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Fostering Equitable and Inclusive Climate Solutions: A Policy Consulting Perspective


GGI (Global Governance Initiative)
Fostering Equitable and Inclusive Climate Solutions: A Consulting Perspective on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Integration in Policy and Practice

If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship program, you can access our application link here.


 

1.Executive Summary


Climate change adversely impacts the marginalized communities across India. The impact of climate change on marginalized communities and its disproportionate results are shown based on various case studies including Air Pollution in Delhi resulting in premature deaths due to disproportionate impacts on the low-income groups and the severe drought impact on farmers in Marathwada, Maharashtra due to non-inclusive climate policies and management practices.


This paper emphasizes the understanding of environmental justice as broader concepts like societal, socioeconomic and ecological considerations. It also emphasizes the social vulnerability to environmental changes is differential and can be exacerbated due to lack of DEI particularly in policy, consulting strategies, and methods of measuring impact.


The paper also delves into methods of including DEI in future policies and improving the DEI quotient of policies for climate change resulting in the proliferation of climate justice in much needed communities.




2.Introduction


In the face of escalating climate change concerns, it is imperative that we acknowledge both the urgency of our collective action and the historical disparities endured by marginalized communities. Marginalized communities, particularly in India, bear the brunt of climate change despite having made minimal contributions to global warming. They face greater challenges in adapting to its impacts compared to socio-economically advantaged groups. Research highlights that climate adaptation measures, such as coastal protection infrastructure and green space expansion, tend to favor wealthier communities, exacerbating existing inequalities.


As we strive to navigate this critical juncture, the integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles emerges as an imperative catalyst for not only more effective but also inherently just climate solutions. This paper embarks on a journey through the intersection of climate action and social equity, emphasizing the pivotal role that inclusive approaches play in forging a sustainable and equitable future. Central to our exploration are initiatives aimed at ensuring diverse and inclusive representation at all levels in the process of greening the economy, that not only advances environmental sustainability but also champions the empowerment of women and vulnerable communities in the country.



3.The Intersectionality of DEI and Climate Change


Environmental injustices disproportionately impact vulnerable communities, and it is detailed in detail in the case studies presented below. These cases also specify the impact of inclusivity on climate policies across India.


These case studies show how environmental injustices disproportionately affect vulnerable communities in the Pan India region. They underscore the importance of inclusive and participant approaches in climate policies to address the concerns and voices of these communities. By incorporating DEI principles and ensuring meaningful participation from marginalized groups, climate policies can be more equitable, fostering sustainable development and mitigating the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. (Sony, 2020)


3.1 Case Study 1: Air Pollution in Delhi:


With an Air Quality Index (AQI) frequently exceeding 300 (a severe category level that cause respiratory illnesses on prolonged exposure), Delhi experiences some of the worst levels of air pollution in the world. A study by Greenpeace India showed the deadly air quality tools a grim toll, accounting for over 12,000 premature deaths annually in Delhi. This dire situation impacts low-income groups disproportionately as they often live in with the poorest air quality and lack resources for protective measures such as air purifiers. However, climate policies often overlook these communities, leading to disparities in health outcomes between different socio-economic groups.


3.2 Case Study 2: Drought Impact on Farmers in Marathwada Maharashtra:


Frequent droughts in Maharashtra's Marathwada region caused by irregular monsoons linked to change have severely impacted local farming communities. According to a report from the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers, and People, nearly 4000 villages in the region were affected by drought in 2018. Suicide rates among farmers have also soared due to crop and escalating debt. Despite recognizing the problem, the of climate policies has faltered, further burdening vulnerable groups. Effective water management practices and alternative options have not been inclusive or comprehensive, exacerbating disparities in the region. (Batras et al., 2021) (Sethi et al., 2020) (Dwivedi et al.)



4.Challenges in Integrating DEI into Climate Policy


The barriers and challenges that hinder the successful integration of DEI principles in climate change policy and practice includes institutional, cultural, and systemic challenges that may impede progress and lead to unintended negative consequences. Integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into climate policy presents several challenges including,


1. Limited representation and participation: Adequate representation and meaningful participation from diverse communities in policy-making processes is often lacking. In Pan India, for instance, data from the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) indicates that certain marginalized communities, such as tribal and indigenous groups, are significantly underrepresented in decision-making bodies, despite comprising a substantial portion of the population.


