India’s highly centralized federal structure sits uneasily with the nature of the climate problem. While financial and bureaucratic capacities are concentrated in the centre, the locus of climate decisions lies largely in the states because they steer energy choices and respond to climate impacts. To unlock state action, the roles and capacities of the centre and states must be reimagined in the age of the climate crisis. This brief lays out the contours of an institutional redesign. We attempt to strike a delicate balance between flexibility, essential to innovative and opportunistic state actions, and the structure necessary for a coherent national policy trajectory. Specifically, we call for a specific focus on increasing specialized capacity to deal with climate change; coordination mechanisms; and financial incentives to motivate the states.