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FEATURE: Understanding how climate compatible development takes root

Veena Ravichandran, CDKN’s Senior Research Advisor, outlines an exciting new CDKN project – and why we’re supporting it.

Climate compatible development (CCD) initiatives do not happen in a vacuum.  They unfold within existing policy and decision making processes and are shaped by the powerful and influential people who may or may not have all the evidence necessary for sound policy decisions.  On the other hand, communities with a deep understanding of climate risks and opportunities or research-based evidence may not have the position or power to influence climate policy or decisions.

One of the most important lessons from evidence on development aid effectiveness is that a good understanding of politics and policy processes is crucial. This is equally true, if not more so in delivering climate services with outcomes that help the poorest and most vulnerable people. At present, delivery of climate services is largely focused on technical assistance, toolkits, advisory and capacity-building support. The political economy analysis is missing from these engagements.

To address this important gap, CDKN is supporting a new project on the political economy of CCD in Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique, led by the Institute for Development Studies, Sussex, in collaboration with Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, University of Sussex and University of Southampton. The project builds on three CDKN research projects by including a political economy analysis to the technical and social research findings. These projects are:

The project focuses on coastal areas, fisheries and tourism in Ghana, solar home systems in Kenya and agriculture, pastoralism in Mozambique.   These sectors employ the most climate-vulnerable people and also offer opportunities for climate adaptation and mitigation.

A framework for political economy analysis

Policy processes are invariably deeply political and non-linear. There are power relations that are explicit and implicit. This project is developing an analytical framework that integrates three common approaches to understanding policy in complex socio-political contexts. One emphasises political economy and the interactions of state and civil society, and different interest groups. Another examines the histories and practices linked to shifting discourses, and how these shape and guide policy problems and courses of action. The third gives importance to the roles and agency (or capacity to make a difference) of individual actors.  The integration will be done to reflect generic issues in climate policies and subsequently adjusted to reflect the real issues for each sector. Key research questions that will guide the research are:

1) Discourse and narrative – what is the ‘policy narrative’? How is it framed through science and research?

2) Actors and networks – who is involved and how they are connected?

3) Politics and interests – what are the underlying power dynamics and incentives for policymakers to promote some policies, often at the cost of others; whose interests are served, and whose are marginalised?

In delivering CCD, it is important to understand how the prevailing policy narratives, the people and institutions involved, and the politics and interests that drive them collectively contribute to the prospects for synergies among adaptation, mitigation and poverty reduction—in policy and practice. The key idea in this project will be to understand and articulate the prospects for expanding the policy space for triple wins (fig 1)

Figure 1: Expanding the triple wins  


Neither adaptation nor mitigation automatically reduces poverty, nor is poverty reduction always able to serve adaptation or mitigation objectives. Therefore it cannot be taken for granted that approaches that potentially offer the kinds of synergies for CCD will automatically be taken up by policy actors, whose interests, incentives and resources may point in different directions. The project team will not focus solely on understanding policy making but also on using their discoveries to find opportunities to influence it.

Photo courtesy of Flickr / acameronhuff

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