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Four ways to advance subnational climate action

In 2013, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that the world’s urban areas accounted for about 64 percent of global primary energy use, and produced 70 percent of the planet’s carbon dioxide emissions. Urban hubs are a significant and growing source of energy consumption and as global centres of economic activity and culture, it is essential we address climate action in tandem with economic growth. To decouple GHG emissions from growth, local governments require evidence-based systems for implementing climate action.

On 29 March 2019, World Resources Institute (WRI) India and Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) brought together government officials, academics and researchers to delve deeper into advancing subnational climate action at Connect Karo 2019. Mr. Anil Kumar Jain, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, in his keynote address referred to State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs) as an integrating measure that encompasses developmental impacts of climate action. Mr. Jain also stressed the need to incorporate city climate plans into state plans, emphasising the role of cities in catalysing action.

Climate action planning must include local data

Without data, climate action is a shot in the dark. For subnational governments to take up effective policy actions and demonstrate declining emissions, they require models, forecasting tools and data to track their GHG emissions. The data collection process must be institutionalised within the existing state, city, municipal, and other governance structures. The Data Portal for Cities is one such initiative by GCoM and WRI, which aims to provide access to activity data and emission factors, to support city-level greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories and fact-based climate action planning. The available datasets can be used in climate reporting and planning at the subnational level.

Climate action plans must address cities directly

Speaking from his experience in South Asia, Mr. Pier Roberto Remitti of International Urban Cooperation (IUC) highlighted that climate action plans often do not address the city directly. Climate action is usually centred on planning at the national or sectoral level. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) tend to ignore the potential of urban policies and city-level action to address climate change. Thus, state action plans should address cities specifically to enable synchronised and efficacious implementation of climate policies and prioritise climate action at the subnational level.

Climate action must be mapped to developmental goals

Climate change impacts developmental priorities such as health, agriculture, water, food security, and employment opportunities amongst others. Identifying socioeconomic priority areas within subnational regions will help in aligning climate action plans with development plans. Prioritising specific sectors can help finance climate action within the municipal or local budget. For example, the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) is developing a decision-making framework that uses cities’ existing data and analyses it through the lens of development indicators. The institution formulates a step by step decision making process for the authorities and regularly monitors it. Meanwhile, Karnataka has conducted green component analysis within different departments in their development policy budgets, which has helped them propose an increase in their green budget. Innovative institutional approaches such as these would enable holistic action across sectors, thereby achieving both, climate and development goals.

Climate action planning must address local capacity building

Considering every subnational region has its own contextual features, there is a need to understand how local data is collected, analysed and used for climate action planning. Mr. Lokendra Thakkar of Environmental Planning & Coordination Organization (EPCO), Madhya Pradesh (MP) spoke about the state government’s effort to introduce PhD programs, encouraging quality research on local climate to expand their knowledge on contextually relevant climate-related issues. Dedicated knowledge centres and climate cells at the subnational level could serve as accurate and updated repositories for information management. This could aid policy makers and stakeholders in prioritising issues as well as assist in decision-making.

Promoting green growth could expedite action and encourage people to see opportunity in climate action for economic growth. Mr. Shantanu Gotmare of Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) suggested green action to be formulated as a business case. There is also a need for an attitudinal change towards enabling climate action. Mr. M Venkaiah Naidu , Hon’ble Vice President of India, in his inaugural address at Connect Karo 2019, emphasised the need to influence social behaviour for successful policy implementation and encourage mass civic action.

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