Cities inhabit 3% of the planet’s land but account for 60-80% of all energy consumption, and 75% of the planet’s carbon emission. Urban growth scenarios show no different trends for India, with a population of 1.3 billion at present. India is projected to add 416 million urban dwellers by 2050 and by 2030, India is expected to be home to seven megacities with a population of more than 10 million. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has initiated several missions to manage this unprecedented growth and improve the quality of life for urban citizens. These missions are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to make cities future-ready and provide opportunities for all, with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more.
Swift and sprawling development is exerting pressure on the urban environment, services, infrastructure provisions, and public health. This rapid urbanisation may have several objectives to meet but one limiting factor which cannot be ignored is climate change. Today, climate change has the potential to adversely affect development and developing countries despite having an insignificant contribution to the same.
Presently, India accounts for about 6.5% of the Global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and hence plays a crucial role in combating climate change. India is second to Puerto Rico in terms of extreme weather deaths (2736 deaths), severe economic losses (USD 13.8 billion), and is also ranked 6th among the 10 most affected countries in the world as per the Global Climate Risk Index, 2016. The changing climate makes our cities vulnerable and imposes huge risks towards increased water stress, heat island effect, increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as urban floods/ droughts. Further, air quality deterioration poses serious challenges for city administrators as a total of 102 cities in India, of which 43 are Smart Cities, are already facing poor air quality. For catering to these challenges, the Government of India has committed towards Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, India ratified the Paris Agreement and committed under its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), among others, to reduce the emission intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). India promised to reduce it by 33-35% from 2005 level by 2030, and improve upon various parameters, like increase the share of non-fossil fuels-based electricity and enhancing the forest cover. India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement is balanced and comprehensive. The NDC revolves around India’s policies and programmes to promote clean and renewable energy, development of less carbon-intensive and resilient urban centres etc.
To enable this, the Government of India launched eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008. The National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (NMSH) is one of the eight climate missions that is spearheaded by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. NMSH envisaged cities to work on their readiness to tackle climate risks and pursue development in a clean, green, inclusive, equitable and sustainable way to address the impending challenge. Though, India’s emissions are only 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per capita which is much lower than the world average of 4.2 tonnes, these emissions have been growing steadily, with an average growth rate over the past decade of 6% where urban sectors have been contributing significantly. It is reported that nearly 44% of India’s rapidly growing carbon emissions have urban origins, emanating from transport, industry, buildings, and waste.
To achieve these targets set under the Paris Agreement, cities need to take steps in consonance with the NDCs and focus towards one single aim of combating impacts of climate change. To advance the actions of the said mission, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the “ClimateSmart Cities Assessment Framework” in February 2019 for 100 Smart Cities. This assessment framework is aimed to be a guiding framework for cities towards climate actions and to help make them more responsive and less vulnerable to climate change.
Cities are responsible for the climate-sensitive development of their urban areas. While they are a significant contributor to climate change, they are also particularly vulnerable to its consequences. To facilitate cities in understanding these challenges and where they may improve, “ClimateSmart Cities Assessment Framework” with 28 diverse indicators across five categories have been framed.
The “Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework” is a step to adopt, implement, and disseminate the best practices adopted by our cities and further set standards in comparison to the international efforts towards the green, sustainable, and resilient urban habitats.
The other Government of India programmes like Green India Mission, National Clean Air Programme, and other infrastructure development schemes like AMRUT, Swachh Bharat Mission, and Urban Transport can support the cities in achieving the objective of being “Climate Smart”.
In the first phase, the assessment established baseline for 96 cities that participated. The process was spread across a period of six months and involved more than 27 Government departments/organisations from three tier governance structure- National, State and City along with other stakeholders in providing inputs for more than 120 data sets. To facilitate cities to participate in the assessment, 8 cluster and 4 regional workshops were conducted in the months from April to July 2019 in which more than 300 State & City officials participated. Cities submitted data on the portal and these submissions were evaluated by an Expert Committee. With an intent to inform cities on their climate readiness, the first baseline assessment for each city was announced.
With the help of knowledge sharing platforms, it was observed that cities were learning from each other’s experiences and were motivated to work towards combating climate change impacts collectively. The success stories, best practices, advisories and other reference material from the first assessment are made available on SmartNet to help other cities in their endeavour.
The next phase of “ClimateSmart Cities Assessment Framework” aims to capture the progress made by cities since the previous year. Moving forward, the learnings and experience from phase-I, and the feedback received from cities have helped in improving the indicators, assessment methodology, scoring criteria and respective evidences that are to be captured to conduct a wholistic assessment.