Guest Blog by Upendra Tripathy, former Director General, International Solar Alliance and former Secretary to Government of India. Global Advisor to NRDC on renewable energy and climate.
South Asia has suffered from catastrophic flooding this month, following a summer of deadly extreme heat. Mitigation, or reducing and eliminating planet-warming emissions, is usually the focus in the fight against the climate crisis. However, adaptation, or adjusting to the impacts of climate change, is more urgent than ever as the impacts become more frequent and more intense. While global progress on adaptation is occurring, increased support and funding for adaptation are critical for the countries historically least responsible for the climate crisis, such as India. As countries prepare for the Conference of Parties (COP) 27 this fall, there is an opportunity to increase ambition and funding to developing countries for adaptation action, which could impact the lives of millions of people across India and the world.
India is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Not only is India’s economy highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, and tourism, but more than half of India’s population lives in rural areas and relies on climate-sensitive ecosystems. The most vulnerable groups in society, including low-income communities, ethnic minorities, children, and women, are expected to face disproportionate impacts of climate change.
National-level adaptation efforts in India
The National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC), launched in 2015, aims to meet the cost of climate adaptation across India for State and Union Territories that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), the implementing agency for NAFCC, has actualized 30 projects in several Indian provinces in areas such as livestock production systems, conservation in river basins, sustainable agriculture in drought-prone areas, carbon-positive eco-villages that offset more carbon than released, rehabilitation of coastal habitats, and biodiversity conservation. The National Mission for a Green India, also launched in 2015, aims to protect, restoring, and enhancing India’s forest cover to protect the country’s biological resources and associated livelihoods against climate change. It includes regional and state-specific targets.
Grass-root level adaptation across India
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and partners have taken up several initiatives to increase climate adaptation across India. Under the Hariyali Green Villages initiative, adaptive solutions include cool roofs to reduce heat stress in homes and precision irrigation systems to reduce water usage. The Green Villages initiative empowers women who are inequitably affected by climate change and more vulnerable to its impact due to social structures and functions.
Additionally, NRDC and partners are at the forefront of protecting people in India from deadly heat through Heat Action Plans (HAPs), which are comprehensive extreme heat early warning systems and preparedness plans. Key objectives of HAPs include improving public awareness and community outreach, reducing heat exposure, promoting adaptive measures, facilitating interagency coordination, and context-specific capacity building among health care professionals. Ahmedabad’s groundbreaking HAP was the first plan in India and South Asia. A study estimated that Ahmedabad, one of India’s largest cities, avoided approximately 1,190 deaths a year after implementing its HAP in 2013.
Finance for adaptation is crucial
Wealthy developed countries bear the most responsibility for the current climate crisis. A new study by researchers at Dartmouth University in the United States shows that the United States, the top carbon emitter over time, has caused more than $1.9 trillion in climate damage to other nations from 1990 to 2014. The study shows countries in the global North tend to gain income from activity associated with carbon emissions, while those in the South lose income.
While global progress is being made, the United Nations Environment Program Adaptation Gap Report finds that more ambition is needed to progress in national-level adaptation planning, finance, and implementation worldwide. Estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows, and the adaptation finance gap is widening. In 2009, the world’s wealthiest countries pledged to give poorer nations yearly climate funding of at least $100 billion per year from 2020 through 2025. This figure is yet to be achieved. In 2019, funding from rich nations was just short of $80 billion, up from $78 billion in 2018. Additionally, this money was to be split equally for adaptation and mitigation projects; however, the split appears to be closer to 25% and 75% for adaptation and mitigation, respectively. Adaptation costs alone in developing countries are currently estimated at $70 billion annually. This estimate is expected to reach $140 to 300 billion in 2050.
COP 26 and Glasgow Climate Pact adaptation outcomes
At COP 26, countries made new financial pledges to support developing countries in achieving a global goal for adapting to the effects of climate change; developed countries agreed to at least double the funding issued to developing countries for adaptation action by 2025. Both The Adaptation Fund and The Least Developed Countries Fund received unprecedented levels of contributions. COP 26 also established a comprehensive two-year Glasgow–Sharm el-Sheikh work program on the global goal of adaptation. Its objectives include defining what an international goal on adaptation would look like, reviewing the overall growth made in accomplishing the international goal of adaptation, enhancing national planning and implementation of adaptation actions, and strengthening the implementation of adaptation actions in vulnerable developing countries.
As the impacts and risks of climate change mount in India and around the world, actions to strengthen adaptation and availability of finance are more critical than ever.