What can we learn from CDKN’s Inside Stories on climate compatible development?

What can we learn from CDKN’s Inside Stories on climate compatible development?

CDKN recently published the twentieth edition of its Inside Stories on climate compatible development. This milestone provides an opportunity to review the series, and highlight some of the top considerations for decision-makers at the intersection of climate and development policy.

CDKN commissioned the Inside Stories in response to developing country policy-makers’ demand for practical lessons: they want to know what works, and what doesn’t, when planning and delivering low carbon, climate resilient development. Failure provides lessons that are just as important as success stories. And in a world that is warming more rapidly than at any time in recorded history, every lesson counts.

Scope of the ‘Inside Stories’

CDKN’s Inside Stories on climate compatible development are wide ranging. One group of stories explores integrated conservation and development policies that were initiated for their broader sustainability benefits but also deliver climate co-benefits. These include Ecuador’s Socio Bosque (‘agroforestry’) programme; Niger’s Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration programme; and Zambia’s Evergreen Agriculture scheme. Other stories look at climate policies and programmes ranging from the Philippines’ climate legislation to major nation-wide climate resilience programmes in Grenada and Bangladesh. One of our Inside Stories documents the first subnational climate accord in a developing country, the Yucatan Peninsula Accord among Mexican states; another plumbs experience with climate compatible development  among  South African municipalities.

Some of the stories are sector-specific, taking in leading examples of REDD+ readiness from Fiji and Vietnam, and  innovative programmes for gearing up renewable energy investment, such as the best practices in Tanzanian and South African renewables sectors, India (solar power and energy efficiency), Barbados (solar water heating), China (wind power), and Kenya (geothermal energy).  These sectoral policies are significant, for these sectors constitute sizeable proportions of their countries’ economic output and/or these policies have the potential to spearhead their country’s transition to a low carbon, climate resilient path. The Tanzania inside story has already been cited multiple times in strategy documents for the country’s energy sector reform.

More recently, CDKN has commissioned Inside Stories on developing countries’ experiences with international finance mechanisms: China’s experience in exploiting the market opportunity provided by the Clean Development Mechanism and Jamaica and Senegal’s comparative experience in accessing monies directly from the Adaptation Fund.

Major themes in climate compatible development policy

The Inside Stories are, by and large, success stories, although even the most promising initiatives are qualified successes. CDKN believes that honest analyses of what could have gone better, or what could be improved, makes for a more interesting read, and provides more thought-provoking and useful conclusions for readers.

Here, then, are some of the major themes in climate compatible development that have emerged from the Inside Stories on climate compatible development:

1. Open and transparent process makes for durable climate compatible development policies

Many elements we recognise as being good practice in development generally – and indeed, in environmental governance – also apply to climate compatible development. Affected stakeholders’ access to information about policy processes and their participation in decision-making are two vital ingredients of success.

First, the Inside Stories show how transparency creates greater accountability and compliance of key actors in forest and climate programmes. In Indonesia, a moratorium on logging in primary forests and peatland requires forest managers and law enforcement officials to comply with the ban and to be open and transparent about their practices. Such a programme involves hundreds of forest enterprises and district level government officials, many of whom benefitted economically from the previous regime. For this reason, national programme officers have emphasised data transparency: they have published maps of the moratorium areas and issued updated remote sensing data as often as possible, in an effort to create a broader environment of accountability.

New flows of climate finance can, more broadly, provide new opportunities for corruption and empire-building by policy elites (a risk whenever new aid begins to flow in substantial volumes). Several ‘Inside Stories’ discuss best practices in governance to counter these risks: the Indonesia case, above, along with the case of REDD+ readiness in Tanzania, document measures for transparency and openness driven by the donor government, Norway.

2. Adequate stakeholder consultation is vital

Another pillar of good aid governance and robust development policy – stakeholder consultation – emerges as a key success factor in the Inside Stories. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the large evidence base on the links between stakeholder consultation in policy-making and successful implementation. Thorough consultation has proved important to securing stakeholder support for implementation in  Tanzania, Vietnam , IndonesiaGrenada,  Bangladesh, Jamaica and Senegal.

