Climate action that runs on cooperative federalism

Source: The post is based on an article “Climate action that runs on cooperative federalism ” published in The Hindu on 16th September 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2

News: India has decided to buy 5,450 buses with an ambitious target to have 50,000 e-buses on the country’s roads by 2030. It shows India’s efforts towards climate goals.

Rapid electrification is a key pillar of India’s public transportation. This pillar has a potential to reduce India’s pollution and it’s import bill.

What is the current situation of state buses and the problems associated with them?

There are currently around 1,40,000 registered public buses on India’s roads.

Around 40,000 of these buses are at the end of their lifespan and their operation must be immediately stopped.

Most of the buses are owned by State transport undertakings and all these are in poor financial condition.

These buses run in losses due to the subsidised fares. State Transport undertakings pay high prices when they buy the buses in the market.

Furthermore, there are limitations to nation-wide laws on the issue of state governments control on transport, urban governance and pollution control.

However, cooperative federalism can play an important role in tackling these issues.

How cooperative federalism has helped in the decision to buy buses?

Grand Challenge 1 is a great example of cooperative federalism. Under Grand Challenge 1, a unified tender for 5,450 buses (across five major Indian cities — Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Surat) was issued.

This is for the 1st time that a unified tender to address the challenging issue of climate change, has been issued.

Convergence Energy Services Limited (CESL), a nodal agency of the Union government in collaboration with State-led demand and customisation acted as the programme manager in this effort of centralised procurement.

This coordination among central and state governments led to the finding of the low price required to operate the buses.

For example, on a cost-per-kilometre basis, the prices discovered were 40% lower than diesel and 34% less than CNG (without factoring in the subsidy through FAME-II).

What is FAME?

What led to the success of this unified tender?

This change in unified tender was enabled by three key factors a) collaboration, b) pace, and c) transparency.

First, the tender was a fully consultative process. The different contributions by participants helped in influencing the design of future tenders also.

Second, there was a sense of climate urgency that shaped this collaboration.

Third, transparency was the strongest aspect of this tender. There was clarity about the intention to build trust and build a publicly available process that invited bids from automakers and operators.

Therefore, excessive centralization can have limitations and contradict the federal principles enshrined in the Constitution.

How decentralization decision can help in improving the climate conditions?

Indian states and districts vary vastly in their vulnerability to climate impacts.

Decentralized decision-making and locally-led adaptation will help reduce possible damage to lives and livelihoods.

Urban local bodies and gram panchayats can be the heart of climate action and they can be consulted in the decision making process.

However, centralised procurement and programme management can deliver huge transformations in certain areas. Because, states lack size and financial power for electrification of mass mobility.

Although a good start has been made still much work remains to be done to enable the electrification of mass mobility in India.

What can be the further course of action?

The country’s shift to clean public transportation will require a range of efforts.

First, it will require increasing the manufacturing capacity of domestic battery production, building out charging infrastructure among others.

Second, effort on cooperative federalism can play an important role to fulfil the ambitious targets for green and inclusive economic development in India.

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