Climate compatible development: the politics of ‘triple wins’ and trade-offs

Can adaptation, mitigation and development work together?

The idea that climate funding should support multiple climate and development goals has taken root over the last few years.

The increasing popularity of terms such as ‘climate compatible development’, ‘climate smart agriculture’, ‘climate resilient development’ and similar concepts shows the desire to focus on the potential synergies between goals of adaptation, mitigation and development. But while it is easy to see the logic behind focusing on synergies to achieve co-benefits or ‘triple wins’, there is much less clarity on how – indeed whether – they might be achieved in practice, or what the trade-offs might be between these goals, which are not necessarily as compatible as they may appear at first sight.

An IDS-led project funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) is exploring three case studies to analyse how ‘climate compatible development’ initiatives are unfolding in Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique. Using a political economy approach, the case studies focus on:

  • the contexts in which initiatives occur
  • the potential competition or conflict between different actors and their goals, and
  • the consequences in terms of who wins and who loses from different aspects of climate compatible development.

Coastal fisheries in Ghana

In Ghana, the project considers the political economy of climate compatible development in the coastal fisheries sector.

Ghana is an excellent example of the challenges of tackling climate change and development together. Its significant development progress in recent decades is combined with rising greenhouse gas emissions and acute vulnerability to climate change impacts. Initiatives and government plans on climate change are growing rapidly in Ghana, but the links between climate change and the coastal fisheries sector remain under-explored.

The CDKN project is examining these links, the different groups of actors influencing compatibility and trade-offs between climate and development goals, and the politics of reconciling these trade-offs in ways that can promote sustainable livelihoods for Ghana’s poorer citizens.

Renewable energy in Kenya

In Kenya, the project is analysing the politics and political economy of renewable energy.

Kenya presents a fascinating case study of the political economy of climate compatible development. A national Climate Change Action Plan is in place, but 82% of the population is still without access to electricity, and existing energy sources such as hydropower are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The case study explores the history and development of key energy initiatives, policies and regulations with the aim of understanding how relations of power, actor networks and interests, and the role of key institutions enable or frustrate change. In turn, this will help provide an understanding of the context within which initiatives such as Kenya’s Solar Home System has been taken up, the ways in which different renewable and non-renewable energy resources compete for attention, and the consequences of this for energy access for the poor.

Carbon forestry in Mozambique

Mozambique forestry

In Mozambique, the project looks at the competing models inherent in proposals for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) as an example of so-called ‘carbon forestry’.

Initially set up as a scheme to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation, REDD has since expanded to include a wide range of development and adaptation goals. The national debates, international funding decisions, and the actors engaged in these, will all be key in shaping how REDD+ is implemented on the ground.

The project is exploring debates related to REDD+ in Mozambique in order to understand what different models mean for climate-compatible development goals, in a context of growing competition for land. Potential models range from large scale plantations, which fit well with Mozambique’s national growth narrative but may offer little in the way of poverty reduction benefits, to small scale agroforestry schemes, which can offer mitigation and poverty reduction benefits but which might be squeezed out by a focus on larger scale projects.

What happens next?

Following completion of draft reports from the three case studies, the project will hold learning events in each of the case study countries during early 2014. The main aim of these learning events is to bring together actors to explore, first, how the findings from the case studies can inform efforts to support co-benefits or triple wins in each of the cases outlined above, and more broadly how tools for political economy lessons can be integrated in plans for climate change funding over the years to come.

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This post was written by Lars Otto Naess, convenor of the Climate Change theme of Future Agricultures, with contributions from Peter Newell (Department of International Relations, University of Sussex) and Thomas Tanner (Institute of Development Studies).

Photo: Boat, Ghana by Nyani Quarmyne; Mozambique forestry by Lora Forsythe, NRI