By Snigdha Dev Roy
Indian cities are urbanizing very quickly, where the interests and needs are mainly driven by insufficient basic services and infrastructure that bear a high risk for the health of the population. They are continuously looking for solutions and support, bringing in policies and initiatives to deal with these challenges. However, climate change is yet to become a key topic in city administrations. Majority of the dialogue regarding climate change in India has usually taken place at the national and international levels. Considering that these cities are the most vulnerable to climate change, it is imperative that it aligns its policies towards adopting climate resilient strategies. It’s about time climate budgeting is mainstreamed at a local level.
Severe consequences as well as possible future risks to the urban environment arising from climate change such as increasing heat stress, water shortages, inundations and environmental health risks are usually overlooked. As a result, majority of the city budgets do not allocate finances for climate change adaption or mitigation, largely focusing on just urban development, without addressing future climate risks. To keep global warming below the safe threshold of 1.5°C for a climate neutral world as laid out in the Paris Agreement 2015, strong and fast carbon emission reduction measures are required. Global agreements and national regulations and incentives might be needed to encourage abatement, but it actually occurs at the local level when people and their organizations modify their behavior, change their activities, and employ different technologies.
In this regard, the only way India could achieve its objective to be a carbon-neutral country is through active and effective CO2 reduction work at a city level. The largest impact will be made by the metropolitan cities with relatively larger populations and extensive economic activities. Therefore, a portion of the municipal budget must be allocated for climate related activities that are over and above the routine infrastructure development activities carried out by the local governments. We need to reform how city budgets are presented to account for climate impacts and the expenditures associated with achieving city and national climate goals.
BENEFITS OF CLIMATE BUDGETING AT A CITY LEVEL
It will prioritize the climate objectives and conduct as well as mobilize different functions using budget funds for reduced CO2 emissions in a city.
The city climate budgeting approach would make the local governments accountable for greenhouse gas emissions that are directly or indirectly under their control, through city operations, land use and other locally held powers and help quantify the amount of maximum allowable emissions per year by deciding and allocating costs between measures for CO2 reduction.
It would empower them to take responsibility for their future emission patterns and think about the climate impacts of each developmental activity, while ensuring that reductions are made in a manner most appropriate to local circumstances. It will also act as a critical mechanism to harmonize local-level policies affecting transportation and buildings energy use with larger-scale greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
City managers will be able to track and monitor progress towards the established CO2 targets and respond quickly to emerging challenges if information on the city’s strategic climate goals and measures are included in the annual budgets and reports of the cities.
Climate budgeting will make it possible to communicate the actual performance improvements and development needs more effectively to citizens as well as add transparency and improve communication and dialogue on climate issues among them.
Such climate budgeting approach will facilitate partnerships and collaborations between actors from various city departments, that is critical for meeting carbon emissions reduction goals, as a result it will also attract international climate funds by showcasing proactive approach and local action of the local governments.
Even though, climate budgeting does not ensure that the city will definitely meet its emission reduction goals and reduce climate risks, but it does increase the likelihood of doing so.
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