It is not the climate,stupid!

As J&K develops its Climate Change Action Plan, there are issues we can’t ignore



A couple of weeks ago, a private consultancy agency helping J&K develop its State Action Plan on Climate Change met some of us in Srinagar. Eminent people working on environmental conservation issues shared their opinions about what the action plan should be like.
For a more informed debate on the issue, it is important to enlarge the scope of the discussion. And hence this column.
India, like many other countries, has commitments in reducing carbon emissions. There are targets to be achieved. Jammu & Kashmir state is said to be one of the other states in India that is supposed to have an action plan for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The union government is said to have hired and deputed consultancy firms to all states, including Jammu & Kashmir.
The first question that comes to the mind is what on earth is this Action Plan aimed to achieve?
Any development action plan must logically be preceded by a policy and a strategy. It is inconceivable how an action plan could be developed in the absence of a policy and a strategy.
An action plan is generally about tangible actions and time frames. It is difficult to imagine how do we finalise actions in the absence of a policy with a clear legal framework. We can acknowledge the fact that we have environmental protection laws and some other policies in place. But we must be clear that those laws and policies would technically not necessarily create a legal and policy framework for an action plan on climate change adaptation and mitigation.
As what we experience throughout the globe, this kind of action plan mainly addresses carbon emissions in diverse sectors and helps grounding theoretically sustainable interventions on the ground with a clear time frame and committed resources.
When we say that adaptation and mitigation are going to be our key strategies in dealing with climate change, we must not lose sight of the kind of financial resources needed, and hence the need for a policy. Climate change adaptation and mitigation require significant financial resources across all critical sectors, particularly in energy, agriculture, healthcare and urban development.
So let us try to understand what could J&K’s State Action Plan on Climate Change achieve in the absence of a vision or a policy and resources.
First of all we learn the Plan will focus on the power sector. Being a state that almost wholly gets its energy from renewable hydro electricity we are a state rich in carbon credits. One of the most important questions that J&K’s Climate Change Action Plan must address is how do we reap the benefits from the clean energy mechanism credits that the state earns from its hydro power projects.
Presently, as what I stated in the previous column, the union government through the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) gets overwhelming benefit from the clean energy mechanism incentives. If J&K state is able to get benefits from the international carbon credits system, it will have always greater incentive to invest in more clean energy systems. That would mean a significant reduction of our collective carbon footprint in the state.
One of the other focus areas for the State Action Plan is the development of “sustainable habitat.” Although that is a key necessity, what, at the end of the day, we will be confronted with is the cost involved. Creating sustainable habitats would require reducing carbon foot prints in our urban spaces. It is still hugely debatable how can a state which spends barely 25 per cent of its annual budget on development spare money for creating sustainable habitats, requiring massive public investment.
All of us who work on the issue of climate change adaptation globally recognise the importance of creating sustainable agriculture. Dealing with sustainable agriculture, again, it is hard to imagine how an action plan would actually address the challenges of climate change in our agriculture when we do not have an agricultural policy which has integrated climate change-sensitivity and the profound socio-economic changes in recent years.
When it comes to tourism it is critical that our activities in that sector remain climate change-sensitive. We must take all possible steps in ensuring that the carbon footprint in tourism is reduced to the maximum possible extent. But then we cannot leave religious tourism out. When the Action Plan’s terms of reference mention tourism as an area of interest it must include religious tourism as well. That is more so because the Plan itself seeks to look at ways and means of creating a “sustainable Himalayan eco system.”
It is good to see that the Action Plan would include disaster management. Climate-sensitive disaster management is the need of the hour. What, however, would be a necessity in the coming days is to integrate the climate change adaptation and mitigation measures into our disaster management policy, if not already done.
What this Action Plan must also consider is ensuring how the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regime in J&K state could be made more participatory and transparent. Equally important is to bring in armed forces and the development activity they undertake within the ambit of a transparent EIA.
As the days progress J&K’s stakeholders must be closely engaged in the process of review and discussion over the Plan. At the end of the day it is not only about climate – which has global ramifications – but how do we conduct shape our policies and action plans in a more participatory and inclusive manner to make it workable and sustainable.
The columnist is a technical consultant in international development and a contributing editor with Greater Kashmir

Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Jun 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Jun 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 16 Jun 2013 00:00:00 IST

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