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Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in India

Climate change is strongly impacting India. In 2016, southern states faced crippling droughts, which extended to almost half the country in 2017. And last year, Kerala and parts of Karnataka experienced terrible flooding. These trends highlight the need for adaptation to occur more rapidly, and at scale.

One way to achieve this is to integrate adaptation into the everyday functioning of sectors so that their efforts are protected against the negative impacts of climate change. While this concept of ‘mainstreaming’ is not new, it is not taking place at the scale that is required. In some instances, adaptation is integrated into the policies and planning documents, but not implemented in action. Evidence-based research on what can enable implementation can help accelerate the uptake of mainstreaming.

To complement this research, WRI India’s working paper, Mainstreaming Adaptation in Action: Case Studies from Two States in India, highlights examples of where mainstreaming has been achieved in India, looking into two examples from the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand. One case study investigated how the Department of Animal Husbandry in Madhya Pradesh addressed the dwindling productivity of milk-producing cows. Through the process of developing the State Climate Change Action Plan the department realised that the imported cow species that comprises the majority of the cattle in the state were not very tolerant to heat stress and decided to slowly shift the cattle from imported species to indigenous species which, although they produce lower quantities of milk, are more heat tolerant and able to produce milk even in periods of higher temperatures.

A second case study looked at a pilot project implemented by the Forest Department in Uttarakhand which focused on building the adaptive capacity of forest-dependent communities. The Forest Department was instrumental in the State Climate Change Action Plan development process which enabled them to build capacity to become the coordinating and implementing body for this mainstreamed project, which included interventions by multiple departments. The project focused on building capacity at the local level by involving members from the Gram and Van Panchayats. For instance, the project increased water storage and access for communities and helped diversify their crops and cropping methods in ways that better enable them to withstand extreme weather events.

The paper, launched at WRI India’s annual event – Connect Karo 2019, highlights findings from these two case studies that can serve as examples for other states and sectors and accelerate adaptation across India. As part of the launch event, a panel discussion with key research institutes working on the topic of mainstreaming adaptation in India and representatives from states and the central government shared perspectives on the process and outcomes of mainstreaming adaptation into development in India.

The discussions highlighted several important elements that are required to ensure accelerated mainstreaming of adaptation going ahead:

  1. There is a need to include the broader development sector in adaptation conversations. To normalise and catapult mainstreaming to scale we need sectoral departments such as agriculture, water, forests and health to be part of these conversations. Their involvement will highlight entry points for mainstreaming, as well as implementation gap and finance needs to the adaptation community. We also need to identify more cross-cutting areas and policies to increase coordination, which is key for accelerating work on climate change.
  2. Climate change science and good practice needs to percolate more to the local level for successful mainstreaming. For instance, for local authorities interested in integrating adaptation action, data needs to be available at the local level – village, block and districts. Also, access to data needs to be followed by capacity building to analyse this data and make decisions based on this analysis. There is a definite need to promote more peer-to-peer learning within the country and discussions need to be facilitated amongst the different state climate change cells and knowledge centres so that good practices can be shared.
  3. India is one of the few countries that has a dedicated National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC). However, the limited nature of the funds available under the NAFCC cannot make a difference at scale as a stand-alone resource. The projects conceived under NAFCC should be designed creatively to involve state departments along with provisions to bring additional departmental resources. To bring change at scale, NAFCC should broaden its criteria for funding and be willing to invest resources in building alliances and cooperation amongst stakeholders to trigger effective implementation on the ground.
  4. There is a need to quantify how much finance is needed for India’s adaptation actions. Currently, most of the adaptation activities are financed by the public sector. The private sector is not forthcoming because of the intangible nature of adaptation benefits. There is a need to identify how to leverage existing budgets, encourage blended finance models and more public private partnerships, as well as incentive schemes to fill the adaptation implementation gap.

The institutionalisation of adaptation at different levels is the key to successful climate action. There cannot be a better time to bring these perspectives to bear. States have been mandated to review and revise their State Action Plans, and herein lies an opportunity to make substantive headway in achieving India’s Nationally Determined Contributions and the Sustainable Development Goals.

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