For instance, in Direct access to the Adaptation Fund: Lessons from accrediting NIEs in Jamaica and Senegal, Benoit Rivard and Will Bugler write: “Senegal stands out in comparison  to other NIE-accredited countries in the way it included civil society in the decision-making process from the very beginning. This entailed opening early-stage meetings to non-government organisations and community service organisations and involving stakeholders at all levels. The relationships established at this stage were useful for making later decisions about adaptation projects.”

Several Inside Stories emphasize the importance of consulting with businesses in order to design market-based solutions effectively. Such consultation is fundamental if governments are to craft policies that are economically feasible for businesses or, in the case of voluntary schemes, that attract business participation. Defining the entry requirements for carbon market participation;  establishing baseline greenhouse gas emissions levels; setting standards for monitoring, reporting and verification; and fixing price ceilings or floors for carbon markets are among the measures that benefit from extensive private sector consultation before policies are launched.

The consultative process to design India’s Perform, Achieve and Trade scheme, which targets energy efficiency savings from 478 industrial facilities, has been long and intensive. The author of this case study, Neelam Singh, concludes that such a long design phase was necessary to set realistic conditions for these industries’ participation, including realistic emissions reductions targets. At first, policy makers intended to set sector-by-sector targets but after consultations revealed the wide disparity in energy efficiency at different plants, the Government decided to set targets on a plant-by-plant basis.

3. Adaptive management is important

Even the best consultative processes do not lead to perfect policy and programme designs. Policies succeed in delivering their climate, environment and development goals when adaptive management is factored into the implementation phase. In practical terms, this means being ready to refine the design of a policy or programme as it unfolds.

Ecuador’s Socio Bosque programme, which offers individuals and communities payments for forest conservation activities, was designed with public consultation. However, its architects knew that some fine-tuning to the payments and the MRV systems would be required, after an initial period, to achieve the desired outcomes.

In India, the Jawarhal Nehru solar mission was first undertaken with a round of bidding for private sector solar PV installation and maintenance companies but upon implementation, it was found that the quality of many small local companies’ work was below standard and modifications have had to be made to the bidding criteria for subsequent rounds.

4. Public policy and investment anchors private sector involvement

We know the private sector is looking for a stable, predictable policy environment for climate-smart investments.  Inside Stories highlight several cases in which governments provide a long-term horizon with policy and regulatory certainty to investors: as in India’s solar mission, South Africa’s renewables initiative, and Barbados’ solar water heating programme. In the Chinese case study, Ailun Yang concludes that “establishment of a stable and favourable pricing mechanism [has been] crucial for the development of wind power.”

As the modalities for the Green Climate Fund are developed and policy-makers consider how the Fund will be capitalised, it is timely to consider how government investment in climate compatible development can leverage private sector entry.  In the Inside Story about Kenya, the start-up costs for geothermal energy development were prohibitively expensive for private businesses, so the Government of Kenya established the para-statal Geothermal Development Company (GDC). The GDC shoulders some of the financial risk for the private sector at exploration, appraisal and drilling stages.

5. Policies should be embedded in existing legal frameworks and recognise existing rights

Climate compatible development policies and programmes aren’t formed in a vacuum: they need to build on existing legal and policy foundations. Many of the ‘Inside Stories’ show the historic progression of legal and policy development.  India’s  energy efficiency scheme builds on the policy framework developed throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, as visualised in the graphic in Neeram Singh’s Inside Story. Kenya’s geothermal energy expansion has been facilitated by the development of a supportive policy framework including a zero value-added tax (VAT) rate for renewable energy deployment and a feed-in tariff (FIT) policy, both of which will support the government’s ramped-up ambitions for a huge expansion of geothermal development between now and 2030.

