Nature and Biodiversity

India is making strides on climate policy that others could follow 

India is among the world's leaders when it comes to drafting effective climate policy.

India is among the world's leaders when it comes to drafting effective climate policy. Image: REUTERS/Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nita Bhalla (INDIA - Tags: BUSINESS FOOD AGRICULTURE EMPLOYMENT)

Thomas Kerr
Lead Climate Specialist, South Asia Region, World Bank
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Climate and Nature

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
  • While climate news can sometimes feel defeating, there are also positive developments taking place.
  • In fact, over the past 30 years, countries around the world have introduced around 3,500 climate policies.
  • India's climate policies are an example of how impactful well-crafted policies can be.

As we unpack the result of COP28 in Dubai – in which a historic agreement on fossil fuel transition was penned – the question now is how to translate this language into action on the ground. Against a backdrop of dramatically increasing climate impact on all aspects of human activity, particularly in the developing world, the stakes are high.

But there is good news. Over the past three decades in the climate space, governments in all regions, and at all income levels, have introduced an ambitious array of climate policies covering a multitude of sectors. In fact, over the past three decades alone, over 3,500 climate policies have been announced.

These are real-world policies in countries with vastly different income levels and political landscapes. It is no surprise that richer countries with higher institutional capacity and more money have moved sooner on climate policy. But a surprising number of policies are being announced in emerging economies.

Have you read?

From 2010 – 2015, China overtook the US in announcing more climate policies than any other country. That same year, India took the global lead in policy announcements, releasing nearly 50 climate policies in the course of the following seven years.

This wealth of policy expertise is critical for other governments who are trying to scale up climate ambition and who need lessons and pointers for how to successfully implement policies in different contexts.

Following India's lead on climate policy

That’s why, in September, the World Bank published a new report on effective climate policies over the past three decades that can make a real difference. The report — ‘Reality Check: Lessons from 25 Case Studies Advancing a Low-Carbon Future’ — presents a dynamic snapshot of global climate trends and fills a critical gap in policy research by documenting successful implementation of climate policies. It examines how countries actually design and implement climate policies, and the hard compromises that doing so can require.

Take, for example, the rapid expansion of solar power in India, currently the world’s fifth largest solar market and on track to have solar contributing 30% of power generation by 2040. Before India could tame the power of the sun, it had to overcome decades of institutional capacity constraints and manage trade-offs with other policy objectives. That meant setting a bold target via the national solar mission, supported with federal, state and local policies and regulations to ramp up solar capacity targets.

Early on, India incorporated the private sector in its solar ambitions, with a staggering $130 billion invested since 2004. It has become a domestic manufacturing hub for solar panels, leading to the creation of new green jobs. Its clever choice of carrots and sticks — including state-level renewable energy purchase obligations, incentives, innovative financing and more — provides a roadmap for other emerging market countries determined to grow while making the leap to clean energy.

India has also taken other innovative climate policies for a spin, including the country’s rapid growth in the e-bus market thanks to a subsidy scheme to encourage the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles. In just under two years, the government has facilitated the procurement of close to 3,500 buses across nine big cities. Success has now spurred other major cities — including Mumbai — to follow with another 2,100 buses to be tendered.

Renewable energy investment in India, 2004-2022.
Renewable energy investment in India, 2004-2022. Image: BloombergNEF 2022

The virtuous cycle of climate

For India, situated on the frontlines of climate change, such policies are not just about reducing greenhouse gases — they’re also about providing a better quality of life for people. Low-carbon policies like accessible renewable energy and electric public transport deliver many benefits above and beyond reducing greenhouse gases, including reduced air pollution, improved health, cost savings, resource efficiency and enhanced resilience. We see time and again that smart climate policy implementation is also good for development.

As India stands on the precipice of massive economic growth, meeting its ambitious climate goals will require the faster adoption of green technologies, such as low-cost green hydrogen. In perhaps the boldest climate policy strategy yet, India recently launched the Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) initiative to encourage individuals to adopt sustainable lifestyles across India and to help tackle the challenges of climate change.

As the Reality Check report shows, changing behaviors cannot come soon enough. We need to share the case studies in this report far and wide to inspire countries to learn from others, and to inform current and future climate policy. These examples are also not the final word. Just like our evolving climate, governments must advance and adapt in light of new approaches, technologies and many compromises.

Governments have already made tangible progress. Let’s now help others implement transformative climate policies and close the gap between ambition and reality.

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