Key to Climate Fight: Involve Sub-National Governments in Each Step of Policy Development

The Daring Cities webinar on the ‘Role of Sub-national Governments in Advancing National Climate Goals and Beyond’ was organised by the ICLEI offices in South Asia, South-East Asia and other offices in the Asia-Pacific and with support from the Global LEDS Partnership. Watch here.

Representatives from several national and sub-national governments participated in the event. In her keynote speech, Ms. Anand Sog, Climate Change Policy Specialist, Climate Change Department, Ministry of Environment And Tourism, Mongolia, said, “The time we are living in is a historic moment and we are responsible for making it count. The Paris climate agreement gives us a chance to set right our erring actions…We have to give more attention to the actual implementation, especially at the sub-national levels.” She said that finding the right balance between top-to-bottom policy development and bottom-to-top implementation was the key. “In the top-to-bottom approach, we need legislation and policy development; tracking, monitoring and evaluation of implementation; information and knowledge-sharing platforms and networks for innovative ideas such as the Asia LEDS Partnership’s (ALP) Communities of Practice (CoP); and research and development,” Ms. Sog said.

Ms. Caroline Uriarte, technical director, LEDS GP, and Ms. Soumya Chaturvedula, deputy director, ICLEI South Asia, provided brief overviews of the LEDS GP and the ALP, respectively, highlighting their roles and objectives, and the ALP’s CoPs.

The other distinguished speakers representing various national and local governments were Mr. Sonam Yarphel, Deputy Chief Planning Officer, Development Cooperation Division, Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), Bhutan; Ms. Hemanthi Goonasekara, CEO, Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities; Mr. Kamal Kishor Yadav, Commissioner, Chandigarh Municipal Corporation (CMC) and Mr. Kedo Zangpo, Director, Department Of Local Governance, Ministry Of Home and Cultural Affairs, Bhutan.

Mr. Yarphel spoke about the GNHC, saying that its main objective was to integrate all GNH indicators into national and local plans. For Bhutan’s 12th five-year-plan, the GNHC’s objective is to build a just, harmonious, and sustainable society to enhance decentralisation. He mentioned the equal division of capital grants allocation between and central and local governments as an instance of the move towards decentralisation. Bhutan has also identified 10 local government key result areas (KRA), aligned to the SDGs, in the 12th FYP, of which two are on climate actions. Based on these KRAs, agreements are made on deliverables, climate indicators are monitored and mid-term reviews are conducted.

Ms. Goonasekara listed the climate change challenges in Sri Lanka, such as an increase in ambient air temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, and rising frequency and severity of extreme weather events. The country’s national action plan (2016-20) identified sectors such as food security, water, health and biodiversity as being vulnerable to climate change. However, she said, one challenge was that sub-national governments don’t have their own policies on actions to be taken. Even in the health sector, which is the primary responsibility of local governments, their mandate is not taken seriously.

Mr. Yadav elaborated on the measures being taken by the CMC with regard to four key areas of sustainable development. These are maintenance of green cover in Chandigarh, including in 1800 gardens and parks and two forest areas; conservation of water bodies, including three seasonal rivers and a lake; development of the use of solar energy; and ensuring energy-efficiency with the use of LED streetlights and better utilisation of non-motorised transport; in addition to using IT at an integrated command control centre to monitor all these activities.

Bhutan’s Performance-based Climate Change Adaptation Grant (PBCCAG) scheme was the focus of Mr. Zangpo’s presentation. The scheme is being executed by the national government but uses local government planning, budgeting, and funds channels to enhance local resilience and adaptation to climate change. Through this financial instrument, local governments are being able to restore drinking water supply, renovate irrigation systems that had been washed away, construct causeways and bridges, among other efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change such as floods and landslides. A major impact of this grant, he said, was greater awareness among the people about climate change and its reality.

The panelists replied to some audience questions in a discussion moderated by Ms. Uriarte. Responding to a question on the critical steps needed for better vertical integration on climate action, Ms. Goonasekara said that sub-national governments should be encouraged to make their own policies; receive adequate technical support to upgrade their standards and regulations; and have better communication with the national governments to provide an enabling environment. Asked how mechanisms for the environment could be brought under gram panchayats in India, Mr. Yadav said that these units know best what their communities need, and if they were given enough resources to plan their future, it would empower the society and develop local governance. Ms. Sog said that aligning policies at all government levels with climate change was important, along with providing the mandate, including the involvement of local governments in each step of policy development.

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