2. Data and research gaps: Data gaps and limited research on the specific impacts of climate change on marginalized communities in India persist. According to the Environmental and Sustainability Development Monitoring Framework, only 15% of climate-related research in India focuses on vulnerable communities, indicating a substantial research gap that needs to be addressed.


3. Economic disparities and resource allocation: Implementing equitable solutions may require redirecting resources to those most in need. A study conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) found that budget allocations for climate adaptation projects in India are often skewed towards more developed regions, exacerbating economic disparities and limiting the reach of initiatives in the most vulnerable areas.


4. Cultural and linguistic barriers: In India, language barriers and cultural differences can impede understanding and hinder the implementation of inclusive policies. According to the 2011 Census of India, there are 22 officially recognized languages and over 19,000 distinct dialects spoken in the country. This linguistic diversity presents a challenge in disseminating climate information effectively to all communities.


5. Power dynamics and decision-making: Power imbalances resulting from casteism, ethnicity, and regional disparities play a major role in inequitable allocation of climate initiatives in India. A report by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes indicates that marginalized communities often face systemic discrimination, hindering their participation and decision-making power.


6. Interdisciplinary collaboration: Integrating DEI into climate policy often requires collaboration among various stakeholders from different sectors and disciplines. In India, bridging these interdisciplinary gaps can be challenging due to differing priorities and perspectives among government agencies, NGOs, and community organizations. A study by TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) found that achieving consensus among diverse stakeholders is a persistent challenge in climate policy.


7. Policy implementation and enforcement: Ensuring the effective implementation and enforcement of DEI policies across diverse communities in India requires strong governance mechanisms, clear accountability, and monitoring systems. According to the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information, there is a need for a robust monitoring and evaluation framework to track the impact of DEI initiatives in India.


These challenges highlight the complexity and importance of integrating DEI into climate policy in India. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, policymakers, consultants, and entrepreneurs can work towards developing inclusive and equitable climate solutions that promote social justice and sustainability (Corsino & Fuller, 2021), (Aspen Tech Policy Hub, Green 2.0 and Energy Environment, 2022), (Whitten VP, 2022).




5.Opportunities for Equitable Climate Solutions


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion should serve as the moral compass guiding our climate solutions. It requires recognizing and addressing the disparate impacts of climate change on vulnerable and marginalized communities. Climate justice demands equitable access to resources, clean energy, sustainable employment, and robust infrastructure for all communities, irrespective of socio-economic status.


By dismantling systemic barriers, and adopting inclusive policies, we can forge a nation that is both equitable and resilient, ensuring no one is left behind.


There are several successful DEI-integrated projects and initiatives within India that have demonstrated best practices in building inclusive workforces and fostering equitable climate solutions. Some of the examples are listed below.


Community-Based Renewable Energy Projects resulting in empowering communities or gender with introduction to clean energy solutions and economic benefits. One example includes Barefoot College in Rajasthan training women from rural areas to become solar engineers, enabling them to electrify their villages with solar power.


Affordable and Efficient Housing by designing and implementing sustainable, affordable housing solutions for low-income communities. The Green Building Council of India's Affordable Housing Rating System (AHRS) encourages green building practices for affordable housing projects.


Access to Clean Water and Sanitation ensures marginalized communities have access to clean and reliable water sources. The "Jal Jeevan Mission" in India aims to provide tap water connection to every rural household by 2024, emphasizing water quality and sustainability.


Climate-Resilient Agriculture Practices for promoting sustainable farming techniques that enhance resilience to climate impacts. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) promotes eco-friendly rice cultivation methods, reducing water use and increasing yields for smallholder farmers.


Urban Greening and Accessible Public Spaces for creating green urban spaces that benefit all socio-economic groups.


Climate-Resilient Infrastructure can withstand extreme weather events and protect vulnerable communities. For example, Kolkata Environmental Improvement Investment Program focuses on climate-resilient urban development and flood management in Kolkata, India.


