Marrakech 2016: How India can deliver on climate change

Nivedita Khandekar
Nivedita KhandekarNov 21, 2016 | 15:26

Marrakech 2016: How India can deliver on climate change

Away from the hustle bustle at Marrakech in Morocco, where the world leaders were busy charting out rules and procedures for the implementation of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature from rising, are Lohit and Anjaw, two districts in the far north-eastern corner of India, in the Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Himalayan state has been experiencing an increasingly erratic pattern of rainfall. Anthropogenic activities such as increasing urbanisation vis-à-vis concrete buildings in towns across the state, the increasing use of polluting vehicles, the great dam surge (carried out to supposedly exploit the hydropower potential of the mighty Himalayan rivers cutting across the breadth of the state) and vanishing forests – people use them for firewood in the absence of adequate LPG in remote mountain areas – have started taking their toll on the health of the Himalayas.

India was able to spearhead renewable energy enthusiast countries, but at the risk of the financial aspect being hijacked by the rich countries.

When I spoke to a friend who runs a school in Lohit district about what Arunachal Pradesh government is doing to combat climate change, his blunt response was: “Human resources which will influence anything and everything are misguided and allowed to go to hell.”

His reaction is understandable. The Indian state machinery – both at the Centre and in the various states under the federal structure – has been a tad lethargic in reaching out to all stakeholders, especially the communities that are likely to experience the direct impact due to rising temperatures, erratic precipitation, untimely rains and increasing instances of drought.

We have had the Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) tragedy in 2013, we have had unprecedented unseasonal floods in Chennai (2015) and we have the annual, and increasingly intensifying Brahmaputra (Assam) floods, all of which have led to colossal damage to life and property, not to mention the deceleration of the economy. Climate change has made the situation challenging, but faulty policies to battle climate change are making it worse.

Uttarakhand floods (2013) 
Manipur floods (2015) 
Chennai floods (2015) 
Assam floods (2016) 

The answers to questions such as “how much / what action” and “for whom” really matter in deciding the action India takes for its denizens, including those from the tiny Himalayan hamlets, coastal towns and villages, the three most vulnerable communities that face the heat due to climate change.


While what is achieved at the United Nations Climate Change summit (for the uninitiated, COP – Conference of Parties signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC)) that concluded at Marrakech on November 19 is necessary, much more needs to be done.

India especially needs to gear up its machinery at the state level to leverage the various agreements and action plans it has promised her people.

What was achieved at Marrakech?

After two weeks of deliberations at Marrakech, leaders from more than 190 countries adopted what was called the Marrakech Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development to combat the “alarming and unprecedented rate of climate change”. The governments strongly reaffirmed their resolve to work together on implementing the Paris Agreement, which paves the way for closing in the gap between current emissions of polluting gases and the future projections to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100.

India was able to spearhead renewable energy enthusiast countries, but at the risk of the financial aspect being hijacked by the rich countries. In all, 23 countries signed the framework agreement for the International Solar Alliance (ISA) — launched with much fanfare in India in early 2016 with its international secretariat located at Gurgaon — an important step in the clean energy track.

At a climate change protest, at Marrakech 2016. 

As part of its action plan to help keep rising temperatures in check, India has announced that it will aim for 100GW of solar energy by 2022 (part of the energy mix comprising renewable energy).

Leveraging the bright sunshine available to most Indian cities more than 300 days a year is an ambitious step for which India needs assistance in technology and funding. The ISA should help in its avowed purpose of developing cheaper solar technologies and raise funds. The tricky part is — will there be enough funds?

Reposing the responsibility for historic emissions on the shoulders of the developed nations, poorer and developing countries have been demanding that rich countries pay them to fight the ill-effects of climate change — Green Climate Fund, Adaptation and Mitigation, Loss and Damage Mechanism and so forth.

It was never easy to make richer countries pay and the Marrakech COP was no different. The bottom line remains that rich countries get to dictate what they call as climate finance even when the kitty of $100 billion annually, as part of Green Climate Fund, is nowhere near 25 per cent; forget about other heads of funds.

Ahead of the COP22, India had repeatedly said it demands “climate justice” and transparency in the processes. Also, Anil Madhav Dave, the minister for state for environment, forests and climate change, had said — rather repeated what his predecessor Prakash Javadekar used to say — that India would demand developing countries to make changes in the lifestyles of rich nations to bring down their per capita energy consumption. The Marrakech COP was yet another opportunity for India to show to the developed world “what you are doing is insufficient” on the counts of money and lifestyle. Not that India did not try, but not enough was done to call a spade a spade.

Problems in implementation of India’s action plan to combat climate change as submitted to the UNFCCC called the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) does not have sectoral goals; rather, it aims at economic goals.

It does not have any kind of punitive provision, and speaks the language of ‘this shall be done, that shall be done". There is no clarity as to how the states – which have their own "action plans for climate change" will deliver on their proposed actions and promises under the National Adaptation Plan on Climate Change and eight different missions under it (with a separate one for the Himalayas).

Such issues have remained unattended for many years now. At a pre-COP consultation in Delhi in October 2016, Harjeet Singh of Action Aid International, had rightly pointed out: “There is a start difference between state level and national level action plans.”

The states also lack the capacity to think about changing paradigms and effectively implement their own action plans, drawn mostly by outsourcing. Informed decisions, advocacy at official and community levels and effective implementation hold the key.

Two of the significant points made at the Marrakech Action Proclamation:

1. “We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority.”

2. “The transition in our economies required to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement provides a substantial positive opportunity to increase prosperity and sustainable development.”

India indeed needs to demonstrate that we have the requisite political commitment to accomplish the goals not just at national level, but also at the respective state levels. There is also a need to ensure that the “substantial opportunity to increase prosperity and sustainable development” is inclusive in the real sense of the words. That would just about summarise the actions needed in the years to come to keep the rising temperatures in check.

Last updated: November 21, 2016 | 16:30
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