Some members of the panel at the Conference on Strengthening Green Federalism: Sharing International Practices-Oct 29-30, 2012. (India)
The Forum of Federations and the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India; Inter-state Council Secretariat, Government of India; and the World Bank, organized a two-day event titled the ‘International Conference on Strengthening Green Federalism: Sharing International Practices’.
The conference which took place on the 29-30 October was inaugurated by Honourable Vice President of India, Mr M Hamid Ansari in the presence of Dr Vijay Kelkar, Chairman of the Forum of Federations and former Chairman of the Thirteenth Finance Commission; Dr RK Pachauri, Director-General, TERI; Mr Onno Ruhl, World Bank, Country Director for India; Mr MF Farooqui, Special Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests; Dr PG Dhar Chakrabarty, Additional Secretary, Inter-state Council Secretariat Council, India; Dr Ligia Noronha, Executive Director (Research Co-ordination), TERI; and the Forum President Rupak Chattopadhyay.
The conference was attended by delegates from over 16 countries, including federal systems such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Nigeria, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States of America. The conference brought together scholars and practitioners from federal systems to better understand and share best practices on green policy design and implementation. It focussed on the following themes: Federalism and Environmental Policy: Some Experiences; Role of Provincial and Local Government in Environmental Management; Capacity Constraints: Good Practices and Innovation; Public Participation, Transparency and Accountability; Fiscal Issues in Green Federalism; Fragile Ecosystems and Protected Areas in a Federal Context; and Shared Jurisdiction and Trans-boundary Issues. The conference noted that federalism is an expression of plurality, heterogeneity, and diversity but the current approach is more hierarchal and less consensus driven. The role of people and communities is absolutely essential for federalism to be effective. The Forum President spoke on the question of federalism and sustainable development, it was emphasized that while factoring in environment, development goals cannot be overlooked. Therefore, the greatest challenge is in responding to development and aspirational pressures from different stakeholder groups, yet ensuring environmental quality. For this purpose, a holistic understanding of ‘green’ is required at all levels.
Discussing the role of provincial and local government in environmental management, governments and participants felt that there is a need to reorient and restructure inter-governmental relations and develop an integrated framework to address the issues of overlapping functions and ineffective coordination at different government levels. These frameworks need to be contextualized to the local conditions and take into account the multiple and diverse aspirations of people. There is also need for greater accountability in the governance process. Who is accountable to whom, who should be transparent, and how do we define public and private purpose was seen as a key contention.
Some members of the panel speaking at the conference
There was also a view that the push for hard technologies and centralized planning to resolve environmental problems is myopic. Local communities often develop soft technologies and best practices without any support from government or external agencies. It was felt that the capacity to deal with environmental issues is not only about technical training but includes many factors that hinder good governance.
Highlighting the role of fiscal policy in promoting environmental stewardship, it was felt, that there is a need to include benchmarks and appropriate incentives. Felix Knuepling, Head of Programs and Partnerships, with the Forum of Federations reflected on the Forum’s work in this area and strides towards using this approach in the implementation of green federalism in federal and decentralized countries. The role of inter-governmental transfers in improving environmental outcomes was discussed at length.
Handling of natural disasters also requires strong co-ordination between levels of government. While disaster management in India has mostly focussed on ex-post issues of relief, rehabilitation, and humanitarian aid, there is a shift now towards ex-ante measures. However, India still does not mainstream disaster risk auditing in infrastructure projects despite large-planned investments.
For resolution or improved management of trans-boundary issues, the need for joint management or supra coordination was recognized. Key components for such coordinated action include top-level political support, strong citizen engagement, science-based goal setting, and measurable outcomes and monitoring.
The conference was seen as an important first step in a deeper conversation and engagement on environmental federalism across countries.