Skill Development and Job Creation by providing training and job opportunities in green sectors, Such as Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) running skill development programs to train individuals in the solar energy industry.


Community-Led Conservation and Biodiversity Protection. Joint Forest Management (JFM) program in India involves local communities in the protection and management of forest resources.


Climate Information and Early Warning Systems to ensure that vulnerable communities have access to timely and relevant climate information. EWS-India project aims to strengthen early warning systems for extreme weather events in vulnerable coastal communities.


Inclusive Waste Management and Circular Economy Practices for promotion of waste reduction, recycling, and inclusive employment in the waste management sector. SWaCH cooperative in Pune, India, involves waste pickers in door-to-door waste collection, improving livelihoods and reducing waste.


Access to Climate Finance and Microfinance for Adaptation ensuring that marginalized communities have access to financial resources for climate adaptation. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in India provides microfinance for climate-resilient agriculture and livelihood projects.


Tata Trusts' Project Nandghar is a program by Tata Trusts that aims to improve early childhood education, health, and women's empowerment in rural India. It also focuses on sustainable construction practices, incorporating elements of climate-resilience into the design of Nandghar centers.


Above mentioned opportunities, along with real-life examples, demonstrate how equitable climate solutions can be implemented in practice, benefiting a wide range of communities and promoting a more inclusive approach to climate action and hence providing impact of climate justice to marginalized communities. (UN Women, 2021, 2022).




6.Recommendations for DEI Integration


Industries should conduct comprehensive assessments to understand the environmental and social impacts of their operations including but not limited to analyzing emissions, resource consumption, community health, and socio-economic factors, enabling governments and associated industries to identify gaps, areas for improvement and prioritize equitable solutions. Conducting a DEI audit of renewable energy projects to ensure that hiring practices, training programs, and community engagement efforts are inclusive and equitable is a great example to collect data and evaluate the associated impacts.


Governments and industries should establish ambitious yet inclusive climate targets aligned with the scientific consensus and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress. However, it is equally important to ensure that these targets are developed through inclusive processes that incorporate diverse perspectives and consider the needs of vulnerable communities such as defining targets for the percentage of marginalized communities employed in green jobs or the number of women-led renewable energy enterprises supported


Collaboration across sectors to share knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned is a must which can foster collective action, facilitate the exchange of ideas, and accelerate the implementation of equitable climate solutions. Governments should actively engage with local marginalized communities to understand their concerns, aspirations, and needs. By involving community members in decision-making processes, solutions that address specific challenges, foster trust, and empower communities to participate in the transition can be devised.


Industries should develop tailored training programs focused on DEI awareness, cultural sensitivity, and inclusive communication for stakeholders involved in climate initiatives.


Governments and organizations should adopt robust reporting mechanisms to transparently communicate their progress on climate action. This includes disclosing emissions, social impact assessments, and community engagement efforts. Transparency fosters accountability and enables stakeholders to hold businesses responsible for their commitments. Industries should ensure that all communication materials are available in multiple languages and formats and are culturally sensitive. Establishing mechanisms for ongoing feedback from community members and stakeholders to adapt and refine climate solutions based on their evolving needs should be taken into consideration.


Government should partner with DEI Advocacy Groups to leverage their expertise, networks, and advocacy efforts in the development and implementation of climate solutions. Advocating for policies and legal frameworks that support fair representation in climate action and ensure that marginalized communities' rights are protected should be achieved. (Times of India, 2023)



7.Measuring Impact and Accountability/Engaging Stakeholders and Communities


Impact and accountability can be measured once the identification of the stakeholders/communities are confirmed. For instance, uneven rain can severely hamper the ability of farmers to grow crops. Many blocks of Jharkhand have not received adequate rainfall required to sustain agriculture. For a farmer, agriculture is not just a means of earning money but also for his own subsistence as well. As crops fail, farmers are left with no choice but to move to larger cities/towns in search of better opportunities. In this scenario, the major stakeholders will be farmers with small tracts of lands and who get an unbalanced brunt of the weather conditions and hence their lives.


