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Green Federalism


Green Federalism the most important aspects of functional federalism. It is also an incredibly difficult area for attaining the coordination and cooperation required amongst tiers of government to achieve sustainable development. Environmental protection aims are very stringent, and green federalism is an unavoidable requirement. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of safeguarding forests and sustaining the necessary green cover.

In India, forests cover about 21.71 percent of the country's total land area. Apart from being rich reservoirs of flora and wildlife, they directly and indirectly support millions of people for sustenance and livelihood. Forests are increasingly being recognised and valued for their carbon sequestration capacity in preventing climate change. Thismakes forests an interesting natural resource to study from a federal perspective.

Blood Pressure at the Centre

One cause for this difficulty is the legacy of a largely centralised and top-down strategy, which is exacerbated by the necessity to implement international treaty obligations within the existing division of responsibilities. Land, water, and agriculture are exclusive domains of states under the Constitution, whereas forests, wild animals, and birds are shared as concurrent subjects since the 42nd Amendment. At this point, a review of the relevant legislation would be helpful. Forest rights and functions are primarily divided between two levels, with state governments responsible for forest management in conformity with both central and state forest legislation and norms.

Because of the increased number of international agreements and declarations, centripetal tendencies emerge greater in the domain of environmental protection than in other domains. The Centre has used its authority to put them into effect on a domestic level by enacting legislation on environmental and natural resource issues, such as the Environment Protection Act, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, and the Biological Diversity Act.

There is a policy shift in the case of recent commitments and decisions under the regimes of climate change and sustainable development goals. Instead of legislation, policy directives issued by the Union government now guide the conduct of both the Centre and the states in these areas. The Union's involvement is becoming even more important as climate policy in India is fragmented and scattered, and there is no single special climate legislation in India. The National Action Plan on Climate Change is the primary document controlling Indian domestic climate change initiatives (NAPCC). Following this, State Action Plans for Climate Change (SAPCC) were established. Although each state was responsible for developing its own SAPCC, the process was effectively top down, especially because states were not actively involved in the development of the national plan, to which they were required to conform. The states' role in devising instruments to achieve these goals has also been limited. This is a recurring aspect of environmental-centralized federalism's legacies.

As in many other aspects of Union-state relations, insufficient capacity or the lack thereof is commonly used as a reason for the absence of devolution. The objective of enhancing the absorptive ability of subnational and local governments in order to achieve an optimal distribution of tasks and responsibilities consequently remains a distant  dream. Unfortunately, the focus of policy has been on enhancing the function of the central government rather than bolstering the ability of subnational governments, when inadequate.

It must be highlighted that the courts have played a considerable role in pushing this tendency, as they have exhibited little confidence in the capacity of states to manage forests. They have relied on the centralMoEF to address the majority of environmental issues upon which they have rendered decisions. The belief that states lack the capacity to protect forests and are susceptible to vested interests, while the federal government is not, is perplexing in light of mounting evidence to the contrary. In doing so, a chance to integrate federalism and forest governance has been missed.

Way Forward

For a country of India's size and diversity, the effects of climate change are likely to vary between regions. Some states may bear a disproportionate share of the negative effects of climate change, while others may fare better. Additionally, if economic ambitions increase, the opportunity cost of environmental conservation will increase. Some states, such as those in the Himalayas, may find it more profitable to exchange some of their natural resources for more economic activity. As factories replace forests in these states, their contribution to ecosystem services will decrease, jeopardising the economic stability of the entire nation.

The 13th Finance Commission, presided over by Vijay Kelkar, recognised some of these difficulties, but its solutions, such as payments for states to protect forests, are insufficient to address the problem's magnitude and complexity. The commission was hindered by the lack of a database that provides accurate and timely information on India's natural resources at the national and subnational levels.

Therefore, the first step in preparing for climate change will be to invest in the creation of a reliable database that contains accurate local data. The second essential step will be to restructure our national and subnational balance sheets to properly reflect the worth of our natural resources. In this context, economist Partha Dasgupta's inclusive wealth index, which combines the natural, human, and manufactured wealth of an economy, can be valuable. Better measurement would aid in developing the correct incentives, which make it cost-effective for nations to adopt a sustainable development strategy.

Climate change is likely to be an international relations centre of attention . To prevent climate change from becoming a source of conflict even within a country, it is essential to have detailed database and policies based on that data. Thi requires careful analysis of legislative functions and fair distribution of environmental subjects between the concerned tiers. The fight against climate change is incomplete without cooperation, coordination and collaboration between both centre and state governments.


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