A deep dive into the first Climate Action Plan from a C40 city in the South and West Asia region

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Mumbai City, India
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Surrounded by the Indian Ocean on three sides and separated from the mainland by Thane Creek and Harbour Bay, Mumbai is India’s largest city, with a wider metropolitan area home to nearly 21 million people. The city is a financial powerhouse, plays a lead role in the Bollywood film industry, and boasts incredible natural beauty. 

The Global Climate Risk Index 2021 ranked India as one of the top 10 countries most threatened by climate impacts. Mumbai’s geographic location makes it one of the most vulnerable cities in India to the effects of the climate crisis. In 2020, floods and storms affected an estimated 50 million people and killed more than 5,000 people. If the global mean sea level rises by just 0.15 metres above 2020 levels, Mumbai will be 20% more likely to be hit by extreme flooding, of the severity usually seen only once in every 100 years.

The city is also vulnerable to an erratic monsoon pattern, with increasingly frequent short-duration, high-intensity rainfall events. In 2019, Mumbai experienced the highest number of cyclones in the region, wreaking havoc on people’s livelihoods.

How is Mumbai taking action on climate risks?

Mumbai conducted a Climate & Air Pollution Risks and Vulnerability Assessment to better understand the city’s major climate challenges. It found rising temperatures and an increasing number of extreme rainfall events to be the most serious threats, which informed the cities’ decisions on which climate adaptation and mitigation solutions to prioritise.

In response, the city developed and published the Mumbai Climate Action Plan (MCAP), an evidence-based plan that aligns with the goals of the Paris Agreement and follows the C40 Climate Action Planning framework. The MCAP delivers on both climate mitigation and adaptation, and was developed through an inclusive and consultative approach undertaken with subject experts, research organisations, resident forums, international development agencies, and municipal service providers.

People walking through flooded road during heavy rain in Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
© Dinodia Photo / Getty Images

A robust and science-based roadmap committed to a net-zero and climate-resilient Mumbai by 2050, the MCAP covers six priority strategic areas:

  1. sustainable waste management
  2. urban greening and biodiversity
  3. urban flooding and water resource management
  4. energy and buildings
  5. air quality
  6. sustainable mobility

The MCAP aims to ensure a just transition for all residents of Mumbai, and an inclusive approach so that everyone benefits equitably from the plan’s climate solutions. Benefits for residents include improved public health and wellbeing, better air quality, increased economic prosperity, and more education and skills development opportunities. 

What climate action is Mumbai already taking? 

 Mumbai is home to the world’s largest tropical forest in any urban zone. The municipal government has prioritised preserving and expanding urban nature in Mumbai to protect biodiversity, mitigate the effects of the climate crisis and help adapt to its impacts. The city has brought thousands of hectares of mangroves under protected status, planted thousands more trees, and continues to introduce nature-based solutions to help tackle air pollution, reduce landslides, and cool the city down in the face of extreme heat.

Another key focus area for Mumbai is transportation, which accounts for 20% of the city’s total emissions. To address this, the transport and energy agency working for the municipal government, Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST), has adopted a rapid clean mobility transition and safe accessibility plan. Within four months of the policy announcement, BEST introduced 386 electric buses to its fleet of 3,000. It aims to electrify 50% of its fleet by 2023 and 100% by 2027. 

Soon after launching MCAP, Mumbai published its action plan to make solid waste management in the city more sustainable. The plan is designed to align with the MCAP, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and Swachh Bharat Mission – a programme introduced by the Indian Government to improve solid waste management across the country.

What more needs to be done?

A key challenge for Mumbai will be fully embedding climate action in all decision-making across all government departments. Several areas of climate action are led by central and state-level agencies, rather than the city government. This limits the city’s powers to plan and implement, but also highlights the need for collaboration and teamwork across departments and institutions.

People relaxing in open green space in Mumbai. Pictured: Mumbai skyline and Arabian Sea
© Alex Robinson Photography / Getty Images

However, the MCAP is designed to overcome these challenges. Mumbai’s Climate Action Plan includes a Climate Action Cell, which is a team dedicated to implementing the plan that sits within the government’s Environment Department. The cell coordinates with relevant organisations and departments to evaluate, monitor and report on climate targets. 

The MCAP also highlights the need for a defined climate budget that ensures financial resources are available to implement the MCAP. The energy and buildings sector, for example, accounts for 72% of the city’s total emissions, and will have to be a priority for innovative and green investments along with other sectors such as transport and waste.

Inspiration and collaboration

The Mumbai Climate Action Plan is the first in C40’s South and West Asia region to be developed using the C40 CAP framework, which is aligned to the goals of the Paris Agreement. The World Resources Institute supported Mumbai to draft the plan, showcasing the importance of strategic partnerships and collaboration in response to the climate crisis. Mumbai is also committed to C40’s Urban Nature Accelerator, C40’s Women4Climate mentorship programme and C40’s climate budgeting pilot aimed at integrating climate action in all levels of city decision-making.

Mumbai is leading the way and showing how political commitment can result in an ambitious yet achievable plan and transformative climate action that will inspire other cities in the region, and worldwide.

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