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OPINION: The politics of ‘triple wins’ and trade-offs in climate compatible development


Fatema Rajabali, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, assesses whether action on both climate change and development can be reconciled in a world of unequal power, diverse institutions and conflicting interests.

Answering this question means addressing the political economy of climate compatible development – the context and politics in which initiatives operate, and who wins and who loses. Over the past year, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS); and its partners have been exploring these questions through research on three case studies: coastal fisheries in Ghana, renewable energy in Kenya, and carbon forestry in Mozambique.

Can adaptation, mitigation and development work together?

The idea that climate finance should support multiple climate and development goals has taken root over the last few years. The increasing popularity of terms such as ‘climate compatible development’, ‘climate smart agriculture’ and ‘climate resilient development’ shows the desire to focus on the potential synergies between goals of adaptation, mitigation and development. While it is easy to see the logic behind aiming for co-benefits or ‘triple wins’, there is much less clarity on how they might be achieved in practice, whether it is possible, or what the trade-offs might be.

So what is the political economy approach and how can it support us in achieving triple wins? In the video below, Thomas Tanner, Research Fellow from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and lead researcher of the Ghana case study provides an introductory explanation. He draws on examples from the project’s three case studies to help build understanding of how a political economy framework can be applied for climate compatible development.

 

Realities from the ground: example of coastal fisheries in Ghana

Ghana is an excellent example of the challenges of tackling climate change and development together. Government plans and initiatives for tackling climate change are growing rapidly, but the links between climate change and the coastal fisheries sector remain under-explored.

During the project, two potential triple win reforms were identified and examined with a range of stakeholders: a hypothetical reform of Ghana’s subsidy for ‘premix’ fuel used by fishermen, and protection of coastal mangroves.

Some of the key messages include:

  • Climate compatible development may be more about finding appropriate climate co-benefits, rather than seeking ‘triple wins’.
  • There is a danger that pushing for ‘triple wins’ (i.e. by removing the premix subsidy) would be ‘maladaptive’, by making life harder for poor people and pushing them into conflict with each other.

 

Lessons learnt using the political framework: are there any easy answers?

Three researchers from across the case studies share their personal reflections and learning of using political economy analysis in their work.

1. Mapping actors and engaging with multiple stakeholders in Ghana

In this video, Adelina Mensah a researcher at the Environment and Sanitation Studies, University of Ghana discusses the Ghana case study, including the; value and challenges of using political analysis in the research process.

 

2. REDD+ is not just about forests: Mozambique

The REDD+ strategy in Mozambique has been years in the making. In 2012, according to the country’s REDD readiness proposal, one-third of Mozambique’s entire land area was subject to proposals for forest conservation and carbon forestry from private business and global conservation agencies,

Almeida Sitoe is an Associate Professor at Eduardo Mondlane University and a researcher on the project in Mozambique. This case study examined the political economy of carbon forestry and REDD+ in view of goals for climate compatible development. In the video below, Almeida talks about his personal experiences of using political analysis.

Some of the key messages from this project include:

  • There needs to be strong governance mechanisms and safeguards in place to secure land tenure rights and benefits from forest resources, as well as carbon stocks for local communities, with the engagement of local groups and initiatives.
  • REDD is not just about forests and the forests sector; it needs to be aligned with other sectors like agriculture and energy, which are key drivers of deforestation in Mozambique.

 

3. Clean energy revolution in Kenya?

Kenya faces an energy dilemma. While Kenya already gets a large part of its energy mix from renewable resources, it has also recently discovered oil and there is growing interest in exploiting the country’s coal reserves. So even though the potential for a clean energy revolution is high, the policy and regulatory framework to support it is not yet in place. 82 per cent of the population is still without access to electricity.

In this video, Jon Phillips a researcher on the project discusses the background to the Kenyan case study and shares his reflections on Kenyan energy sector using the political economy approach.

Some of key messages from the research include:

  • Businesses that stand to benefit from clean energy need a greater voice in the debate. Renewable associations exist and are active in these debates. But assembling a broader ‘coalition of the willing and the winning’ from a low carbon economy is vital to showing private sector support for clean energy future in Kenya.
  • Given the potential benefits of renewables for poorer groups that often lack access to the grid there is real scope to build alliances at country level whom the Kenya 2010 constitution grants increasing powers.

 

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