Women are often left behind in villages, with the responsibility of taking care of the family and household. 21st century India has seen most, if not all the good job opportunities getting concentrated in major metropolitan cities. While agriculture requires the participation of both men and women, it is becoming unpredictable and unreliable due to climate change and with women not being able to move to other cities due to familial responsibilities, they often become economically marginalized. In Indian society, a woman’s position is the lowest in hierarchy owing to unequal access to education, healthcare facilities and nutrition. It is imperative to ensure diversity and inclusion in skill-building and jobs in the process of greening the economy.


Currently, there is a deficiency in proactive measures and sectoral initiatives to encourage women’s participation in the workforce. Skill-training organisations do not actively engage in purposefully recruiting female candidates, due to the limited placement rates. 85% of trained candidates were men, indicating a lack of inclusivity of other diverse groups. 90% of women indicated that social norms don’t allow them to participate in trainings. Therefore, it is necessary to introduce the right incentives to promote inclusion of women in training and employment. Philanthropy can play a crucial role in providing funding to private training institutions and other Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) to execute inclusive pilot programs focused on mobilizing, training, and facilitating placements of diverse groups. (Sattva Consulting and Skill Council for Green Jobs, 2023)


Valuable insights from existing training and employability models focusing on women can be implemented. For instance, Poise Scooters has successfully built an entire sales and logistics team comprising women, while Ola’s Future Factory aims to employ and upskill over 10,000 women, targeting a 100% women workforce.


An alternative to agriculture could be Livestock and Poultry rearing, however that is capital intensive and requires a lot of maintenance and labor. Securing a loan or micro capital from a bank itself, is a herculean task for a farmer who often does not have enough collateral to offer. Both livestock rearing and agriculture, comes with its own share of risks. Any failure can result in a debilitating effect on the household, creating food insecurity and indebtedness. One KPI in understanding the impact of climate change is to measure the resiliency of farming households. To improve resilience, capacity building of rural households is required. Often, having a technical know-how of agriculture and livestock/poultry rearing can make a rural household resilient. Being able to do financial planning can also help in expanding the farming or livestock rearing operations. Creating women-led self-help groups (SHGs) can also help in getting access to micro-capital as and when the need arises. Opportunities can also depend a lot on the geography. Some places might be ideal for pisciculture while some may not be. Same goes for sericulture as well. Identifying opportunities apart from traditional farming can help bolster local economies. Recognizing the importance of community engagement in climate solutions, this section offers guidance on how to involve diverse stakeholders and communities in the decision-making process. It discusses the value of local knowledge and cultural perspectives in developing effective climate policies.


India's net-zero goal will need 50 million green jobs. India currently employs 20% of its workforce in green jobs. This is expected to double by 2030. In 2020-21, India created 863,000 green jobs, including:

- 217,000 in solar photovoltaic

- 414,000 in hydropower


India has the potential to create up to 35 million green jobs by 2047. These jobs could be in traditional and emerging sectors, including: Renewable energy, Waste management, Electric vehicles, Green construction, Sustainable textiles. (Sattva Consulting and Skill Council for Green Jobs, 2023)


Based on this, the following framework can be used in the process of engaging stakeholders to make informed climate and/or policy decisions and assessing their impacts.


1.Shared decision-making acknowledges the importance of their perspectives and experiences, thus ensuring that the decision-making processes are more representative and considerate of diverse voices.


2.Addressing diverse needs from different groups and avoiding unintended consequences creates opportunities to identify and mitigate potential injustices.


3.Building trust and ownership between policymakers, practitioners and communities demonstrates a commitment to inclusive decision-making processes, ensuring that policies and practices align with the values and aspirations of the communities.


4.Strengthening resilience by involving communities to be active participants instead of passive recipients.


5.Using specific measurable indicators such as greenhouse emissions reductions, community resilience assessments, renewable energy adoption rates to quantify and track the impact of climate change policies and practices.


6.Implementing monitoring and evaluation frameworks that define clear goals, objectives and regular tracking of progress.


7.Collecting reliable data and analyzing it to understand the impact of these climate change policies and if the goals we set out at the beginning of the process.


