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FEATURE: A six point plan for moving forward on climate compatible development

The following essay by Sam Bickersteth, CDKN’s Chief Executive, is excerpted from and builds on his opening speech from the CDKN London Conference, July 2017. Read the first part of the essay here: Charting a course toward climate compatible development and download the full essay as a pdf here.

What is the agenda that we must address going forward? There are six key areas to accelerate climate compatible development, which prompt some key questions that we need to address.

Rebuild and reshape leadership

Will China have the depth of capacity to fill the gaps emerging, and from where will new coalitions and states-people emerge? Non-State Actors and coalitions have already emerged as significant, for example the We Mean Business coalition. How can a reinvigorated media and NGO campaign around climate be instigated? Sustained support to groups like the Least Developed Countries negotiators group and the High Ambition Coalition can play a valuable role for relatively modest investment.

Some of the emerging responses from the conference included:

  • National leaders need to take a high level of personal responsibility for the shaping of their country’s climate agenda. Emmanuel Macron of France is one such example.
  • Let’s particularly ensure that we weave adaptation into development and mitigation interventions.
  • There is a difference between power and leadership. Those in power are not necessarily the right advocates or champions of climate compatible development. We should look to those champions, whether in the private sector, NGOs or different areas of government, to work together to push the agenda forward.
  • It is not just about North to South transfer of knowledge, leadership and advocacy but also South to North. We need to build capacity through long-term engagement and partnerships with the most vulnerable countries who are often learning the fastest and have much to share.
  • We need to grow future leaders, not purely climate leaders. We need to educate our youth to become champions of climate compatible development and climate change in general, as they will be the most affected by it.

Socially inclusive climate compatible growth

We’ve made the economic case for climate compatible growth, but not for socially inclusive climate compatible growth. Plans, subsidies and sectoral actions must address gender and social inclusion far better than at present. CDKN’s recent report on NDCs shows that this is non-optional. NDCs must respond to national development plans, these all aim to reduce poverty. Yet great climate initiatives like Mission 2020 have given little attention to issues such as poverty and jobs.  A stronger poverty focus is needed to ensure inclusive transformation. We cannot let the climate agenda become a humanitarian agenda – we learnt from Sendai that it is tough to shift humanitarian approaches and resources to building long term and transformative capacity.

Points emerging from the conference included:

  • Listen to minority groups and those who are most affected by climate change.
  • Take a holistic approach to incentives and subsidies; we must question where these are distorting the market and not helping us to reach good outcomes for the poorest and most vulnerable.
  • Stop using climate specific language which has the potential to alienate the private sector. Integrate climate issues into the language of business. The same applies to other stakeholders, such as subnational actors.
  • It is not always a win-win situation, a real analysis and clear communication of the trade-offs for any given programme is needed.

Accelerate access to all kinds of finance

We must stop talking only about climate finance (including GCF) and instead focus on other resources and where finance sits – in national budgets, banks, the private sector and with global financial institutions.

Points emerging from the conference were:

  • Accelerate the implementation of NDCs through resource mobilisation and drop the use of the phrase ‘climate finance’ – finance can come from all kinds of sources.
  • There are no ‘silver bullets’ or ‘one size fits all’ options. Every country is different with varying priorities and specific gaps to address. You need to include the experts and fiscal strategists from each country at every stage.
  • Use fiscal policy as a strategy lever and make more effective use of innovative market instruments such as guarantees and other smart blending solutions and public-private partnerships to catalyse the needed volumes of climate compatible development investments from an existing base.
  • Support developing countries in building capacity to transform their NDCs into bankable investment plans with a healthy pipeline of projects in all sectors.
  • Communicate and engage on thinking of climate action as a co-benefit and not as a standalone financing option. This could be focusing on reform that benefits areas that the public care about, such as health, education or security.
  • Better data collection is needed at the national level on financial flows both by sector and in new cross-sectoral areas.

Construct climate resilient infrastructure

We must focus on infrastructure now. Technology has the chance to reboot the quality of the built environment. Domestic scale integrated solar, battery and smart switching systems are on the way here in the UK – but there is need to deliberately insert these available technologies into the construction underway in all cities in developing countries. Points emerging from the conference included:

  • Effective communication of climate risks and uncertainties is important to successfully inform project planning and design. Climate risks should be placed within the wider context of other risks and vulnerabilities.
  • Stakeholder analysis at the outset of any intervention is crucial. Make a clear plan for which stakeholders should be engaged at different stages and who could be ‘champions’ for, and leaders of, change.
  • Adjusting infrastructure design to improve resilience is important, but infrastructure should also support resilience within its broader environmental, social and institutional system.
  • Long-term prospects for increasing the climate resilience of infrastructure rely on investment in capacity development to support action by national government and their agencies such as river basin organisations. Good examples of effective action are important – the market is full of followers.

Build capability across scales

We have to work across scales to build capability of institutions, people and systems to manage the low carbon, climate resilient revolution ahead– from community, to local, sub-national, national and international. For example, we can see how demand for action on air pollution has been driving change in a range of policies at local, national and even international levels – these connections need to be fostered and we need nimble programmes and institutions to do this; CDKN has made a start. Development aid agencies with their catalytic potential need to get behind this and deliver on their mainstreaming commitments – otherwise the SDGs will not be delivered.

Points emerging from the conference included:

  • Build long term partnerships and mandates to secure a longer-term vision instead of ‘quick wins’.
  • Understand the perspectives of others and recognise that in order to build capability across scales, you need to build a common understanding through clear communication.
  • Use networks which already exist such as LEDS GP and the NDC Partnership.
  • Find opportunities to shape and inform public opinion.
  • Strengthen political leadership and capabilities of institutions at the national and subnational level for sustained change.

Enable equitable consumption 

Finally consumption – we have to consume more equitably, whether we are talking about water, food, carbon or land. Where is the behavioural agenda in developing countries? Is it too soon to be talking about the new sharing economy (e.g. Zip car), changing diets and looking at new forms of resource use?   There is an opportunity for developing countries to manage waste better, achieve efficiency gains and avoid high carbon lock in.

Little discussion on this topic emerged from the conference besides the need to look across supply chains to ensure equitable consumption. I look forward to seeing further public debate on this important topic.

Future of CDKN

Finally, a quick word on the future of CDKN. While core support from DFID is coming to an end this autumn, CDKN is continuing to operate through our alliance. We will continue to deliver five multi-year, global projects addressing climate action through support with knowledge and learning, research, capacity building and technical assistance.   Together with our partners we will continue to remain relevant and active in building the capability of developing countries to respond to the opportunities and challenges of climate and development.

– Sam Bickersteth, 14.7.17


Image; credit Christian Aid













Looking forward: a six-point plan


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