The recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report from Working Group I makes a clarion call for climate action. According to the report, the past decade (2011-2020) was warmer by 1.09°C than the period from 1850 to 1900, and the 1.5°C global warming threshold is likely to be breached soon. The IPCC report warns India against more intense heat waves, heavy monsoons and rise in weather extremes in the future. The Global Climate Risk Index (2021) ranked India the seventh-most affected country by weather extremes. Responses to climate change vary from place to place as there are differences in production systems, agro-climatic and socio-economic conditions across the country.
Adopt adaptation strategies
The pressure to speed up mitigation and adaptation is at an all-time high. India is doing well in achieving its mitigation commitments of reducing emission intensity and enhancing renewable capacity. India is targeting 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and it has launched mega solar and green hydrogen missions. The Shoonya programme by NITI Aayog, which aims to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles, is yet another effort towards adoption of clean technologies.
With escalating climatic risks, there is an urgency to adopt adaptation strategies. India has some dedicated initiatives towards adaptation, such as the National Action Plan on Climate Change and the National Adaptation Fund. However, a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience actions is needed to save hard-earned developmental gains and adjust to new climate conditions. Adaptation planning needs to go beyond a business-as-usual approach. A development-centric approach that aligns climate change, food security, and livelihood perspectives and takes into consideration regional specificities is crucial for reducing poverty and distress migrations. Moreover, adaptation planning requires governance at different levels to understand, plan, coordinate, integrate and act to reduce vulnerability and exposure.
To strengthen adaptation and resilience, India can do the following. First, it can be more prepared for climate change with high-quality meteorological data. With improved early warning systems and forecasting, we can tackle the crisis better. Premier research institutes can be roped in to develop regional climate projections for robust risk assessments.
Second, for sustainable production systems, it is necessary to develop well-functioning markets for environmentally friendly products and disseminate them for the desired behavioural change.
Third, it is important to encourage private sector participation for investment in adaptation technologies and for designing and implementing innovative climate services and solutions in areas such as agriculture, health, infrastructure, insurance and risk management.
Fourth, we need to protect mangroves and forests to address climate-related risks by blending traditional knowledge with scientific evidence and encourage local and non-state actors to actively participate.
Fifth, major social protection schemes must be climate-proofed. We have an opportunity to create resilient infrastructural assets, diversify the economy and enhance the adaptive capacity of rural households. Sixth, for continuous monitoring and evaluation, effective feedback mechanisms must be developed for mid-course correction. Periodic fine-tuning of State Action Plans on Climate Change is crucial to systematically understand micro-level sensitivities, plan resource allocation, and design responses to serve at different levels of intensities of climate hazards.
Proactive and timely need-based adaptation is important. Without it, there will be a huge fiscal burden in the future. A more collaborative approach towards climate change adaptation is crucial. Next-generation reforms will promote new business and climate service opportunities across several sectors and thus create a sustainable economy.
Bhawna Anand is Research Officer with the Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office, NITI Aayog. Views are personal