Experts have backed the states’ proposal to set up an environment council, saying it would assist in the development of green policies for implementing India’s climate action.
The idea to establish a separate council for climate action came up at the recently concluded World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS), where state representatives proposed an independent body for accelerated climate action during a session.
Avinash Chanchal, campaign manager, Greenpeace India, said an agency whose primary mandate is to focus on climate action would be useful to accelerate action and bring coherence to the actions at the local level.
“There is no doubt that it’s important to fix the accountability of every climate policy announced by the government. Unfortunately, the current policies are not getting fully implemented on the ground. Often these policies don’t have any legal binding,” Chanchal told PTI on Wednesday.
He said the environment council can help facilitate and coordinate climate action.
“An agency whose primary mandate is to focus on climate action would be useful to accelerate action and bring coherence to them at the local level. It can be a useful hub to facilitate and coordinate climate actions. But at the same time, it cannot supersede local efforts. It must play a bridging role and ensure the implementation of climate policies on the ground in letter and spirit. Such agencies could send the signal that we are serious about climate action,” Chanchal said.
Environmentalist Bhavreen Kandhari said having such a council reduces the chances of shrugging responsibilities on each other.
“It’s a welcome step to involve all states in their own capacity and bring them together on one platform with the environment minister. Also (having a council) gives less chances of shrugging responsibilities on each other which has been the case between Delhi and neighbouring states on the issue of stubble burning,” Kandhari said.
Environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, founder, Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) said such a council will help states work effectively on climate change.
“We have been demanding such a department in the states for a long time… Now states will be able to work effectively on climate change,” he said.
According to Kamal Narayan, CEO, Integrated Health and Wellbeing Council (IHWC), setting up a distinct environmental council can assist India in taking more targeted climate action.
He said the majority of laws linked to climate change and environmental preservation are implemented by individual states.
“Climate mitigation, climate adaptation and climate resilience are all part of this. At COP26, India pledged to tackle carbon emissions, but the target of achieving it beyond pre-industrial levels remains a long way off. The creation of a single entity, such as the environmental council, will aid in the resolution of issues in this area,” he said.
Narayan further said the council can also assist in the development of environment-friendly policies, as well as the actions that each state must take to protect the environment and decide the future course of action.
“Climate change is a global issue that necessitates a concerted effort from all governments. India, for its part, could use an environmental council to bring all of the states and Union Territories on board. The need of the hour is for a concerted effort in which all states join forces, set aside their differences, and work together. The establishment of the environmental council will assist India in meeting its goal of being net-zero by 2070,” he said.
However, experts also felt that it will be crucial to see how such an agency interacts with the present regulatory bodies.
“It will be crucial to see how such an agency interacts with the present regulatory bodies. We need coordinated climate action at the regional and national levels in a very strict time-bound manner. While doing that it is also required to strengthen the existing system and provide sufficient funds to existing climate plans,” Chanchal said.
Expressing a similar view, Kandhari said, “The big question now is how forcefully this new council will enforce climate action on the ground.”
At a ‘ministerial session on sub-national leadership for inclusive green growth’ at the WSDS, organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) from February 16-18, Maharashtra’s Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray had proposed an environmental council on lines of the GST Council, saying having such a body would help set targets at the national level and implement them at the state level.
Apart from Maharashtra, the session was attended by Meghalaya Environment Minister James K Sangma and Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Palanivel Thiagarajan.