- In the latest Union Budget, climate change mitigation has received a clear mention — especially with the focus on green growth initiatives targeted at reducing the carbon intensity of the economy such as green mobility, energy efficiency and the green hydrogen mission announcement.
- But climate change adaptation has been addressed only indirectly.
- Certain budgetary allocations towards nature-based solutions such as the mangrove plantation initiative (MISHT) and the community-based wetland conservation scheme (Amrit Dharohar scheme) promise to have potentially positive impacts in mitigating climate change and climate adaptation.
- The initiative to make India a global hub for millets is also likely to help reap adaptation benefits. Millets are more climate resilient and require less water compared to rice and wheat.
- However, crucial concerns like accounting for climate change-induced risks — Joshimath being the most recent example — do not find explicit mention in the budget.
- Measures towards enhancing the resilience of communities and habitations to climate change’s impact — crucial given India’s high vulnerability to climate change — do not find an explicit mention either.
- This is concerning given the increasing frequency at which climate-related stress is occurring and is expected to occur.
Adaptation vs. Mitigation
- Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise.
- Examples of adaptation measures include large-scale infrastructure changes, such as building defenses to protect against sea-level rise, as well behavioral shifts, such as individuals reducing their food waste. In essence, adaptation can be understood as the process of adjusting to the current and future effects of climate change.
- Mitigation means making the impacts of climate change less severe by preventing or reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere.
- Mitigation is achieved either by reducing the sources of these gases — e.g. by increasing the share of renewable energies, or establishing a cleaner mobility system — or by enhancing the storage of these gases — e.g. by increasing the size of forests. In short, mitigation is a human intervention that reduces the sources of GHG emissions and/or enhances the sinks.
Less Attention on Adaptation
- Adaptation has traditionally received far less attention than mitigation in the global climate discourse. Consequently, funding for adaptation has been far less.
- In India, for example, as per one estimate by the Climate Policy Initiative, the ratio of funding for climate adaptation to mitigation stands at 1:7; Rs 35,000 crore and Rs 2,69,000 crore (2020).
- An important reason for this is that adaptation solutions often do not give an immediately palpable return on investment (ROI). Because of this, capital flowing into adaptation is scant.
- Given the uncertainties, complexities and risks, climate adaptation has largely remained a publicly-funded endeavour in India. Further, international funding has also remained scarce due to this skewed discourse on climate change.
Significance of Climate Adaptation
- Ultimately, climate adaptation must come to be seen as a strategic investment by the public sector, which it must make in order to climate-proof lives, livelihoods, the environment and the economy.
- Climate shocks are anticipated to get more frequent and severe, and in the absence of resilience-building for communities and habitations, the impact could be devastating.
- If there can be a strategic, proactive approach to building adaptive capacity, it could prevent undue distress, and help India achieve its development needs despite the challenges of a climate-changed world.
- Given this strategic imperative, the government should adopt “Mission Adaptation” to create a supportive ecosystem for all entities, including the private sector, non-profits and civil society, to come together and work towards developing and scaling up locally-sound adaptation solutions.