCC projects more effectively.
Localisation of State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC): As the first point of convergence for state and national programmes, the district level provides a unique entry point for strengthening decentralised climate governance. Once the current process of revising the SAPCCs is accomplished, renewed effort must be made to downscale the SAPCC to the district level.
Studies confirm that climate-induced impacts are already manifesting and are expected to increase in the near future. Such impacts would translate into increased stress of resources and livelihoods, loss of human life and capital, increased risk of poverty entrapment and migration.
Such a scenario calls for urgent, integrated and effective climate actions where SAPCCS are a potentially impactful entry point. Against this backdrop, demonstrations and pilots by themselves, though useful, are not enough. To tackle the severity of the challenge of climate impacts, revision of SAPCCs must be accompanied with a long-term strategy for up-scaled and effective climate actions grounded in strengthened human and financial capacities as well as innovations in governance structures and institutions.
(The authors – Ashish Chaturvedi, Vijeta Rattani and Kirtiman Awasthi – work in Indo-German cooperation on Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resource Management (ECCNRM) programme at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), New Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)