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Global Warming and Local Challenges: India and Sustainable Development Goal 13

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Pooja Paswan
June 20, 2022

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin

The blistering heat wave in northwest India was made over 100 times more likely because of human-caused climate change, according to a new study published by the United Kingdom’s national weather service.

The extreme temperatures, which began in March, have already set records in the region and have forced millions of people to change how they work and live. India experienced its highest March temperatures and third-highest April temperatures in 122 years of records. “The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years,” the report says.

Climate scientists say that can mean extreme weather events, influenced by such disturbed climate systems like oceans and atmosphere, will keep getting worse and so will their impact.

Extreme Weather Displacement

Over the past 10 decades, 20 million people every year have been forced from their homes by weather-related disasters, according to the international charity, Oxfam. It says the number of such disasters has tripled in the past 30 years. 

The UN estimated that 1.23 million have died and 4.2 billon have been affected by droughts, floods and wildfires since 2000. 

India’s own first-ever climate change assessment report published by the government last year found that both the frequency and intensity of droughts had increased significantly between 1951 and 2016. It warned that heat waves would intensify four-fold by the end of the century. India is one of the 17 countries where water stress is extremely high, according to a 2019 global report by the World Resources Institute. It shows that the country is running out of ground and surface water and is listed alongside countries in the Middle East and North Africa where large swathes are deserts.

A single event, Cyclone Amphan, affected 13 million people, causing $13 billion in damage, according to the Overseas Development Institute. 

India at the COP 26, Paris Summit

India took bold pledges in 2021 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserting at the crucial international climate summit COP 26 that it is the only country delivering in “letter and spirit” the commitments under the Paris Agreement. From pledging to become a net zero emitter of carbon by 2070 to achieving a 500 gigawatt non-fossil energy capacity by 2030, India led from the front on environmental issues across the world. 

India and SDG Goal 13

India is the third highest emitter of carbon-dioxide and is responsible for 6.9 percent of global emissions. However, the emissions intensity of India’s GDP reduced by 12 percent between 2005 and 2010. In October 2015, India made a commitment to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25 percent from its 2005 levels by 2020 and by 33-35 percent by 2030. On October 2nd, 2016 India formally ratified the historic Paris Agreement. India has committed to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25 percent by 2020. The Government of India has also adopted a National Action Plan on Climate Change to address this issue directly, as well as a National Mission for Green India. These national schemes are complemented by a host of specific programmes on solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, sustainable habitats, water, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem and to encourage strategic knowledge for climate change.


  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.
  • Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
  • Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilising jointly USD 100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalise the Green Climate Fund through its capitalisation as soon as possible.
  • Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing states, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalised communities.
  • Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

What Needs To Be Done?

Better urban planning, planting trees, green spaces, improved water infrastructure, pollution controls and more robust weather forecasting could all help ensure that fewer people suffer as temperatures rise. Switching to cleaner energy sources would also help mitigate the problem over the long term. But leaders in South Asia are more focused on recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, and some are facing political turmoil. Pakistan ousted its prime minister, and Sri Lanka’s prime minister resigned. Mitigating and adapting to rising temperatures across South Asia demands international action too. India is now the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, but the bulk of historical emissions came from wealthier countries like the United States and those in Europe. So the countries that contributed most to climate change have an obligation to help those facing the consequences.

Author: Pooja Paswan is currently enrolled at the John.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India. She has Ph. D in Public Administration and specializes in Public Policy. She was recipient of the ASPA 2019 Founders Fellow. She is currently the Book Review Editor at the International Journal of Public Administration IJPA and has worked extensively in the area of development administration and public policy. She can be reached at https://jmi.academia.edu/PoojaPaswan and [email protected]. Twitter @poojapaswan

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