Climate Change

PM’s climate change council has not met in almost 7 years

Who is, then, advising the PM for his climate goal announcements?

 
By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Thursday 25 November 2021
PM's climate change council hasn't met in 7 years. Photo: pmindia.gov.in
PM chairs meeting of the Council on Climate Change on 19 Jan, 2015. Photo: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/ PM chairs meeting of the Council on Climate Change on 19 Jan, 2015. Photo: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/

India announced ambitious goals for mitigating climate change at the recently concluded 26th Conference of Parties (CoP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The most significant among them is the country’s target of achieving Net Zero carbon emissions status by 2070. 

Along with this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a slew of targets for 2030 during his address at climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. These include increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in the country’s energy mix to 50 per cent, increasing renewable energy capacity to 500 gigawatts, reducing emissions per unit of the gross domestic product to 45 per cent of 2005 levels.

Two questions arise after these commendable announcements: How did the Prime Minister arrive at these commitments and how will his government implement them? 

The answer to both lies in the meetings and work of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change (PMCCC) which had been formed by the Union government under the leadership of Manmohan Singh in mid-2007.

The council was re-constituted after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014. Modi held the first meeting of the council on January 19, 2015. The council has not met ever since, according to information publicly available.

In the first meeting, Modi called for a paradigm shift in global attitudes towards climate change, from “carbon credit” towards “green credit”. He, however, did not explain what exactly he meant by “green credit”. 

He further said that “global awareness on climate change is an opportunity to improve quality of life of citizens” and urged members to shift focus towards clean energy generation, energy efficiency and called for a consortium of nations with the greatest solar energy potential, among other measures towards mitigating  global climate change. 

 

Current members of PMCCC

Prime Minister: Chairperson

Members:

  • Minister for External Affairs           
  • Finance Minister                              
  • Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change                    
  • Minister for Water Resources, River  Development and Ganga Rejuvenation  
  • Minister for Agriculture                                                        
  • Minister for Urban Development                                           
  • Minister for Science and Technology                                    
  • Ministers of state (Power; Coal; New and Renewable Energy)                                                
  • Cabinet Secretary                                                                   
  • Foreign Secretary
  • Secretary,Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change                         
  • Nitin Desai, former under secretary-general for economic and social affairs of the United Nations          
  • Chandrasekar Dasgupta, former ambassador to China and the European Union, distinguished fellow of TERI
  • Ajay Mathur, chairperson, Bureau of Energy Efficiency
  • JM Mauskar, adviser, Observer Research Foundation 
  • Member convener: Principal secretary to the Prime Minister

The earlier council under Singh had 26 members and included ministers, independent experts and retired government experts. The number of members was brought down to 18 under Modi. 

One of the members, RK Pachauri of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), resigned after the first meeting and there has not been an update on the council after that. 

The webpage that carried the information on the resignation of Pachauri is not available on the Prime Minister’s official website anymore. 

The new council was tasked with evolving a coordinated response to issues relating to climate change at the national level, providing oversight for formulation of action plans in the area of assessment, adaptation and mitigation of climate change, and periodically monitoring key policy decisions. 

It is not that the council had never met or worked since its formation. 

Over three sessions between July 13, 2007 and June 2, 2008, the first council was able to formulate the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), a month before the ‘Group of Eight’ countries summit that was held in July 2008. 

The plan, which has eight sectoral missions, was to be overseen by six Union ministries. Overall, 10 ministries, including finance and external affairs, were involved in its implementation. 

The work and meetings of NAPCC, after its hasty formation, are sketchy and difficult to trace.

Moreover, NAPCC only had a broad overview of the objectives but not an implementable strategy. It took the various ministries six years to just approve the eight missions under the NAPCC. 

PMCCC had representation of diverse sectors on paper. The NAPCC document, however, was mainly shaped by a three-member group from within the council — the principal scientific advisor, former secretary to the then Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the director-general of TERI. 

The Prime Minister’s Office prepared the final draft of the document, further restraining the significance of inputs from the council.

In November 2020, the Modi government announced the formation of the Apex Committee for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (AIPA). The objective of this committee was to coordinate work for meeting India’s nationally determined contribution targets. 

The role of the PM in this committee, however, wasn’t made clear, although it has similar objectives as PMCCC. The gazette notification through which AIPA was announced had no mention of the PM's involvement in the working of the committee or if the committee’s work would be recommended to the PM. 

AIPA is chaired by the secretary of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), with the additional secretary as the vice chairperson and has a total of 17 members. 

There is no publicly available information on the work or meetings of the committee since its formation. It does not have a dedicated website or even a webpage on the MoEFCC website. 

The advisory process before major announcements by the Prime Minister, such as those made at CoP26, becomes foggy in the absence of details of the council meetings.

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