New Delhi: The 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) encompasses a comprehensive developmental agenda for India by integrating the social, economic and environmental dimensions. The Economic Survey for FY 2020-21, presented in Parliament today by Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, lays emphasis on this approach and asks for achieving equity not just across nations and within the nations but also across and within the generations, thereby countering the iniquitous impact of COVID-19 pandemic too.
India and the SDGs
The Survey states that India has taken several proactive steps to mainstream the SDGs into the policies, schemes and programmes of the Government. It mentions the following in this regard:
The Voluntary National Review (VNR) presented to the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development provides for review and follow-up of the SDGs through continuous engagement and feedback. This process also provides an avenue for active participation of private sector as seen in the Corporate Social Responsibility spending.
Localisation of SDGs: States and UTs have created discrete institutional structures for implementation of SDGs in their own specific contexts. Few states have also created nodal mechanisms within every department and at the district levels to make coordination, convergence and data management more precise and predictable.
The Survey recognizes the challenges emerging on account of the unprecedented crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic and mentions that Sustainable development will remain core to the India’s development strategy.
The Economic Survey says that India has been taking several proactive climate actions to fulfill its obligations as per the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and equity. It mentions some of the prominent government initiatives on mitigation and adaptation actions such as India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP), National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change and implementation of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &)Electric Vehicle in India (FAME India) scheme.
The Survey highlights the importance of finance being a critical enabler of climate change action as India’s NDC effectively commenced on 01.01.2021. It clearly states that an integrated approach is required at the domestic and international front to get the necessary resources essential for apposite climate action.
The year 2020 was supposed to be the year by which developed country Parties were to fulfill the goal of jointly mobilizing US$ 100 billion a year for climate finance, an essential component of the commitments made by the developed countries, which has remained elusive. The postponement of COP26 to 2021 also gives less time for negotiations and other evidence-based work to inform the post-2025 goal. But it is clear that issue of achieving consensus on the definition of climate finance, transparency mechanism, common time frames and a long-term climate finance will continue to remain top priority in COP 26.
Sustainable Climate Finance
The Economic Survey highlights the importance of sustainable financing to meet the government’s development priorities and mentions few steps undertaken in this regard:
National Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Financing, finalized in 2015, are financial sector-specific guidelines that combine and adapt international and national best practices.
RBI included lending to social infrastructure and small renewable energy projects within the priority sector targets.
‘Voluntary Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility’ were issued in 2009 to mainstream the concept of business responsibility.
Committee was constituted to review and update the Business Responsibility Reporting (BRR)formats for listed as well as unlisted companies
India is moving in the direction of creating a Social Stock Exchange (SSE), under the regulatory ambit of SEBI for raising capital by Social Enterprises working for the realization of a social welfare objective.
The Survey mentions India being the second largest green bond market among the emerging markets after China. In 2017, to give push to Green Bonds issuances in India, SEBI issued guidelines on green bonds including listing of green bonds on the Indian stock exchanges. As of 24th December, 2020, eight ESG mutual funds have been launched in India.
India’s initiatives at the international stage
The Survey mentions the initiatives taken by India at the global stage to foster the sustainable model of development and have disaster resilient infrastructure at the disposal of citizens:
International Solar Alliance (ISA) has recently launched two new initiatives – a ‘World Solar Bank’ and ‘One Sun One World One Grid Initiative’ – of global import to bring about solar energy revolution globally. The ISA Secretariat has recently launched a ‘Coalition for Sustainable Climate Action’ comprising of global public and private corporates. It has also organized First World Solar Technology Summit (WSTS) in September 2020 with an objective of showcasing to Member Countries the state of the art and next-generation solar technologies.
Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure: The Coalition functions as an inclusive multi-stakeholder platform led and managed by national governments, where knowledge is generated and exchanged on different aspects of disaster resilience of infrastructure. CDRI is working on enhancing the resilience of power and transport sector and also plans on expanding its membership to include countries from all the continents and at varied level of development and risk.