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Building a low-carbon India

Can we combine climate-sensitive development with a commitment to building a modern, prosperous and equal society free of poverty, discrimination and injustices, in which every citizen can have access to food, energy, and education? The answer, of course, is yes - and in fact, argue two Climate Parliament MPs, India cannot hope to eradicate poverty and ensure equity for all unless it commits to a low-carbon development model.

At the outset, it should be clear that India's development issues and challenges are intimately linked with climate issues, both nationally and at the local level. As the second most populous country in the world, and one still hamstrung by energy poverty and weak energy infrastructure, India cannot possibly achieve sustainable development without integrating a comprehensive low-carbon development program into the local social and political agenda.

Of course, the scale of this policy challenge should not be underestimated. Integrating climate sensitivity will entail redesigning India's development paradigm from the ground up, in the light of visible and likely future impacts of climate change. It will also require policy makers to redesign national, regional and sectoral economic policies, consolidate funding streams and budget priorities, and build new political coalitions sensitive to the needs, aspirations, and long-term climate security of Indian citizens. Needless to say, this is yet to happen in most of India.

However, there are committed parliamentarians who, through work in their constituencies and at the national level, are spreading awareness about the climate crisis, providing role models for the implementation of low carbon development plans, and spurring the national government and other agencies into action.

Kalikesh Deo MP, Climate Parliamentarian

Mr. Kalikesh Singh Deo, a young MP from Odisha and a member of the Climate Parliament's Indian network, is currently developing a practical agenda for sustainable development for his constituency of Balangir, in the Indian state of Odisha. Mr Deo believes that "launching a low carbon trajectory in an area will ensure that all people first fulfil their basic needs, and realise their right to life with dignity without endangering the climate. We must begin this transition with a clear local focus. Any national or international agreement and plan of action should be complimentary with what we need to do for the sake of our own people and environment."

What will the low carbon development plan and program look like? Through what strategies should an area seek to achieve its objectives? And how can a parliamentarian navigate the "trilemma" of energy equity, security, and sustainability?

Another Climate Parliament MP, Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal, from the Paschim Champaran constituency of Bihar, has overseen several low carbon development activities in his constituency over the last half decade. He says, "a low carbon development plan in a rural area must focus on a number of areas which offer scope for significant reductions in the energy intensity of the production and living activities, and for equitable access to and responsible use of common property resources and ecosystems, or the commons. The most obvious targets are energy, water, agriculture, cooking, and housing, which together can change the face of rural India."

In such low-carbon development plans, increasing access to energy for the poorest citizens is of central importance. According to Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal, "Several innovative and need-based approaches can be tried out in rural areas for the low carbon development that generate decentralized electricity from renewables, increase employment, make living and working easier and ultimately contribute to the cause of climate solution. For example, devising efficient cookstoves which emit very little or no smoke is an important task. Electricity for the rural poor from decentralized and renewable sources must accord an important priority, which can make a huge impact on people’s lives by extending adult’s working day, expanding children’s learning and educational opportunities, and enabling access to information and culture."

However, says Mr. Kalikesh Singh Deo, "at the moment, there is a disconnect between between climate policy and local development plans. A bridge will emerge only when local efforts from legislators like us form large coalitions and a national presence, in order to advance ecologically sustainable development agendas and add sensitivity to climate issues to our work on the ground."

MPs in India and elsewhere have already begun to commit to such development plans, and the Climate Parliament is working closely with the legislators in our networks to provide the expertise, staff support and research required to implement successful schemes. Our regional and global networks are creating the coalitions required for real change, beginning at the local level but ultimately having a global impact. Read more at our Networks and Resources pages.

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