New learning project will explore how to scale up local successes in climate compatible development

New learning project will explore how to scale up local successes in climate compatible development

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Date: 29th September 2015
Type: Feature

Mairi Dupar of CDKN introduces a learning initiative that will explore and document some of the 'ingredients' for scaling up successful pilot projects in climate compatible development.

In late July, CDKN and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability brought together city-level decision-makers, development practitioners and researchers for an intensive week of learning on ‘Subnational climate compatible development: from planning to implementation.’ The gathering took place in Quito, Ecuador, a stunning world heritage city that is at increasing risk of erratic rainfall, drought and related forest fires on its steep, wooded hillsides, as the effects of climate change are increasingly felt.

CDKN supports diverse organisations working at city and local level for a more climate compatible future. The Quito meeting convened 15 of these projects – ranging from a project to reduce emissions at the heart of Pakistan’s football industry, to a project for climate compatible tourism in Belize’s coastal communities.

The event kicked off a 18-month learning programme among the partners - which aims to identify major challenges and opportunities for scaling up local successes in climate-compatible development, recognising that “individual achievements are relatively small in the face of the global climate challenge…and successful subnational initiatives should be rapidly scaled up” (‘Close to home’, 2014). A total of 50 participants gathered from across South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean as well as from the municipal governments of Quito, Lima and Cartagena (Colombia).

Quito: A symbolic location

On opening the July meeting, Marianela Curi, Executive Director of Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA), said: “CDKN focuses on localities at subnational level, and it is important for us to have a global and South-South exchange.” FFLA is an Ecuador-based NGO which runs CDKN’s Latin American hub. “CDKN wants to internalise the learnings [from the exchange] and we have chosen Quito as host city as Quito will be the host of the HABITAT III conference and is an ideal place to share information about sustainable cities,” she said.

The Municipality of Quito also serves on the Global Executive Committee of ICLEI and Quito has been nominated as one of the world’s 100 ‘most resilient cities’ (

Veronica Arias, the Environment Secretary of the Municipality of Quito, outlined the climate-related challenges across her jurisdiction, whose 2.4 million residents live across a total of 17 ecosystem types – urban and rural.

Forest fires, drought, erratic supplies of water and flooding and erosion of gullies in and around the city are major hazards and are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change, said Ms Arias. A Quito Climate Change Action Plan focuses on conservation and restoration of forests on steeply sloping hillsides and maintenance of a healthy ‘green belt’ – all of which build climate resilience in the municipality. Participants in the week’s learning events witnessed some of the sustainability and adaptation actions supported by the municipality in a tour of flood management, urban agriculture and green belt preservation projects – described in Alice Reil’s blog.

Over the course of the week, inspired by the imminent climate risks and diverse solutions embraced by Quito, participants explored some of the factors that facilitate climate compatible development there and in their home regions, and pinpointed some of the broader learning questions they’ll explore over the next year.

Questions for learning about ‘scaling up’ climate compatible development

Major discussion topics included : “what enabling factors need to be in place to scale up successful, pilot projects? And what can we, as local actors, do?” Ideas included:


  • It is important to document local achievements well, to assist in sharing lessons learned and enabling them to be debated, adapted, and adopted by others. Documentation also plays a pivotal role in helping actors build on their own success, said CDKN Latin America’s Knowledge coordinator Maria Jose Pacha: “It is deeply important to interpret critically the process experienced in implementing projects and programmes - the processes are as important as the product,” she said.

National policies and the larger ‘ political culture’ to hinder or support subnational initiatives

  • National policies and the national political culture can play a huge role in how approaches can be adopted and adapted from one place to another. For instance, CDKN’s Indonesia advisor Mochamad Indrawan stressed how the public discourse about the role of law and policy influences every local initiative on climate-compatible development in Indonesia: when initiatives branch out, they must be seen to tie into a larger national framework for ‘legitimacy’.

Social organisations and social capital

  • The involvement of social organisations and ability to build ‘social capital’ can make a difference to how quickly new approaches can be introduced and scaled up. The group contrasted the decades-long work of CDKN partner Madhan Kumar of the Dhan Foundation to build community relations in Madurai, Tamil Nadu to support ecosystem restoration– with the efforts of ICLEI Southeast Asia to initiate low-emissions development projects in cities over a short timeframe. Ranell Dedicatoria of ICLEI noted that his projects are buoyed by excellent political buy-in among government officials, but it can be time-consuming to cultivate and sustain broader support, including at the community level, for new low-emissions initiatives that are introducing methods for measuring and acting on pollution.

All of these areas of enquiry and more were compiled in a workshop report to guide the next phase of the learning project.

In total, seven overarching questions were developed for enquiry by CDKN and ICLEI partners. They will present their findings and offer peer review at a follow-up meeting in South Asia in early 2016 with a view to publishing final results later next year:

(1) General - What are the specific features in your project which clearly make it a climate compatible development initiative and distinguish it from a more ‘conventional’ development approach?

(2) On knowledge generation and management - Which approaches for knowledge generation and management have proven most useful for subnational decision-makers for climate compatible development in your project?

(3) On fostering implementation - What have been the key enabling factors and strategies in your project for ensuring that plans are being - or will be - put into practice?

(4) On equitable outcomes of climate compatible development - Has your project revealed any insights on how the benefits and drawbacks of climate compatible development at subnational level can be shared amongst different stakeholders in a fair manner – especially in terms of sufficiently considering the needs and interests of the poor?

(5) On long-term viability – Does your project demonstrate in any way how climate compatible development activities that have been initiated in a project context can be sustained beyond the end of the project?

(6) Scaling up – Does your project include a strategy that can strengthen the contribution of sub-national actors to the coordination and integration of policies and programmes with and by higher levels of government - and is there any indication that this strategy has achieved (or will achieve) its purpose?

(7) Scaling out - Which kind of communications (including communication tools), partnerships and other engagement strategies have proven most effective to make relevant decision-makers in other cities, provinces or states consider and/or adopt the climate compatible development lessons, tools, and processes that you have developed and/or implemented?

Please download the full copy of the workshop report here for complete notes on participating projects and learning questions. Leave us a comment, below, if some of these issues and themes resonate with your experience of climate compatible development at subnational and urban level!

 Image: demonstration of Quito sustainable urban agriculture project, courtesy Mairi Dupar, CDKN.

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