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Indian Elections 2024: Climate Change Should Take the Spotlight

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Indian Elections 2024: Climate Change Should Take the Spotlight

India has established itself as a leader in the region's clean energy transition. Still, the country's political parties now have to prioritise tackling climate change and taming its worst impacts – a problem scientists expect will worsen.

09 April 2024 – by Viktor Tachev   Comments (0)

Indian elections 2024 will be held in India from April to June 2024. In recent years, as well as throughout the G20 presidency, India has demonstrated leadership in advancing the energy transition. However, focus on wider climate change issues has been mainly lacking. Now, political parties have the opportunity to make sure that the 2024 elections in India will put tackling climate change at the top of their agenda since its worst impacts, including droughts, heatwaves, and floods, have all proven to be pressing issues for the country. 

About the 2024 Elections in India

India, the world’s most populous country and largest democracy, kicked off its parliamentary election process in mid-March. About 969 million people will be able to cast their vote in the Lok Sabha Election 2024. The election process will take place over seven phases between April 19 and June 1. The results will come out on June 4.

India’s 2024 general elections will decide who will rule the Lok Sabha or the House of the People. This is India’s lower house of parliament. The winner will gain great legislative power, which it will use to introduce and handle policies, ranging from tax, borrowing, spending and other issues. The party or coalition that gains a majority will nominate a prime minister who will select ministers for the cabinet. 

While over 2,660 parties will participate in the elections, analysts expect the outcome to be decided between two main competitors.

Who Will Win 2024 Indian General Election?

The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is led by the sitting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It won comfortably at the previous elections, and analysts project the BJP to do so with a clear majority again. If these forecasts materialise, Modi will ensure a record third term in power. 

The Indian National Congress (INC), headed by Mallikarjun Kharge, is the BJP’s principal challenger. It is part of a coalition of dozens of opposition parties known as the “Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance” (INDIA).

What Makes Climate Change a Pressing Topic For Indian Parties in Lok Sabha Election 2024?

India’s 2024 elections come with a backdrop of unprecedented climate change impacts. Throughout 2023, the hottest year on record, the country broke many all-time temperature records. It suffered from various weather disasters on 86% of the days between January and September 2023, according to research by the Centre for Science and Environment. Among the weather events were heatwaves, storms, extreme rainfall, floods and more. The report’s authors estimate that, together, these events have caused almost 3,000 human and 92,000 animal deaths. Furthermore, they have destroyed close to 20,000 square km of crops and 80,000 homes. However, the research authors warn that these figures were conservative estimates. More importantly, they estimate that an extreme event, once likely every 100 years, has begun to occur every five years or less.

The importance of parties prioritising climate change on their election agendas is highlighted by the fact that India houses the largest population at risk of climate change-induced abnormalities, including floods, rising sea levels, droughts and heatwaves. While some regions are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather impacts, like the Himalayas, for example, researchers identify the entire territory of India as a high-risk area. Furthermore, by 2050, 80% of Mumbai could end up underwater due to rising sea levels.

According to a ranking by XDI, India will be the third-most at-risk country from climate change impacts in 2050. It will also have the highest number of hospitals at risk of closure due to extreme weather in the world.

Furthermore, climate change is indirectly linked to many sectors crucial for India, including health care, economic development, education, unemployment, energy and more. Its impacts risk exacerbating existing problems like the water and sanitation crisis and the frequency of forest fires, which has grown by 52% between 2000 and 2020. It can also increase the internal displacement of climate refugees, which so far stands at 4.9 million.

The first months of 2024 also proved rich in weather abnormalities, with the ongoing El Niño weather pattern projected to continue into the first half of the year.

Protecting the population and the economy aside, political parties putting climate change high on their election agendas is also crucial for their own interests. Climate change is a pressing topic for the country, and most Indians, especially the younger and more environmentally conscious, are well aware of its implications and urgency. According to a Yale Program of Climate Change Communication survey, 84% of adults in India believe climate change is real, and most also think it stems from anthropogenic activities.

Furthermore, studies find that extreme weather events before an election year in India can increase voter turnout and influence the outcome. 

The Progress So Far: Where Do Parties Stand on Climate Change Policies?

During the 2019 election campaigns, the policies of both the BJP and the INC addressed topics such as renewable energy, water conservation and access, air pollution, afforestation, wildlife habitat conservation, sustainable agriculture and more.

Meanwhile, over the past 10 years under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, India established itself as a climate leader in the region. The country set ambitious targets and achieved sufficient progress in clean energy deployment and energy efficiency improvements. Currently, India aims to cut emissions intensity by 45% and increase non-fossil fuel share to 50% by 2030 in a bid to achieve net zero by 2070. In line with this, at COP27, the country shared its Long-term Low Emission Development Strategy. It aims to promote low-emission technologies in the country’s energy transition. 

Furthermore, the current parliament has already started debating laws and legislative measures to curb the impacts of climate change.

According to a World Bank report on effective climate policies adopted worldwide over the past 30 years, India is an example of how impactful climate policies can be. For example, the country became the fifth-leading solar market in the world. It is on course to have solar account for 30% of its power generation by 2040. This was enabled by policies that helped overcome long-standing institutional capacity constraints. Furthermore, today, the country is advancing its domestic clean energy technology manufacturing.

In 2019, the government also introduced its National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), aiming to bring air pollution closer to safe levels. However, the initiative has achieved mixed results.

The government is also trying to make a difference on an individual level through initiatives like the Lifestyle for Environment. The program aims to encourage people to adopt sustainable lifestyles across India and to help tackle the challenges of climate change. 

However, the ruling party was also criticised by the opposition for extended fossil fuel use and its approach to handling climate change. Over the past decade, it has passed various environmental laws and policies that critics have accused of accelerating climate change-induced crises, including the Forest Conservation Bill and the Biodiversity Bill from 2023.  

At the time of writing, details about the climate change policies and proposed measures, part of the different parties’ 2024 election manifestos lack. However, based on the stances they have previously expressed on climate change, the topic will likely remain high on their agenda.

Looking Toward India’s 2024 Elections

India is on the front lines of climate change, and scientists expect its existing climate vulnerabilities to worsen. As a result, millions will face even greater challenges to their well-being and livelihoods. 

To minimise their impact, political parties competing in the Indian elections must make climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience measures focal points of their manifestos. Critical aspects include continued clean energy deployment at a similar and greater pace and expedited fossil fuel plant decommissioning. They must also consider halting project financing, tackling air pollution, addressing the water and waste crises and protecting eco-sensitive areas like those in the Himalayas. Furthermore, they should focus on promoting soil and forest conservation practices, investing in sustainable agriculture and regenerative agroforestry initiatives, protecting farmers’ and fisherman’s livelihoods and investing in disaster protection and early-warning systems. 

While India has, so far, achieved significant success in many of these areas, considering the magnitude of the climate change threat and the large proportion of the population exposed to it, the new leadership will have many urgent priorities to address from day one.

by Viktor Tachev

Viktor has years of experience in financial markets and energy finance, working as a marketing consultant and content creator for leading institutions, NGOs, and tech startups. He is a regular contributor to knowledge hubs and magazines, tackling the latest trends in sustainability and green energy.

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