India is building its climate resilience; Europe should support –

Resilience is not the absence of shocks; the true measure of resilience is how quickly a society, economy or regime can rebound. The world’s major economies continue to be rocked by a lingering pandemic, raging conflict, rising energy costs and a looming recession.

Doctor Arunabha Gosh is CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), one of the world’s leading climate think tanks, and a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Emissions Commitments net zero of non-state entities. Nandini Harihar is a research analyst at CEEW.

Although the International Monetary Fund has described India’s economy as a “shining light”. But to become a $10 trillion economy by 2030, India needs to insulate against regional and global shocks. Into this milieu come the ongoing challenges posed by climate change. As we approach another round of climate negotiations (COP27 in Egypt), India and the European Union will continue to negotiate long-standing issues of finance and technology. But there is also an opportunity for both parties to find common ground and define a common goal when it comes to climate resilience.

It is evident that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate with consequences for all regions. Globally, August 2022 was Earth’s sixth hottest month in 143 years. For Europe and North America, this is the hottest August on record; fourth hottest for Asia.

India has already seen extremes this year, including the hottest summer since 1901 and the hottest March on record. India’s meteorological department has issued heatwave warnings for at least five states. World Weather Attribution estimates that the likelihood of such an event in 2022 has been increased by around thirty times due to climate change. After long periods of drought, India also experienced one of the wettest Octobers.

Meanwhile, the average temperature on land across Europe has risen by 1.94°C to 2.01°C compared to pre-industrial times, according to the European Environment Agency. In 2022, almost every country and over 60% of the European continent was affected by varying degrees of drought, when such conditions were not expected until 2050. Studies estimate that the UK is now 10 times more likely to reach 40°C than in the pre-industrial era. Temperatures also exceeded 40°C in France, 45°C in Spain and 46°C in Portugal, with Belgium experiencing its hottest August since measurements began in 1833. More than 660,000 hectares of forest have burned since January.

The climate crisis is not just about heat waves, droughts and heavy rains. These are the direct impacts. The broader challenges emerge on four fronts, namely human security, food security, infrastructure impacts and macroeconomic pressures. It is also important to recognize the efforts made to build resilience.

First, extreme weather conditions continue to have fatal consequences, affecting lives and livelihoods. But India has successfully used early warning systems to save lives. While the 1999 Odisha Super Cyclone claimed around 10,000 lives, the 2020 Super Cyclone Amphan (of similar intensity) claimed less than 100 lives in India. This year more than 1.3 million people have been evacuated from Assam, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh due to a monsoon season sporadic and intense. This is a huge administrative effort, but it is certainly not without cost.

Drought conditions in Punjab, UP, Bihar and Jharkhand have severely affected croplands and killed livestock. In addition, extreme heat conditions this summer destroyed 10-15% of wheat crops in northern India. Although India is a food surplus and food exporter, agricultural shocks increase food price inflation, hitting the poor hardest and creating policy dilemmas regarding continued exports. In France, the corn harvest decreased by almost 18.5% compared to 2021 and the wheat yield was also significantly lower, due to the driest July. France is currently Europe’s third-largest wheat exporter after Russia and Ukraine, so production cuts threaten food security elsewhere.

Governments can no longer pretend that extreme events are unpredictable and must adopt national and subnational climate action plans. Nineteen Indian states have developed national heat action plans, and more are underway. Maharashtra plans to change market hours, provide public shelters, spray mist in public places and keep ice packs in public health centres. The City of Ahmedabad’s Heat Action Plan includes best practices for heat alert and adaptation systems. Karnataka’s state plan includes warnings about when to halt all outdoor work. In July 2022, Tamil Nadu launched district-level climate change missions in its 38 districts.

Over the past three years, India has suffered damage worth $7.2 billion, equivalent to almost a third of the infrastructure budget for roads and highways, due to extreme weather events such as floods. The actual cost will likely be higher since this figure reflects data from only 70% of states. India aims to invest $1.5 trillion in infrastructure (at par with China and Japan) in this decade. It is working on plans to develop cyclone-resistant power distribution and transmission infrastructure in its cyclone-hit eastern and western states to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply and support services. emergency. Highly climate-affected states such as Odisha have already taken steps to minimize damage to the low-voltage grid through preventive maintenance and precautionary measures.

Repeated and increasing climatic shocks also increase the fiscal burden. Odisha on the coast, for example, allocated $131 million to its environment and climate department this fiscal year, but had to set aside a larger amount ($505 million) for disaster management. disasters and flood control. Such distortion of the fiscal burden diverts resources from other investments in sustainable infrastructure. According to one estimate, even before the Paris Agreement, India’s central and state governments were already spending around $92 billion on various programs related to climate adaptation. As climate risks increase, governments will need to find resources to deal with immediate shocks and invest in long-term resilience.

With both India and the EU battling historic weather extremes this year, here are four ways to build climate resilience together.

First, cooperate on people-centred early warning systems. Hyperlocal risk assessments would help local governments understand the exposure of specific geographic areas to climate extremes and also predict hazards. Early warning systems, based on credible sources of public communication, would then be needed to empower people to respond to disasters, including forming first responder groups. Early warning is also a tool to improve administrative preparedness and could help mitigate infrastructure and economic losses.

Second, regulators in Europe and India can work together to build a robust climate risk disclosure system for companies and financial institutions. Several major economies are making regulatory changes to companies announcing net zero. Disclosure requirements in the EU, India (but also China, Japan, UK and proposed in the US) could benefit from less fragmentation and greater consistency. A dialogue is needed between the major economies on the issue of net zero regulation, but also with a view to having standardized metrics to assess exposure to climate risks.

Third, the EU should actively engage as a member of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, which India has been promoting. CDRI’s scope includes risk and resilience assessments, technical standards for resilient infrastructure, and a sectoral focus on energy, airports, and telecommunications. For every dollar invested in climate-resilient infrastructure, six dollars can be saved. The International Labor Organization also estimates that every million dollars invested in climate- and disaster-resilient infrastructure can create more than 650 jobs. Resilient infrastructure can reduce the extent of loss and damage, improve adaptive capacity, and facilitate faster economic recovery.

Fourth, to manage macroeconomic shocks induced by climate change, the EU and India, along with other major economies, should promote a global resilience reserve fund. Capitalized through special drawing rights, such a fund could serve as a cushion against the shocks that extreme weather events impose on vulnerable economies. India’s G20 Presidency provides an opportunity to start working on creating such a buffer for macroeconomic stability.

Climate change is the second biggest challenge facing humanity. The biggest challenge is a lack of empathy, a lack of understanding of the conditions of other humans in another geography. 2022 has reminded us of the common dangers we face, but has shown how even the most vulnerable are fighting back. Once it engenders a sense of empathy, Europe can find common cause with India’s responses. Together, the two economic powerhouses can pave the way for collective resilience that others can follow.

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