Credible knowledge base is at the heart of low emissions development

Credible knowledge base is at the heart of low emissions development

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Date: 22nd March 2012
Type: Feature
Tags: LEDS Global Partnership, low emission development, mitigation

By Mairi Dupar, Global Public Affairs Coordinator, CDKN

This week a group of developing country decision-makers, donor programmes and technical institutions, the LEDS Global Partnership, has gathered in the UK to discuss the successful ingredients for designing low emissions development. CDKN has brought this community of practitioners together at Latimer House to share lessons and accelerate actions towards low carbon, climate resilient development.

A burning question for the LEDS community is: given that public finance is limited, how do you invest the available public funds most strategically? How do you do so in a way that mitigates against climate change, builds climate resilience, and helps countries achieve their development goals?

One speaker after another underlined the importance of good process in creating low carbon development plans that are both adopted and sustained. Money is a necessary enabler. However, it’s equally important that a critical mass of stakeholders buys in to a common vision for low emissions development.

A credible evidence base

We heard how promising LEDS processes start with a mandate from government to give such processes legitimacy, and development of a credible evidence base. An evidence base becomes robust and credible when stakeholders from across government, civil society, and business can scrutinise and contribute to it. It can be an opportunity for these groups to forge a common understanding of the starting point of their journey.  In other words, agreeing ‘where we are now’ is necessary, before stakeholders even start to discuss ‘where we could be’ and ‘how we will get there.’

Pia Zevallos, who is steering the delivery of the Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios (MAPS) work in Peru described how her team developed an approach for identifying the stakeholders who should determine inputs for the emissions-scenario models. ‘Every climate and development modeling  process like this is contested’, said Stefan Raubenheimer, one of the founders of MAPS.

In South Africa, where Stefan and colleagues pioneered the participatory scenario-building process for mitigation action, they found it essential that different stakeholder groups reached consensus on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions baseline, including an agreement on which sectors were contributing to emissions and how. Once that consensus on the baseline was reached, they could begin to talk about future goals and scenarios.

An EU official, speaking under 'Chatham House rules,' underlined the importance of creating a strong, authoritative evidence base: “We need a majority in the European Council and Parliament to convince people that our policies are the right thing to do. To get the majorities we need to have good arguments. That is the reason we need to have good data... you need the Parliament, the member states behind you so that they believe your data and want to take your model forward. We find a lot of peer reviewers – our modelers [must] be analysed by other modelers so that [other climate negotiators] will not laugh us away. We have to do this also at international level. Whether it’s China, Ethiopia, the same kind of rigour has to be there.”

The right tools to fit national objectives

The theme of opening up the technical detail of LEDS planning for scrutiny and debate continued, as participants explored the value of planning tools.

Among the LEDS Global Partnership members alone, a wide array of climate and development planning tools has been developed and promoted – and there is a growing universe of tools out there. CDKN's climate planning users' guide ( provides signposts to some of the best-used. Conference participants share an appetite for learning lessons about different experiences with putting tools into action.

Yet participants have also sounded a common caution: countries' development priorities and political realities must come before technical solutions. Technical solutions must be moulded to countries’ overall development objectives, and must take account of their needs and capacities.

Again the experience from Peru is instructive: here the national government is assessing how the MAPS tool can be deployed to assist in long term low carbon development planning. Yet already, government and non-governmental stakeholders have identified that the MAPS tool is limited by its current inability to project the impacts of mitigations scenarios on poverty reduction. Now, the team is looking at how the tool could be adapted to do this.

Leaders of the country's low emissions planning process didn't have a template for stakeholder input into the evidence base, as mentioned above, so they created their own tool and approach for doing this.

In this way, climate compatible development  planning tools shouldn't be seen as fixed 'packages' for rote application across countries, but as components of  larger, more complex, political processes, which can enable rich learning in countries, through experimentation, and pathways to lasting change.


Image courtesy of Panos.

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