India’s urban transformation has implications for its climate and development trajectory. Over one-third of India is today considered as urbanized with urban areas contributing nearly 25% of energy-related CO2 emissions towards economic activities and if not controlled shall be responsible for a greater part of India’s carbon footprint.
As India continues to urbanize, rapid economic growth will lead to an enormous concentration of people in cities. GHG emissions from urban activities will thus grow exponentially, simultaneously Indian cities will face increasing risks from coastal flooding, extreme rain events, drought, heat waves and worsening air pollution. This is why cities are ground zero for climate change-related impacts and ambitious climate action.
It has been estimated that using proven low carbon measures, Indian cities can:
• reduce 53% of their urban emissions
• create 8.2 million new jobs
• reduce 89% of urban emissions
• create another 3 million jobs
While these measures need an incremental investment of $ 3.6 trillion until 2050, the investments can pay off for themselves through energy and material cost savings, yielding returns with a net present value of $1.6 trillion and added economic and health benefits.
Cities need to formulate and implement socially desirable, equitable, inclusive and sustainable pathways towards a low carbon economy and society which will have a decisive impact on determining India’s energy use, emissions, and environment.
Cities can play a key role in mainstreaming climate actions through policies, planning and implementation of programs. But cities grapple with challenges that need to be addressed within a shrinking window of opportunity. Cities have to constantly balance development and climate concerns especially in delivering equity and just transition. They also have to bear the additional cost and resources needed to deal with climate impact. Most cities are not fully equipped to do this due to the lack of a mandate for climate action, finance and action plans. Moreover, the involvement of multiple stakeholders makes coordinated implementation a big challenge.
Given the magnitude of change Indian cities will face in the coming years, how future growth is planned for will be the true test of their success.
While much of the enabling policy framework is determined at the national level, much of the implementation work has to be done at a subnational leveltic in approach.
Shakti’s Cities and Climate Action program works towards decarbonising Indian cities and building resilience to climate-related shocks in order to improve health and reduce adverse ecological impacts. We work with stakeholders at the city, state and national level to build and implement ambitious climate action plans. We facilitate the integration of inclusive planning approaches in urban climate action, especially to include vulnerable and marginalised communities to promote social justice and equity not just by merely adopting technical fixes within extant, broken paradigms but by designing programs for the future that will be compliant with the new evolving climate change goals and holistic in approach.