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We need a Reinvigorated Strategy for Climate Diplomacy

The future of climate diplomacy depends on the creation of extensive knowledge-action networks that promote collaborative, transdisciplinary, innovation and solutions-oriented research and help implement long-term strategies geared towards sustainability. Dhanasree Jayaram argues that the achievement of India’s ambitions climate goals is contingent on this strategy as well, and that it must set a clear agenda for COP23.

The Bonn 2017 UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) is being touted as “an excellent example of the cooperation and collaboration between nations that will truly meet the global climate change challenge”. Being presided over by Fiji (with the support of Germany), this meeting is crucial in all respects, particularly in terms of tackling climate change and sustainable development along the same continuum through long-term strategies like sustainable innovation.

The implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as other climate actions requires not only a grand strategy but also perhaps a fresh impetus in how climate diplomacy in multilateral forums is carried out. India, which is about to unveil the climate change blueprint to achieve the goals set in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), must set a clear agenda for COP23 (at Bonn) to be able to prioritise its challenges and work towards forging knowledge-action networks aimed at the NDCs and the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

Now that India has taken the initial steps in building multilateral collaborative frameworks, with the International Solar Alliance as a case in point, there are other key areas that require similar ventures. The government has gradually expanded the scope of the NAPCC by adding new missions to it such as the “Mission on Human Health” and “Mission for Coastal Areas”.

As challenges grow, India needs innovative partnerships and knowledge-action networks

India’s challenges have indeed become manifold. In 2017, the country faced one of the worst floods in recent years, which killed more than 1,000 people all over the country. A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study reveals that India’s per capita output could fall by 1.33 percentage points due to a one degree rise in temperature. This means that the concerned authorities need to gear up for demand-driven, innovation-oriented national and international collaborations and partnerships without which the country’s ambitious climate and development goals would be difficult to achieve.

In this context, India should explore the option of creating multi-faceted knowledge-action networks (inspired by the Future Earth research platform) that ensure collaboration and cooperation among various actors. This does not need to be entirely government-driven. In a country like India, it is important that such processes include stakeholders from all sectors – ministries, local governments, other government agencies, research/academic institutes (both social and natural sciences), non-governmental organisations, corporations, business enterprises, civil society and so on.

Another serious lacuna that needs to be addressed at length is the fact that India’s National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC) – the primary mission on knowledge creation on climate change – largely concentrates on science and technology, and tends to overlook the need for understanding local climate vulnerabilities, demand for adaptation and resilience, as well as the socio-economic effects of climate change. More importantly, it does not have an interdisciplinary approach towards building strategic knowledge, which is flawed and could prove to be disastrous in the long term. Not all challenges can be resolved by the Department of Science and Technology.

The future of earth and climate diplomacy is dependent on solutions-oriented and collaborative research

India is already moving in this direction by engaging in ‘practical’ and ‘result-oriented’ climate diplomacy initiatives with other countries. For instance, at the recent 14th India-European Union (EU) Summit, the two parties not only adopted a Joint Statement on Clean Energy and Climate Change but also “agreed to work towards reciprocal opening of the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation ‘Horizon 2020’ and Indian programmes, and called for an intensified two-way mobility of researchers.” This is a welcome step as Horizon 2020, although focused more on science and technology, also emphasises the need for building “effective cooperation between science and society”. India should therefore focus on multi-institutional, transdisciplinary and joint capacity-building programmes that do not isolate any key stakeholders when implementing these international partnerships.

The gap between science and policy needs to be bridged nationally, regionally and internationally. It also needs to be ensured that climate diplomacy is tied to other agendas such as that of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), biological diversity, food security, water security, land development and so on. Otherwise, policies targeted at one sector could have negative repercussions on others, as explained succinctly in adelphi’s infographic on linkages between climate change and sustainable development. Since countries are allowed to determine their goals, as well as the means to achieve them, for themselves, a country like India needs to use its ‘imagination’ to secure these goals in the most sustainable manner by not dealing with climate change or specific aspect of it in silos. COP-23 and other such forums provide India the best opportunity to rise above inter-state political wrangling over the Paris Agreement and explore solutions-oriented partnerships. 

Dhanasree Jayaram is Project Associate at the Manipal Advanced Research Group (MARG), Manipal University, India.

The views expressed in this article are personal. The author acknowledges the support of Future Earth and Earth System Governancein providing research inputs for this article.