India has been ranked amongst top 5 countries in the world, and the best among G20 countries, based on its climate change performance following aggressive policies and investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric mobility. However, it has been ignoring a crucial aspect of climate action, the need for adaptation – to prepare its citizens and ecosystems to adapt to the consequences of climate change. This is an area of serious concern and should be addressed in the Union Budget 2023-2024.
Squeezing Adaptation Funds
Adaptation and resilience building featured prominently in India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and yet government grants released under the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC), have declined steadily for the last five years. Grants released under NAFCC fell from Rs 115.36 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 42.94 crore in 2020-21, and Rs 27.76 crore (till December 2021).
NAFCC, launched in 2015, aims to meet the cost of climate adaptation across India for State and Union Territories that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), the implementing agency for NAFCC, has so far actualised only 30 projects in areas such as livestock production systems, conservation in river basins, sustainable agriculture in drought-prone areas, rehabilitation of coastal habitats, and biodiversity conservation.
Of great concern is that the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act, which addresses all the adaptation priorities to a large extent, has been facing steady budget cuts over the last few years. Sixty-five percent of the allocated MGNREGA budget goes into natural resources management, water management, drought proofing, and building community resilience through inclusion, and livelihood security of the poor and marginalised. Despite this, the government reduced allocation to the MGNREGA programme to Rs 73,000 crore for FY23 – a sharp cut of 34 percent from the revised estimate of Rs 98,000 crore in the preceding year.
Last month, Government of India finally released the framework for Sovereign Green bonds, announced in the last union budget, to borrow money from investors to spend on climate or eco-system related activities, but again the framework prioritises renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation over adaptation and resilience building activities.
Why Funds Are Needed
For a country that experienced almost one extreme weather event per day, to be specific 88 percent of the time in the first nine months of 2022, adaptation and resilience building should and must be a priority. According to the Centre for Science and Environment, between January 1 and September 30, out of 273 days, 241 days were marked by thunderstorms, torrential rains, landslides, floods, cold waves, heat waves to cyclones, droughts, dust storms, hail or snowstorms in some part of India or other.
Another analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water found that the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events has increased by almost 200 percent since 2005 and three out of four districts of India are extreme event hotspots, of which 40 percent of districts are exhibiting a swapping trend i.e. traditionally flood prone areas are witnessing more frequent and intense droughts and vice versa.
According to a study by the World Meteorological Organisation in 2020, India is estimated to have suffered an average annual loss of $ 87 billion (more than Rs 6 lakh crore) from climate-induced extreme weather events. For the more than 800 million Indians who live in rural areas and depend on climate-sensitive sectors for their livelihoods – agriculture, forests and fisheries – the future looks alarming with the prospect of declining crop yields, degraded lands, water shortages and ill health.
Synergise MGNREGA, Adaptation Works
Admittedly, India’s adaptation finance needs are substantially challenging to quantify. In 2015, India had put forward a preliminary estimate of around $206 billion (at 2014-15 prices) between 2015 and 2030 for implementing adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems. A more recent analysis by a sub-committee of India’s Ministry of Finance has estimated that the cumulative total expenditure for adapting to climate change in India would amount to Rs 85.6 lakh crore (at 2011-12 prices) by the year 2030 (DEA, 2020).
India needs more granular risk analysis that can help target appropriate adaptation action locally, while making new infrastructure climate resilient, strengthening early warning systems, making water resource management resilient and improving dry land agriculture crop production.
Development that is not climate resilient is not sustainable, which is why it is important to mainstream adaptation into development planning and budgeting at all levels and sectors. Linking adaptation and mitigation actions from the outset in planning, finance, and implementation can enhance co-benefits.
Adaptation must take centre stage alongside mitigation in India’s response to climate change and the Union Budget 2023-2024 can ensure that by leveraging MGNREGA to help build a country where rural citizens are empowered with adequate work, dignified wages, and resources that can be deployed for climate change adaptation and resilience building activities.
Shailendra Yashwant is a senior advisor to Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA). Twitter: @shaibaba. Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.