The Limits of Opportunism: The Uneven Emergence of Climate Institutions in India

The Limits of Opportunism: The Uneven Emergence of Climate Institutions in India

Centre for Policy Research
12 April 2021

India’s centrality to global mitigation efforts makes it an important point of inquiry in studies of climate governance. However, we understand little of how climate change has been institutionalized in India’s decision-making processes. We draw on interviews with decision makers and review government documents to trace the political arc of institutional development over nearly three decades. We show that institutions were formed as a result of international pressures that were filtered through features of the domestic political economy.These include a path dependent narrative frame that rejected the imposition of domestic costs, entrenched bureaucratic routines, and fiercely hierarchical inter-ministerial politics. We also discuss the features of the resulting institutional form, one that spanned multiple sectors but was designed to be opportunistic and flexible rather than engineer a shift in the country’s development pathway.

suggested citation: Pillai, A.V. and Dubash, N. K. 2021. "The Limits of Opportunism: The Uneven Emergence of Climate Institutions in India." Working Paper, Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment. New Delhi: Centre for Policy Research. April 2021.