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India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change

Centre for Education and Documentation

08 / 2010

India, as one of the developing countries, has been exempt from binding cuts in emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. The UNFCCC - The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, recognised the primary responsibility of developed nations for GHG – Green House Gas – emissions, both historically and currently. This is enshrined in the principle of ‘common, but differentiated responsibilities’ of nations to tackle this problem.

India stands firm on this equity principle in international negotiations. At the time of Kyoto (1997), India had a low per capita emission rate barely 0.8 tce and refused to accept binding cuts and limits on their emissions, until the Annex I countries (developed countries) took firm verifiable action to reduce their emissions, which ranged up to 20tce.

But the situation is changing. Its total emissions by 2005 took it to 5th highest in the world, though per capita emissions remained low – 1.2 tce. And it has been subjected to an unfair media offensive about its role in GHG emissions, being portrayed as the dangerous emitters, likely to become even more dangerous in the future.

Then Northern NGOs started putting pressure on countries like India to consider mitigation actions to ‘build trust’ with Annex I countries.

The Indian National Action Plan on Climate Change

As a result of all these pressures, suddenly, in June 2008, India came out with its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

Why a National Action Plan

• Climate change may alter the distribution and quality of India’s natural resources, and adversely affect the livelihood of its people.

Principles of the NAPCC

• Protecting the poor and vulnerable sections of society through an inclusive and sustainable development strategy, sensitive to climate change.

• National growth objectives through a qualitative change in direction

• Efficient and cost-effective strategies for end use Demand Side Management.

• Deploying appropriate technologies for adaptation & mitigation

• Engineering new forms of market, regulatory and voluntary mechanisms to promote sustainable development.

• Creating unique linkages, including with civil society and local government institutions and through public-private-partnership.

• Welcoming international cooperation for research, development, sharing and transfer of technologies

This is to be achieved through 8 missions

• National Solar Mission

• National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency

• National Mission on Sustainable Habitat

• National Water Mission

• National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem

• National Mission for a Green India

• National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture

• National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change

The missions discuss the existing situation, options available, the Research & Development, financing and policy reforms required for change-over.

In the last 2 years, India has fleshed out some of its missions:

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission envisages implementation in three stages leading up to an installed capacity of 20,000 MW by the end of the 13th Five Year Plan in 2022, with 1,100 MW of solar power through the electricity grid and 200 MW off the grid, in its first phase; and a ‘focussed R&D programme.’

The National Water Mission has five goals:

• Create a comprehensive water database in public domain and assess the impact of climate change on water resources - Scientific data collection includes additional hydrometeorological data, wetland inventory, reassessment of basin-wise water situations, and finally, using this data to predict the impacts.

• Promote citizen and state action for water conservation, augmentation and preservation – includes expeditious implementation of irrigation projects, minor irrigation schemes, groundwater development, mapping flood-affected areas, capacity-building and awareness

• Focused attention on over-exploited areas – intensive rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge programmes.

• Increasing water use efficiency by 20 percent – both on the demand side and the supply side, particularly in the agriculture and commercial sectors. Guidelines for incentivizing recycled water, water neutral and water-positive technologies, improving efficiency of urban water supply systems, benchmark studies for urban water use, water efficiency indices for urban areas, manuals for mandatory water audits in drinking water, irrigation and urban systems, promoting water-efficient techniques including sprinkler and drip irrigation systems.

• Promote basin-level integrated water resources management – basin-level management strategies, review of National Water Policy in order to ensure integrated water resources management, appropriate entitlement and appropriate pricing. Review of State Water Policy and review and adoption of a National Water Policy by March 2013 .

The National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency is expected to save 23 million tonne oil equivalent of fuel and avoid the need to build additional capacity of over 19,000MW, leading to greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 98.55 million tonnes per year, and will add towards the country’s target of reducing its emission intensity by 20-25% below 2005 levels.

Finally, we have the Green India Mission aimed at enhancing carbon sinks in sustainably managed forests and other ecosystems, adaptation of vulnerable species & ecosystems to the changing climate, and adaptation of forest-dependant local communities in the face of climatic variability. Its goals include the afforestation of 6 million hectares of degraded forest lands and expanding our forest cover from 23% to 33% of the country’s geographic area.

Civil Society and the NAPCC

Civil Society was first off the block in responding to the NAPCC. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (SANDRP) wrote a stinging critique of the Plan: « There is little hope here. A Civil Society View ». He lambasted the secretive, exclusive process that excluded the majority of the country from having a voice in its conception, process and planning. And whilst its preamble had lofty principles, its proposals were mostly business as usual.

Greenpeace organized a conference on the plan in August 2008 in Delhi, focusing on Energy and Agriculture. INECC (Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change) organised a consultation on the NAPCC in Visakhapatnam in November 2009, inviting community representatives, researchers, scientists and activists from different eco-systems.

