It is on the precarious and ever-shifting terrain of Indian federalism that a modern edifice of climate governance must be built. Where is the firm ground? Are there enduring characteristics of centre-state relations that let us arrive at a relatively stable description of Indian climate governance? In this working paper, we arrive at a synthetic account of the constant forces shaping climate governance in India’s federal architecture, building on descriptions of environmental federalism and state actions in climate policy.
We argue that the highly asymmetric nature of Indian federalism — a federal government holds the reins of state finances and constitutes the bulk of planning and bureaucratic capacity — makes compensatory relations between centre and states inescapable in climate governance. Emergent practices have involved the use of institutional channels of fiscal transfer and federally mandated planning processes to help catalyse climate activity across India’s states. States have taken fragments of the national agenda and adapted them to local political contexts that are hitherto innocent of ‘climate’ politics phrased as such. They play the role of marrying broader mitigation and adaptation concerns to local development. In the process, they contribute to the compensatory dynamic by creating a stream of policy ideas that then come to define the national response through channels of federal diffusion.
Suggested Citation: Pillai, A.V. and Dubash, N. K. 2021. “Compensatory Climate Governance in Indian federalism”. Working Paper, Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment. New Delhi: Centre for Policy Research. April 2021.