Environment & Biodiversity

Intra-national COP: A novel approach to collaboration

India raised its target for reducing the carbon intensity of its GDP to 45 percent by 2030, up from 34 percent previously. These national carbon emission targets have been widely praised and have strengthened the country’s position as a leader in climate action.

To achieve this goal, a cooperative federalist spirit is required.

  • To address climate change effectively, India must involve all of its states and union territories. The states and UTs have not been active participants in recent climate summits.
  • A new approach to climate action cooperation between states and UTs is required, similar to the cooperation used in the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This will result in better outcomes in public sector climate change actions.

The role of states

  • Power of States and UTs: Provisions in the Indian Constitution, Parliamentary legislation, executive orders, and judicial decisions allow states/UTs to have a significant influence on issues such as land, electricity, mobility, labour, pollution control, skill building, law and order, financial incentives for commercial activities, and so on.
  • Role of States and UTs in Policy Implementation: Through interventions in policy, regulation, and project implementation, states and UTs can become prime movers in the last mile.
  • Potential of India’s Cooperative Federalism: Speaking to the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing winter session of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the potential of India’s cooperative federalism in becoming a “torch bearer of the world” in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

How will India’s ‘Intranational COP’ model work?

  • Climate action using the GST Council model: Climate action is a unifying theme, and establishing a forum similar to the Goods and Services Taxes (GST) council, which developed successful engagement models during the GST’s pan-India roll-out, can be beneficial.
  • Facilitating cross-party dialogue: This intra-country group, Intranational COP, can offer opportunities for sharing a stage across parties in a neutral setting where outcome-oriented conversations can take place.
  • Promoting cooperative and competitive federalism for net zero: It can reawaken the friendly spirit of cooperative and competitive federalism, with each state/UT committing to bolder net zero actions.
  • Measuring stakeholder performance through consensus building: It has the potential to introduce new evaluation parameters for measuring stakeholder performance based on their ability to build consensus across boundaries while ignoring their myopic and constrained vote-bank-centered politics.
  • Learning from and Applying Best Practices: For all stakeholders, climate change is a new and dynamic topic. It is an equaliser in which no state/UT has an inherent advantage. States and UTs can share best practises for implementing, achieving, and measuring the outcomes of their actions.

Electricity distribution: An example of cooperation

  • Even if a project is conceived, financed, and implemented by central agencies, site-specific resource mobilisation requires the active participation of states/UTs.
  • A good example is electricity distribution, where states can exponentially boost India’s clean energy ambitions.
  • Furthermore, they can directly support municipal corporations/village panchayats in innovating customised approaches for faster and inclusive adoption of national climate goals in line with the socioeconomic and cultural sensitivities of the region.

‘Intranational COP’ for common but differentiated responsibilities

  • Forum for addressing Climate Change within India: It is well-established that some parts of India are economically more developed as compared to others. This translates to the fact that the relatively more prosperous regions contribute more to India’s carbon emissions. Such states are better positioned to initially invest in expensive low-carbon technologies and disseminate them to achieve economies of scale.
  • Addressing Regional Imbalances in Carbon Emissions: IndiaCOP can unleash innovative mechanisms to compensate for regional imbalances while respecting local cultural sensibilities.
  • Mutual Cooperation Agreements: It can serve as a platform for states/UTs to forge MOUs that complement each other’s strengths while filling gaps in technical/financial/human resources. Small hilly states, for example, have good hydroelectric power potential but may lack financial resources; states like Rajasthan have good solar energy potential but currently lack sufficient trained manpower, and so on.

Far ahead

  • The intranational COP could serve as a dedicated flagship platform to forge a national consensus on India’s climate goals and how to achieve them. The Finance Commission, for example, can play a role in allocating capital based on state climate actions and needs.
  • Climate funding and allocation mechanisms, led by the Finance Commission, can be debated and agreed upon on this platform. Because it is reached collectively by the union and state/UT governments, such a consensus will have double legitimacy.

@the end

The success of India’s “Intra-national COP” model can serve as a model for federal nations around the world to engage with provincial/local governments to address various socio-political and economic challenges. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to the promotion of India’s soft power, particularly as it assumes the presidency of the G20.

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