Aspirational Blocks Programme can bolster climate resilience, mitigation and adaptation
This article is authored by Mayank Gupta, consultant, climate and sustainability and Ananaya Ameya, senior associate consultant, PDAG, New Delhi.
As we get ready to embrace yet another smoggy winter with AQI already dipping to hazardous levels, 2023 has already witnessed various adverse climate events, from heat waves and wildfires to unprecedented monsoons and floods in the Himalayan states with large-scale loss and livelihoods, giving us a glimpse of the potential consequences that may unfold in the decades and centuries. Without expeditious and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, commencing without delay, it is increasingly probable that global surface temperatures will surpass the critical 1.5-degree Celsius threshold established in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The world will likely experience 2.7 degrees Celsius warming by 2100 based on current emissions and policies. According to a recent study by Rebecca Newman & Ilan Noy, the global incidence of severe weather events, including hurricanes, floods, and heatwaves, has incurred an approximate economic toll of $2.8 trillion during the previous two decades. The cumulative expense of these extreme weather-related damages from 2000 to 2019 translates to an hourly expenditure of roughly $16 million.
The effects of rising temperatures are far more devastating in India and can jeopardise economic and agricultural productivity. Without targeted adaptive action, by 2030, India may account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress-associated productivity decline. It could put up to 4.5% of GDP at risk. The agricultural productivity is projected to decrease by 41-52% in wheat yield and 32-40% in rice production.
Across the Global South, climate risks and impact-driven movement of people are adding to an already undergoing migration pathway to the key urban centres and metropolises. In 2022, natural disasters led to a staggering 32.6 million fresh cases of internal displacement, marking the highest number in the past decade. India ranks among the top 5 countries with 2.5 million new internal displacements alone (IDMC, 2023). Alarming projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that more than one billion people globally could be exposed to coastal-specific climate hazards by 2050, potentially driving tens to hundreds of millions of people to leave their homes in coming decades (IOM, 2022; IPCC, 2022). Although migration is sometimes viewed as an adaptive response for people facing slow-onset environmental changes or disasters, in a broader context, it is often regarded as an “adaptation failure.”
Environmental factors are intertwined with other social and economic factors, which ecological changes can influence. Given the significant implications of migration for India's sustainable economic and social development, climate-induced migration must be addressed as part of the development agenda.
There has always been an increasing emphasis on the pivotal role of subnational entities in the global multi-level climate governance framework, both within domestic boundaries and on the international stage. Given rural households' heightened susceptibility to climate change's impacts, local governing bodies, especially the three-tier panchayati raj institutions, hold strong potential to assume a central role in addressing many factors contributing to and arising from global warming.
Subnational stakeholders also play a crucial role in climate mitigation efforts due to their jurisdiction over climate-relevant domains, including land use, waste management, and transportation policies. They serve as testing grounds for innovative climate solutions and act as facilitators for collaborative initiatives with the private sector and international counterparts, thereby amplifying climate action. The ripple effects of their involvement extend to fostering innovation, setting environmental norms, and enhancing institutional capacity. Nevertheless, subnational actors often need more national support, inadequate funding, and constraints in mobilising financial and human resources. It is imperative to empower them with the capability to develop new institutional competencies to address these issues effectively.
The Prime Minister launched the Aspirational Blocks Programme (ABP) on September 2023, a nationwide programme focused on improving governance to enhance citizens' quality of life in 500 of the most challenging and underdeveloped blocks in India, across 27 States and 4 UTs, and the focus is on the following sectors-
• health and nutrition
• basic infrastructure, and
• social development.
Through the convergence of existing welfare schemes, it defines key performance outcomes and regular monitoring. It is built on the noteworthy success of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) across 112 under-developed districts of India. While primarily aimed at improving the quality of life in underdeveloped blocks, India's ABPs also holds a unique opportunity to advance climate resilience and align with the global agenda for SDG 13 - climate action through targeted evidence-informed locally adaptive intervention frameworks.
Focusing on climate-resilient agriculture practices, essential water and irrigation infrastructure, mainstreaming climate adaptation, promoting non-timber-based forest produce growth, sale and market linkage, and accelerating climate action can directly support people and communities in their quest for climate resilience in these blocks, many of them already being in high climate vulnerability zones. It can create a ripple effect by showcasing successful climate resilience strategies for replication by district and block administration in non-ABP/ADP districts and blocks. The knowledge and best practices developed through a climate-focused ABP programme can be shared with other countries and communities in the global south facing similar climate challenges, aligning with the objectives of SDG 13 and further contributing to global climate action as envisaged in the recently concluded G-20 summit in New Delhi.
This article is authored by Mayank Gupta, consultant, climate and sustainability and Ananaya Ameya, senior associate consultant, Policy Research and Communications, Policy and Development Advisory Group (PDAG), New Delhi.