ICAP Implementation : Initiatives & Learnings from Kerala

In an alarming indicator of the intensifying climate crisis, July 2023 has been declared the hottest month ever recorded by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. In India, an intense heatwave swept through the north of the country in May, with temperatures climbing to a record 49.2C (120.5F) in parts of the capital, Delhi. South East Asia also saw record temperatures in a number of countries in both April and May – which are typically the hottest months for the region. With every passing year, world is hitting new temperature records and research tells that one of the major areas that will be extremely vulnerable to climate change is South Asia region. India particularly will be more vulnerable due to its diverse terrain, rapid use of natural resources due to current trend of precipitous urbanisation, industrialisation and economic growth.

Recognising the urgent need for sustainable cooling solutions to tackle the rising temperature and its linked adversities, India proactively launched the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) under the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in 2019. As the nation undergoes rapid economic growth and urbanisation, climate-friendly and affordable cooling solutions are essential. ICAP focuses on promoting energy-efficient technologies and low global warming potential refrigerants to minimise carbon footprints. India is one of the first countries to launch Cooling Action Plan that recognises cooling as a developmental need linking it with economic growth, health, well-being, and productivity. However, since its release, ICAP’s implementation has been finite due to the absence of an enforcement mechanism in the action plan.

While the Cooling Secretariat, an inter-ministerial committee proposed in ICAP, is expected to execute the plan’s recommendations, more representation from subnational governments or institutions will be advantageous. Awareness of ICAP at state level is also a challenge that needs to be addressed, emphasising the need for active participation in decision-making. At the same time, a recent analysis reveals that states such as Kerala and Gujarat are formulating cooling action plans while Maharashtra plans to integrate a state-level cooling roadmap into its overall climate change strategy. However, there still remains a need to assess how well states have adopted ICAP recommendations since its launch in 2019.

To understand the adoption and implementation challenges at sub-national levels, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation in partnership with WRI India, initiated a study in April 2022 focussing on identifying strategies for increasing state-wide cooling actions and making these initiatives more inclusive and responsive to local needs. The study adopted an integrated approach by engaging stakeholders involved in decision making of planning built environments, which directly or indirectly impact the cooling requirement and needs at the local level and thus developed an implementation framework for cooling action plan in the state. Kerala was selected as a case study since the state has been grappling with high humidity levels combined with elevated summer temperatures most of the year. The findings from this study aimed to guide future efforts to improve stakeholder involvement and enhance ICAP’s reach across diverse regions in India.

The comprehensive study employed a robust approach that encompassed reviewing existing state policies and programmes, mapping relevant stakeholders, prioritising cooling actions, designing an implementation framework, assessing the needs of vulnerable communities, and effectively communicating the findings. The review of Kerala’s State Heat Action Plan shed light on current priorities such as adopting sustainable cooling solutions with the Kerala State Energy Conservation Building Code (KSECBC) and promoting research and development. Selected ICAP recommendations were tailored for Kerala, including ensuring new construction was 100% ECBC compliant and retrofitting existing spaces to reduce cooling energy. Recognising the need for targeted solutions for heat-vulnerable communities, surveys were conducted in collaboration with Kochi Municipal Corporation (KMC) and Trivandrum Municipal Corporation (TMC) to understand thermal comfort concerns in 200 Anganwadis in Kochi and 100 informal households in Trivandrum. Interestingly, built condition of Anganwadis turned out to better in comparison to households, with latter struggling for ventilation and tin-roofs making the situation worse, Anganwadis, despite having ventilation, faced issues in opening the windows due to mosquitoes and air pollution. Another challenge that surfaced during the survey was over-crowding of indoor spaces which negatively impacted the thermal comfort of the occupants. The survey revealed disparities in living conditions and ventilation challenges, particularly affecting women and children.

Out of the many observations, one key takeaway from this study is the limited awareness of ICAP among state and city-level agencies. Engaging ULBs as crucial implementation partners is vital for success, with particular attention paid to addressing the health and productivity of women and children who are disproportionately impacted by inefficient building design and inadequate ventilation.

Moving forward, it is crucial to prioritise cooling projects specifically tailored to urban local bodies (ULBs), as this will enhance their involvement and accountability in implementing effective heat action plans. To better address the needs of heat-affected communities, targeted policies and programmes should be developed. Moreover, integration of affordable cooling strategies is an essential undertaking for states to pursue, while increased research and development efforts should pave the way towards innovative cooling technologies and models. As far as the other states are concerned, , it is imperative for them to recognise that a key area requiring attention is the efficient fund deployment at the city or local level since this where a majority of implementation activities occur. The solution to the pressing need for cooling strategies is to focus on these crucial aspects that will help foster a more resilient urban environment and address the growing problem of heat stress.

The views expressed in the article are individual’s views and not the views of Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation.

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