These, and other consultations, resulted in the formation of a Civil Society Coalition for Climate Justice and Sustainable Development, anchored by INECC. The coalition focused first on the Water Mission, with Himanshu Thakkar and Water Aid as the key resource persons to integrate the experiences and analysis of Civil Society’s engagements with this issue over decades. It first resulted in a letter to the Prime Minister, and then a more deliberative process, that is ongoing, to give a focused, comprehensive and integrated response to this Mission.

The other Missions that received attention, focused on energy, anchored by Greenpeace; and on sustainable agriculture, anchored by Oxfam India and its network of partners.

Thus, whilst there is lip-service paid to small farmers and their dryland farming technology, the focus on solutions seems to be on bio-technology; with little or no learning from the green revolution that has led India up the unsustainable fossil-fueled based path to agricultural ‘development’.

Civil Society maintains that the decades of involvement at the grassroots on issues relating to food production and distribution, watershed management and forest development and protection is finally being validated by the need for a low carbon path to equitable and sustainable development. The models and results are there for all to see; there is very little evidence of such awareness, understanding and acceptance in any of the missions.

India’s persistent moves to go in for nuclear power, as a ‘clean power’ as compared to fossil fueled power, comes in for universal criticism among civil society critics across the country.

Whilst the Water Mission makes the necessary obeisance to localized water harvesting, it still focuses on large storage and major hydro projects, and capital intensive technologies for centralised water distribution.

Groundwater, the mainstay of the harvesting system for domestic and irrigation use, receives very little attention. There is very little radical thinking on urban and industrial use.

An excellent summary of the critique of civil society groups, including those from science movements, is the final paragraph of the review of An India That Can Say Yes: A Climate-Responsible Development Agenda for Copenhagen and Beyond by Praful Bidwai (Delhi: Heinrich Boll Stiftung), 2009:

  • the NAPCC was arrived at undemocratically and with little discussion (p.62)

  • the NAPCC ignores the key issues of equity and redistribution (p.75)

  • the many dangers of market mechanisms such as the CDM (p 16)

  • much of what the government claims as adaptation is merely a repackaging of existing programmes (p 31)

  • the dangerous advocacy of large dams as part of the National Water Mission (p 85)

  • nuclear power is a hazardous non-solution to climate change (p 103)

  • the need for a more decentralised generation and use of energy, particularly in villages that have no electricity (p 119)

  • that India’s growing emissions cannot be cur¬tailed “unless India’s development model is radically restructured along egalitarian, balanced and sustainable lines which put people, not markets, at the centre” (p 59)

The Corporate Sector has generally welcomed the Plan (1). One of the key initiatives was the Corporate Action Plan on Climate Change, TERI-BCSD India, White Paper, February 2009 and has come out with its own ideas on the Challenges Ahead, and the Way Forward for each of the Missions. BCSD - Business Council for Sustainable Development has followed this through with key initiatives on different missions with various corporate and consultancy bodies. All these take forward the market based ideas of the NAPCC.

Praful Bidwai’s criticism is that these initiatives are based on the CDM model, a discredited model, which finally does very little by way of actual mitigation, whilst being a windfall for industry and business.


The major criticism of the NAPCC is its structural weaknesses – it is a disparate collection of independent plans, it lacks an integrating architecture, leave alone an overarching vision.

Cross sectoral issues find very little space in the Plan. Mining impacts forests and water; in spite of a vulnerable eco-system, we are planning a multitude of large hydro projects across the himalyan eco-system; our energy mission will come to naught if we continue to plan for coal and highly personalized transportation and massive road construction. The absence of a vision limits these actions within sectors, and most often to cross-purposes across sectors, and across other non-mission ministries and departments. State Governments are still left out in the cold. So where is the question of space for local governments and local communities to participate and add value to the Plan?

The NAPCC focuses largely on mitigation, and leaves very little space for adaptation to changes that are already taking place, and affecting small farmers, traditional fisher folk, and forest-based communities.

Its economic focus belies the basis in equity and ‘inclusive and sustainable development strategy, sensitive to climate change’ that is amongst the first statements of principles of the Plan:

Finally, the NAPCC, is NOT a Plan; it is a Public Relations document, meant to placate the West and is a wish list of possibilities. This outword ‘international’ outlook has meant that the process is a top down approach – it is made by experts and bureaucrats, well-meaning though some of them may be; there is very little consultation with civil society engaged with local communities. There is a greater appreciation of Annex I sensibilities. Civil Society strongly supports India’s international negotiating strategy but it is asking the government to practice equity and sustainable development at home as well.

Hence, there is very little appreciation of grassroots capability and entitlements. We need to democratize the debate and action on climate change – in intent, process and implementation. A National Action Plan needs a larger vision of a low-carbon path to development, development that is inclusive, and provide for inter-generational ecological equilibrium and balance.

1 See Climate change and the Indian Corporate Sector


changement climatique, politique de l’environnement

, Inde


L’Inde et le changement climatique


This article is available in French: Le Plan National d’Action sur le Changement Climatique de l’Inde

Further readings:


Texte original

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