High pollution, congestion and informal housing are well known issues plaguing India’s towns and cities. What is less known is that, without intervention, how India is urbanising threatens to block India’s path to net zero emissions. Reformed however, it could improve the course of India’s emissions trajectory.
Much of the current climate conversation in India and internationally, is a sectoral one, focusing on decarbonisation in specific economic sectors like energy, transportation, agriculture and industry. But spatially, many of these transitions will come together in cities: cities shape the demand that drives sectoral emissions.
Whether it is the energy demand of buildings, transport emissions on packed roads, the fumes from industry on city fringes, or how food gets from farms to forks, many of the transitions India will need to undertake will intersect in and around its urban centres.
Local government’s ability to monitor change, plan for development, enforce regulation, and work with the public, private and civil society threatens to stand in the way of progress. However, if reformed, they can guide India towards a low carbon pathway.