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Legislating for a global climate deal

A Climate Parliament legislator reflects on how parliamentarians have a key role to play

In 2014, the 20th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) called on member countries to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are post-2020 targets and goals that each country takes for itself to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that cause global warming. The INDCs will be the building blocks of the new international climate change agreement expected to be finalized in Paris in December 2015. With the COP21 Paris Summit now less than two months away, many countries have already submitted their commitments to curb carbon emissions nationally.

One particular component which is prevalent in the developing countries’ submissions is achieving climate adaptation and mitigation with the assistance of climate finance. The need to consider climate change mitigation has never been more urgent, the impacts of climate change in the form of floods, unseasonal rainfall, severe droughts etc are observed worldwide. For developing countries, the transition to sustainably viable systems of energy production and usage is a pertinent but costly route to move onto. Developing economies like India, which is yet to submit their contributions, has over the past few months has called on the Summit to provide roadmap on climate finance for developing countries, specifically, the Green Climate Fund – where the developed countries have promised to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 for the developing countries to transition onto a low carbon pathway.

For India to adopt an efficient climate change adaptation and mitigation plan, a comprehensive and long-term low carbon development plan needs to be integrated into the political agenda. This has been observed in the recent announcement made by the government, with a target of 175 GW to be installed by 2022, while Honorable Prime minister has taken up the challenge of providing 24x7 electricity to all. India also established a National Adaptation Fund with an initial funding of Rs.100 crore as budgetary support towards climate change. All these developments indicate a commitment on part of the government towards low carbon and climate resilient development.

UNFCCC defines climate finance as local, national or transnational financing, which may be drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing. While governments negotiate at international platforms like UNFCCC and non-state actors such as CSO groups and research think tanks raise funds for low carbon development projects at grassroots level there is another stakeholder group which can tip the scale towards a favorable situation, locally – the Parliamentarians and Legislators. Parliamentarians and legislators are extremely significant as they can direct the government through inputs on policy interventions to create financing opportunities for projects and technologies to help mitigate climate change both nationally and at state level.

Legislators can further play a key role in the implementation of the policies by mainstreaming climate considerations into core policies and associated investment decisions and financial frameworks in the states. With an insight into policies and budget making the Parliamentarians and Legislators have the potential to steer the developmental frameworks onto a sustainable route. At the state level, we legislators can aid in developing climate mitigation plans, which are often interfaced with other developmental plan,by providing an informed insight into budgetary support of relevant sectors like power, water, agriculture, renewable energy etc, by providing progressive inputs in policy making to create an opportunity for investments in the clean energy sector and by consistently highlighting the urgency of climate change impacts to further sensitize other proactive stakeholder groups vital to the implementation of the existing low carbon development strategies and environmental policies at the panchayat, district and state level. This bottom-up approach will have the potential to influence our climate policy makers to draw up a comprehensive mitigation plan bring into line the state programs with the national programs to develop India’s stand at the global climate change platform.

As elected representatives, we legislators are in a position to act as liaisons between different departments in the state. There are a number of plans and programs at the state level with an immense potential for reducing carbon emissions, legislators can play a key role in their implementation and to involve different ministries/departmentsin the discussions on climate change, especially since the low carbon development plans involve various departments in the implementation. This will ensure that climate change is mainstreamed into the activities of all relevant departments in the state, rather than just the forest department or the energy department.

With the existence of a wealth of policies and programs with a potential to reduce carbon emissions is the existence of various funds to develop these programs; often a times, many of the programs are just in paper and fail to see its implementation, legislators in such instances can highlight the status of the project or track the expenses from the fund through the various legislative tools present in the state legislature. Efficient and effective allocation of these funds will be critical to support climate change goals in the long term. This sort of legislative accountability has the potential to ensure the implementation of the programs and ensure that most vulnerable communities are reached.

The ongoing power crisis in the state is a situation for all of us Legislators to take stock of the energy situation - state needs 9000 MW, but it barely has 6000 MW; the complete dependence of hydro and thermal power seems to have crippled the state with the severe drought and technical snags in thermal stations. Decentralized renewable energy technologies can provide access to energy even in the remote corners of India, bringing down electricity costs and boost enterprise through reliable energy supply. Such novel ideas of low carbon development needs to be adopted and promoted by Legislators in their constituencies, especially in rural areas where the power supply has taken a large hit currently. As the world gears up for a new global agreement to tackle climate change, we elected representatives at the state level are in a unique position to sensitize and steer our governments to develop and implement programs which can be aligned with the national climate policies and targets which India will propose.

Mr Priyank Kharge is a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Chittapur in the Indian state of Karnataka, and a member of the Climate Parliament chapter of MPs there.

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