Continuing layers of policy and regulatory detail have been developed in the Philippines, where the landmark Climate Change Act in 2009 has been followed by a National Framework Strategy on Climate Change in 2010 and a National Climate Change Action Plan in 2011. The Philippines case study also highlights the perils when countries’ legal frameworks are not adequately aligned with climate change ambitions. Authors Katherine Lofthouse and Alex Kenny  conclude that the lack of environmental regulation on extractive industries is detrimental to the climate.

Where target beneficiaries lack adequate legal rights to natural resources, further legal action is needed to confer the benefits of new climate and development policies. For instance, to benefit fully from climate or carbon finance schemes based on forest or land conservation, households and communities must have clear and sufficient legal rights over those resources. Where people’s rights remain to be clarified, as in the case of some ethnic minority communities in Vietnam, the design of effective programmes is complex and challenging.

6. Subnational programmes provide models that can be replicated and scaled up

Some Inside Stories show how successful subnational climate compatible development policies can be either replicated at similar geographical scales, or scaled up to national level. In Colombia, the participatory vulnerability assessment methodology developed by CDKN, CIAT and government partners provides a holistic model for evaluating the economic, socio-cultural and environmental  vulnerabilities caused by climate change: this programme is now a model for similar initiatives in Colombia’s transport sector. Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Accord among the state governments of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan has enabled these authorities to build their collective capacity to address climate vulnerability. Author Liliana Del Villar notes that there is active discussion about extending the Accord to other state-level governments, and that, at minimum, the participating states “can acquire valuable experience and generate lessons that can support policy-making and implementation at the national level.”

The cases of Niger’s Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration and Zambia’s Evergreen Agriculture schemes document how small-scale farmer-centred solutions have gradually been replicated at community level to achieve large scale in delivery, over time, to the extent that the Zambian one is now under consideration under as a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) programme under the UNFCCC.

7. Selling the co-benefits of climate and development policy requires the right communication skills

The Inside Stories showcase policies and programmes that aim to deliver climate and development co-benefits yet occasionally governments  have struggled to sell the benefits to an apathetic or, at times, sceptical public. Success may not simply depend on whether the policy or programme itself is a good ‘offer’ to stakeholders: its popularity and uptake may depend on how it’s communicated. In Grenada, Inside Story authors Sarah Mason Case and Sandra Prescod-Darymple say that outreach workers weren’t wholly convincing in selling the government’s climate resilience programme. By contrast, in Barbados, the Inside Story describes how champions including the prime minister himself embraced solar water heating and communicated it widely in the press, with positive results. The case study of mainstreaming climate change into South Africa’s municipal development plans delivers a strong lesson about communicating local relevance: “Climate change considerations must be shown to be relevant to local priorities and circumstances. Developing county governments face many social, economic and environmental challenges and framing climate change action as a response to these challenges enables decision-makers to see such action as contributing to – rather than constraining – development.”


In summary,  the Inside Stories on climate compatible development were commissioned on the basis of the usefulness of each, separate case study to developing country policy-makers, and not as a comparative set of case studies that could be assessed like-for-like. Yet still, some important commonalities emerge from the series. The Inside Stories stress the importance of transparency, adequate consultation with affected stakeholders, adaptive management, skilled communication of policy benefits, consistency and longevity of public policies to enhance private sector involvement. None of these are new concepts, but it is perhaps important that these ‘ingredients of success’ are re-emphasised, as decision-makers and their constituents face the steep challenges and trade-offs of climate compatible development together.

The many qualified successes in the Inside Story collection provide something else, too: they suggest an increasingly critical mass of experience in climate compatible development policy-making and implementation building internationally. We know that the global sum of individual countries’ efforts to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience is still insufficient. However, we see that even while national (and subnational) circumstances are unique, we still have much to learn from each other. There has never been a better time for knowledge exchange on the climate compatible development agenda.


CDKN has provided editorial oversight of the Inside Story series, while subject and country experts have scripted the individual papers. Authors come from partner organisations Acclimatise, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, International Development Law Organisation, Ithaca Environmental, LTS International and World Resources Institute. Green Ink have edited, designed and laid out the stories.

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