As cities worldwide work towards achieving the goals set under Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate action, India plays a critical role in mitigating climate change as the seventh most affected country in terms of climate extremes. The country is a party to the Paris Agreement and Montreal Protocol, and has made significant pledges to reduce its carbon emissions at the 26th Conference of Parties.However, its position as the world’s third-highest carbon emitter and the increasing importance of cities as centres of climate action require a ground-level assessment of India’s climate mitigation policies.
Climate-resilient cities can broadly be categorised as those that help mitigate climate change as well as protect against climate hazards. This blog seeks to assess India’s climate policies in the context of building climate resilient cities. It begins by identifying the national climate change policies and what provisions exist for mitigation at the local level. It then provides an overview of the ClimateSmartCities Action Framework developed by the Ministry of Home and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) and the National Institute for Urban Affairs (NIUA). Lastly, it looks at the inter-ministerial and inter-departmental convergence within the CSCAF.
India’s National Climate Change Policies and Climate Resilience
The primary source of climate mitigation strategies in India comes from the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), released in 2008 by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. The plan seeks to promote development while dealing with climate change and includes eight national missions to achieve its long-term goals in mitigating climate change. These include the 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, and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.
While the NAPCC does not directly provide for climate-resilient cities, sustainability in cities and protections against climate disasters are addressed. The National Mission for Sustainable Habitat promotes energy efficiency in urban infrastructure through the Energy Conservation Building Code, which maintains minimum requirements for energy-efficient construction of buildings. The mission also encourages public transport to reduce emissions, infrastructure resilience to adapt to future climate change through capacity building,and managing municipal solid waste to reduce environmental pressures.
Disaster management in the NAPCC is addressed through a strategy of making initial infrastructure in risk-prone areas disaster-proof. It further includes maintaining critical water and health care facilities, strengthening communication networks, community awareness, providing insurance, and capacity building among project engineers and financial institutions to adapt to climate disasters. Thus, a broad policy base for building climate resilience in Indian cities exists in the NAPCC.
The ClimateSmartCities Assessment Framework
To institutionalise its efforts under the National Mission on Sustainable Habitats, the prime contributor of emissions, the MOHUA set up the Climate Centre for Cities (C-Cube) in 2021 within the NIUA. C-Cube assists the MOHUA in implementing the ClimateSmartCities Assessment Framework (CSCAF). This framework assesses the climate solutions adopted by cities across India and provides a roadmap to implement the best solutions toward mitigating and adapting to climate change.
CSCAF assesses cities across 28 indicators under five themes, namely (i) Urban Planning, Green Cover and Biodiversity, (ii) Energy and Green Buildings, (iii) Mobility and Air Quality, (iv) Water Management, and (v) Waste Management. Based on their performance, cities are ranked between one and five stars. The cities that are ranked at the lower range are yet to collect data on the aforementioned criteria, while cities ranked in the higher range are the ones that have successfully implemented climate actions and are continuing to monitor impacts.The framework has been conducted in two phases, with the third phase to be conducted in 2022. Each phase builds upon the last and seeks to assess 500 cities in the next five years. CSCAF 3.0 conducts its assessment along the following themes and indicators.
The Urban Planning, Green Cover & Biodiversity theme is one of two themes with the highest weightage for the assessment, constituting 25%.Its indicators include conserving water bodies and open areas to reduce the Urban Heat Island effect (wherein human activity and structures over natural land absorb heat), the city’s proportion of green cover, the presence of urban biodiversity, disaster resilience, and the presence of a City Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan is a broad indicator that assesses whether there is a comprehensive plan implemented by a city covering all sectors from water, waste, energy to disaster risk preparedness and urban planning, which allows for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
The second theme, Energy and Green Buildings, also constitutes 25% of the assessment and analyses how a city manages its energy production and use. Its indicators include the per capita consumption of electricity in cities, how much electrical energy is derived from renewable sources, the per capita consumption of fossil fuels, the extent to which streetlights are energy efficient, policies and regulations that promote green buildings which are energy efficient, and the actual number of green buildings themselves in a city.
Mobility and Air Quality is the third theme and constitutes 20% of the assessment. The indicators under this theme are the number of shared vehicles in the city that use cleaner technology, the extent to which public transport is available, how far the city allows for non-motorised transportation, the extent of air pollution monitoring mechanisms, and the Clean Air Action Plan. The Clean Air Action Plan indicator assesses the city’s efforts to improve air quality and management mechanisms.
