From Planning to Action: Energy Transition at the Sub-National Level

India contributes to about 7 per cent of global GHG emissions, despite having 17 per cent of the world’s population. Being a populous, tropical developing country, India faces a bigger challenge in balancing its development objectives with achieving climate change goals. With the announcement of ambitious climate targets, India has showcased exemplary leadership in pioneering a model of economic development which avoids carbon-intensive approaches. Green growth, green jobs, and environmentally sustainable and low-carbon initiatives are now underpinning key sectors of the Indian economy. Achieving these climate goals will require a massive shift in infrastructural measures while inculcating behavioural shifts to incorporate a healthy lifestyle for the environment.

States play an essential role in driving these measures to achieve the country’s climate goals. Implementation of low-carbon measures should be taken as an opportunity for the states to promote economic growth and address inequality. Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation is working on translating the national climate goals to the sub-national level and is providing advisory services to plan and implement energy transition in states.

The development of sectoral energy transition plans in the states is facilitated through robust data collection, peer-to-peer learning exchange, pilot projects, stakeholder consultations, and convenings. Based on the work at the sub-national level, here are some of our key takeaways which may provide a learning opportunity for other stakeholders engaged in sub-national level climate action to replicate:

Adopting Hub and Spoke Model at the State Level
States having progressive climate planning, are mainly influenced by proactive policy leadership. However, we have observed that any change in leadership affects the momentum for driving climate action. Therefore, there is a need to institutionalise climate action in the state climate change nodal department with a strategy to build a cohort of experts within the department. The objective is to ensure the nodal department would have the requisite technical capacity to coordinate, review and advise climate actions in the state. This can also be done by setting up a dedicated program management unit, a unit of thematic experts, within the nodal department to sustain the climate change initiatives.

Additionally, it is essential to build a roster of individual experts and organisations including various civil society organisations, academic, private institutions, and formalise their engagement  to provide timely climate change services such as deciding on low-carbon pathways, technology deployment, identifying and accessing financial support, etc. Independent experts as well as organisations should work in close collaboration with the climate change nodal department to facilitate and catalyse climate actions in the state.

Driving Momentum 
States have developed their state action plans on climate change (SAPCCs) in line with the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) highlighting the state-specific climate issues and the strategy to address those issues. These SAPCCs were developed by the climate change nodal department with technical support from bilateral and multilateral organisations. However, these documents were prepared with little involvement of sectoral departments. Therefore, working closely with sectoral departments is key to strategising climate actions for identifying the climate change additionality and mainstreaming climate actions in the sectoral planning process.

Embracing Robust Planning 
SAPCCs were developed based on the top-down approach using downscaling national models and historical trends. The absence of a local climate context and its impact on the sector was a major drawback. Therefore, a robust roadmap for energy transition needs to have an integrated bottom-up and top-down approach. Field-level data supplemented by indigenous knowledge of the state from the policymakers, communities, and experts can aid in inclusive climate planning.

Facilitating buy-in from the Highest Level of Governance
Climate change is a cross-cutting subject that affects all sectors. Therefore, a driving force is required at the highest level of governance either the Chief Minister or Chief Secretary level. These will guide and encourage all sectoral departments to take timely climate actions. Once the planning is done in a comprehensively, buy-in from the highest level will ease raising public finance for the additional climatic interventions to bring transformative change in the state.

Adopting Multi-criteria Analysis
Energy transition planning will focus on sectoral planning. However, this planning should strongly consider the developmental challenges of the specific state. For example, states which have a huge dependency on coal will have a slower pace for transition, whereas states having high industrial activity can lead to taking up green measures earlier. Therefore, the planning framework should consider the developmental goals and local livelihood opportunities to ensure an equitable pathway for the energy transition.

Demonstrating Wins
While climate action needs to be sustained over an extended period, it is equally important to demonstrate some early wins along the way. This will ensure adequate momentum and aid in building a promising narrative for the energy transition. Experts can be engaged to identify projects with low-hanging fruits that can also be easily implemented. This effort can either follow the development of state-level plans or be undertaken simultaneously. A successful pilot project can also be used to raise additional finance for climate action.

In conclusion, it is important to note that sub-national climate action cannot adopt a one size fits all approach. While engaging with the stakeholders, it is imperative to be mindful of the ground realities and be open to iterations in the approach to find the best solutions to the challenges in the state. Along with the timely encouragement from the national level, states are also showing interest in mainstreaming climate action. Therefore, it is an opportune time to engage with them to ensure an equitable energy transition.