8.Developing robust reporting mechanisms to share the impact results with different stakeholders ensuring there is transparency and accountability. (Cooper & Pearce, 2011), Williams, M. and Eggleston, S. (2018).



8.Conclusion


In conclusion, it is very well understood climate change has an unbalanced impact on marginalized communities hence impacting diversity, inclusion, and equity. Various case studies are completed in India with similar findings. Challenges to DEI include limited representation and participation, data gaps in studies, barriers due to culture and language, lackluster implementation of policies and procedures.



There are various works which are completed in India to improve DEI especially for marginalized communities such as collaboration or customized training for the communities.


Addressing diverse needs and building trust and ownership are also other important factors to improve DEI in federal policy making and improvement of results. To manage the stakeholders and manage impact, importance shall be given to finding the right stakeholders such as farmers in the drought infested area and women in 70% households in the country.



Combining all the factors including engaging stakeholders, and managing expectations, informed decision making and driving accountability in public policy and management is absolutely necessary to foster economic development of marginalized communities and, hence improving the DEI.





Meet The Thought Leader



Karan Patel (he/him) is a mentor at GGI an undergraduate from IIT Madras. He is correctly employed with Teachmint, an ed-tech start-up in their strategy team. Prior to Teachmint, he worked at Dalberg Advisors as an analyst where he worked with multi-laterals and international foundations on gender, education and energy sectors. He has also interned in MIT Sloan, Qualcomm and IIM Ahmedabad giving him a plethora of experience in the corporate and academic world. He also started his own venture in hyperlocal air-quality monitoring. Karan is an avid sport-person and masala chai fanatic.



Meet The Authors (GGI Fellows)



Banhishikha is a researcher with 4+ years of experience in sustainable finance data, gender and corporate reporting, with a particular interest in responsible investing. Her work has involved projects aligned to the UN SDGs aimed at climate action, gender parity, investment stewardship and data governance. Currently as Head of Research, she is leading the research and development across her company’s flagship product on gender lens investing. She has majored in Finance and is a Certified Sustainable Investing and Finance (CSIF) Charter holder.




Currently studying Public Policy and Sustainable Development at The Energy and Resources Institute, I have amassed 4 years of work experience spanning various sectors, including education, environment, and disaster management. My prior role at UNDP India involved projects aimed at fostering economic empowerment among rural women and youth. Additionally, I played a pivotal role in managing COVID-19 relief efforts and providing support to the disaster management team for the Government of Karnataka. Furthermore, I worked as a technical writer for the Centre for Urban Biodiversity Conservation and Education, where I developed research materials and educated the youth.




I graduated from his Master’s in Engineering in Materials and Process Engineering from University of Waikato. I have worked in engineering consulting as a Chemical Engineer in few countries including India, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. I am very interested in management consulting and have kept my interest up by participating in case studies for various nonprofit organizations.




Kaustuv Acharyya

I have graduated from Shiv Nadar University in 2021, with a major in English and minor in Sociology. Post my graduation, I have worked with EY Global Delivery Services in the talent acquisition domain. I have worked on both lateral hiring and campus recruitment as well as campus branding activities of the firm. Since March 2023, I joined as an Advanced Associate in their People Supply Chain Management Team, supporting the business in UK and Ireland Region. I have had an interest in the policy and development sector since my undergraduate studies and have pursued that interest via internships in different organizations such as PRADAN, Vidya Bhawan, Seva Mandir etc.



If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship program, you can access our application link here.


 

References:


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2. Sethi, M. et al. (2020) Climate change mitigation in cities: a systematic scoping of case studies, Environmental Research Letters. Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab99ff


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7. (Cooper & Pearce, 2011) Climate change performance measurement, control and Accountability in English Local Authority Areas - ResearchGate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227429004_Climate_Change_Performance_Measurement_Control_and_Accountability_in_English_Local_Authority_Areas


8. Williams, M. and Eggleston, S. (2018) Using indicators to explain our changing climate to policymakers and the public, World Meteorological Organization. Available at: https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/bulletin/using-indicators-explain-our-changing-climate-policymakers-and-public


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