Lalit Chennamaneni, What does the election results means for India’s climate policy?

Lalit Chennamaneni, What does the election results means for India’s climate policy?

From April to June, India held general elections. We asked our expert Lalit Chennamaneni from Germanwatch, which importance the election results have for climate policy in the country.

What is your general perception of the election results?

The result was both, widely expected and a surprise. As expected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA coalition were elected for a third consecutive term, a historical result. However, the coalition performed unexpectedly weak, missing their own target and loosing key constituencies. Conversely, the opposition beat projections despite a largely government-friendly media and disruptions to their financing and campaigning. At least for now, the government’s mix of Hindu nationalism, economic liberalisation and welfarism has seemingly run out of momentum. If the opposition can advance a more deliberative style of politics is an open question.

What is the significance of the election result in terms of climate policy? What are expectations on the new government?

Major changes to India’s climate and energy policy are unlikely. In India, climate action has been primarily growth-led to cater to the growing energy demand of both, industries and population, rather than focused on decarbonisation or equality. This paradigm could intensify with the government pushing even more for “ease of doing business” – creating an enabling environment for investments. This support for e.g. renewables and manufacturing must benefit local populations, include tribal and rural communities and protect the environment. What is actually needed is an enabling environment for a just transition across sectors.

India ranked 7th in the CCPI 2024. What short-term measures should the government implement to keep or further improve the country’s ranking? What are three key demands?

Prime Minister Modi suggested India as host for COP33 in 2028. This is a great opportunity to sharpen the existing development course through different measures. First, it is important to decentralise and democratize energy infrastructure and increase renewables uptake through cooperative project models and meaningful stakeholder participation. Second, strengthen social and environmental standards for all energy projects and the capacity and independence of institutions to enforce them effectively. Equity will not trickle down but requires political will. Third, the government needs to show stronger ambition in its NDC, in particular in its engagement on reducing dependency on coal to achieve its own targets of self-reliance and energy security. The NDC should also be strengthened by targets and roadmaps for sectors beyond electricity, such as transport, industry, housing, waste, etc.

What are the biggest climate policy challenges for India until 2030?

India has historically high levels of wealth (and carbon) inequality that need to be addressed urgently. The richest 1% owns 40% of the countries wealth while emitting far more than the vast majority of Indians. Billions could be raised by adequately taxing rich individuals and businesses to raise direly needed revenue for public goods and services, including climate action. In particular, adaptation and resilience measures require more public funding, as recent heatwaves and floods have gruesomely shown once more. Decisive domestic action can also send important signals to the international community to advance cooperation efforts.

Which developments in your India makes you hopeful?

People are very conscious of the symptoms of the climate crisis, from erratic monsoon patterns, heat waves to floods. Parties are also starting to address these issues more. Political indifference will not be a winning strategy in the future. A key role here is played by environmental and social movements across India raising awareness, organizing interests and fighting for climate justice, despite difficult conditions. Civil society has proven resilient and will continue to pressure and inform political decision-makers for ambitious climate action in the interest of the people.