The fourth theme, Water Management, accounts for 15% of the assessment. Indicators include the availability of water resources in relation to the current and future demands, the extent to which water production does not generate revenue, the amount of wastewater that is recycled and reused, the assessment of risk from floods and water stagnation and mechanisms for reducing it, the energy-efficiency of the water supply system, and lastly the energy-efficiency of the wastewater management system.
The final theme is Waste Management, which also constitutes 15% of the assessment.Indicators under this theme correspond with the SwachSurvekshan sanitation survey, and scores under each indicator are normalised to match those of the service level indicators under the SwachSurvekshan. The indicators assessed are the initiatives taken to reduce per-capita waste generation, total dry waste that is collected to be recycled and actually processed, mechanisms to manage Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste, the percentage of wet waste processed, the extent to which landfills are required and are sanitary, and the ability to manage and remedy landfills.
Impact of the CSCAF
The 2nd phase of the CSCAF, conducted in 2021, assessed 126 cities. While no cities have obtained 5 stars, nine cities obtained 4 stars, signifying that they have either initiated implementation of climate solutions or have allocated the budget for the same. The two-star category was where most cities surveyed fell under, indicating the initiation of the data collection process or the establishment of committees to guide climate action. Almost a quarter of the cities surveyed obtained only 1 star. The theme with the most cities obtaining 5 stars was that of waste management with thirty-one cities, whereas the one with the least cities was energy and green buildings, although it had only one city in the five-star category.
The higher performance of waste management in relation to the other themes may be because its indicators are assessed on the basis of the SwachSurvekshan. Since national guidelines such as the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 (and the manual for its implementation on Municipal Solid Waste Management) and Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 were published much earlier than when the CSCAF started, cities may have had a head start on improving waste management to adhere to the SwachSurvekshan indicators and this may be one of the reasons why waste management performs relatively better.
Inter-governmental and inter-departmental convergence in the CSCAF
Since the CSCAF primarily works at the local level, enforcement is looked over by State and local level authorities. Each indicator is looked over by a specific local authority corresponding to the theme of that indicator. For example, the higher State Disaster Management Authority may work with the Urban Local Body to collect data on and implement guidance under the ‘disaster resilience’ indicator.
However, the CSCAF fails to include and involve other stakeholders in improving each indicator unlike other climate-resilient cities. Mississauga’s Climate Action Plan, for example, designates a lead department responsible for a particular action that is then supported by other relevant departments. Assessing climate vulnerability in the city is done not just by the Parks, Forestry and Environment services but is also supported by the Finance, Facilities and Property Management, and Infrastructure Planning and Engineering services.
Considering an example in Asia, the Indonesian City of Semarang has individual initiatives as part of its action plan to ensure city resilience, which has both Initiative Owners and Initiative Supporters. Training Disaster-Preparedness Groups that assist in information dissemination and guiding the community during disasters is done by the Disaster Preparedness Agency, the owner of the initiative, but is supported by a wide variety of stakeholders from the Semarang Meteorological Office to the Women Empowerment and Family Planning agency. Ensuring convergence in the implementation of Climate Resilience, within state actors as well as the community, will ensure resilience is not fragmented.
While only a fraction of Indian cities has started integrating climate-smart solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate vagaries, the process of building climate resilience in India is well underway. Along with the CSCAF, other local governments such as Mumbai, Coimbatore, Udaipur and others have implemented their own climate action plans to strengthen urban infrastructure against climate change.The Mumbai Climate Action Plan not only focuses on environmental resilience through the environmental impact but also the human impact, for instance through ensuring equitable access to green spaces and community health resilience to deteriorating air quality. Similarly, the Coimbatore Action Plan categorises its urban systems on the basis of risk likelihoods and assigns a numerical value to the potential of each resilience strategy to mitigate carbon emissions. By coordinating with existing climate resilience initiatives in cities, the CSCAF can expand its framework and create a comprehensive roadmap for other local governments to follow. Slowly but steadily, Indian cities are working towards building a climate sustainable and secure future.
* Assistant Professor, NLSIU, Bengaluru
** 2nd Year B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad
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** Featured image sourced from: https://niua.org/c-cube/sites/all/themes/zap/assets/pdf/CSCAF_3_0_Technical_document.pdf