There’s need for city-level climate actions

Indian cities need climate action plans that are implementable and have necessary financial, institutional and policy support

By Dhanapal G
Published: Tuesday 05 February 2019
Climate action
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

Cities are both engines of economic growth and sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By 2030, India is expected to have more than 440 cities contributing to over 70 per cent to its GDP (Mc Kinsey report, 2016). The population is also projected to increase to 800 million by 2040 from 2014 levels (UN, 2014). The GHG inventory for India, assessed for 2010, reports a cumulative emission of about 2.3 billion tonnes in that assessment year. More than 80 per cent of emissions excluding the Land Use Land Cover Change in Forestry sector (LULUCF) come from energy sector alone, which includes both fuel combustion activities and fugitive emission from fuel. Emissions from solid wastes (13.9 million tons) and waste water (51.8 million tons) are other major sources of emission to which urban areas contribute a large share (BUR, 2015).

Energy efficiency in buildings, solid waste management and increased use of public transport significantly contribute to emission reduction in cities, and these were the targets of National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, one of the eight missions under National Action Plan on Climate Change. However, the mission wasn’t implemented thoroughly. Of 50,574 tonnes municipal solid waste 59 major Indian cities generate per day generated in 2010-11, only about 60 per cent is collected properly and less than 20 per cent is treated (MoPSI, 2015). Regulations like Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), 2007, aimed to promote energy efficiency in buildings, but ECBC is yet to be adopted by most states and many new commercial buildings are not built according to its requirements.

The share of public transport in most cities ranges between 30 per cent and 50 per cent, although the National Transport Policy and National Urban Transport Working Group of the Ministry of Urban development recommend at least 38 per cent population to use public transport for a city of more than five million population.

The IPCC fifth Assessment Report (IPCC, 2015) predicts India and other tropical countries to have increased impacts of climate change particularly increased cyclone events, storm surges and extreme rainfall. Several Indian cities are in coastal areas or geographically vulnerable regions prone to natural hazards. And the urban poor that settle in environmentally vulnerable areas of cities with limited access to basic services are particularly vulnerable to impacts of climate change and natural hazards. On the service-level benchmarks in many Indian cities, there is still high gaps, particularly on storm water drains, where many cities have coverage only about 30-50 per cent while the Ministry of Urban Development benchmark recommends, 100 per cent coverage. The per capita urban green space recommended by MoEF is 15 sq m per person, but it is much less in many cities.

Setting up climate adaptation and mitigation strategies at city level is crucial for India, given India’s urbanisation prospects and towards achieving its international commitments on climate change such as Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and Sustainable Development Goals. Targeting urban areas for climate mitigation will also be important to achieve the NDC Goal 3 on reducing emission intensity of GDP by 30-35 per cent from 2005 baseline by 2030.

Globally, many cities have made efforts towards low carbon and climate resilient urban development. London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, and Seoul have initiated low-carbon city planning programmes. Copenhagen established a series of policies and measures to construct low-carbon cities from the aspects of energy structures, green transportation, energy-saving buildings, and public awareness.

In India, there are several successful initiatives on climate actions at city level that are yielding good results such as public transport systems in Ahmedabad, solid waste management in Surat, green spaces in Chandigarh,  and  improvements in energy efficiency such as adoption of LED streetlights in many cities

Climate action plans at city level should be implementable and should have necessary financial, institutional and policy support and should have clear cut short and long term implementable action. The financing needs for climate actions is best taken by mainstreaming climate change risks in urban development planning itself, as a first stage, the master plan development process should consider the hazard, risk and vulnerability.

On the institutional angle, it would be important to empower the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to take climate actions. Globally, several cities have taken climate actions largely through the ULBs and strong people participation. In India, it is important to have people and ULBs at forefront for climate actions.

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