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Tackling climate change and bringing development through cross-sector partnerships

Future climate change policy in developing countries is likely to require the transfer of technologies. These should both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to local social and economic development. Cross-sector partnerships between investors, municipalities, and citizens may be one way to achieve this, through reduced costs and increased local involvement.  

A paper in the journal World Development
compares examples of partnerships involving waste-to-energy investment in
India, the Philippines, and Thailand. It aims to find the best model for
transferring climate change technology while bringing about a ‘development
dividend’. The development dividend describes
the social and developmental benefits of activities to reduce or isolate
greenhouse gas emissions (for example, by providing employment and livelihoods
while ‘storing’ carbon dioxide in forests) in developing countries.

Most discussions about the
development dividend have focused on potential of the Clean Development
Mechanism (CDM) to encourage climate-friendly investment. But the idea of the
development dividend is unclear, and increased costs have discouraged
investors. Further, while the transfer of
environmentally sound technologies to developing countries is vital to combat
climate change, such technologies also need to deliver profits to their
developers and be appropriate to specific contexts. They often demand long-term
investment.

The CDM has been
criticised for failing to achieve either sufficient technology transfer or the
development dividend. The paper analyses the role of cross-sector partnerships
(CSPs) between investors, state bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
and citizens in providing a model. Such partnerships may vary in terms of the
contractual guarantees they provide (assurance mechanisms) and the allowance
made for those involved to influence the nature and purpose of collaboration
(deliberative capacity). Key findings include:

  • While straightforward
    assurance mechanisms and low costs are fundamental to the success of
    partnerships, the reality is more complex.

  • Case studies in the
    Philippines and Thailand required agreements with diverse groups, which
    increased the fragility and costs of collaboration.

  • Deliberative capacity is hard
    to predict because of local perceptions of development or resistance to
    technologies.

  • ‘Complementary’
    partnerships may be simpler than the ‘shared’ form because there is a clear
    separation of roles according to experience, and conflict is kept to a minimum.

  • Deliberative success depends
    less on a diversity of partners than on investors making sure their activities
    support local development concerns.

  • NGOs can ‘bridge’ relations
    among different groups but may also oppose CSPs (for example, Greenpeace has criticised
    biomethanation for ‘legitimising’ waste).

Investors and NGOs can overcome such challenges
by influencing how new technologies are seen by local citizens, and by seeking
greater consensus on development. Greater discussion at a global level as well
as more contractual certainty for international investors should be a priority.

Broader lessons for combining local
deliberative and global environmental policy include:

  • Being ‘deliberative’
    does not mean environmental policy has to be universally popular – hearing
    local concerns is more important than simply agreeing with them.

  • Climate change
    policy is most likely to succeed locally when presented in terms that local
    people value rather than as abstract global concerns.

  • Deliberative
    processes are by definition a learning process, so initial failures of CSPs
    should be valued for the lessons they provide.