This chapter explores the national drivers for climate ambition and climate action. It looks at the array of reasons why communities, businesses, city, district and national governments are compelled to act on climate change – and at the hurdles to doing so. How are actors making the case for climate action and overcoming those challenges? How are they overcoming resistance to change?

Many aspects of a country’s human and physical geography and political landscape provide the impetus for climate compatible development policies. These key drivers include:

  • the recognition of the need to reduce poverty, particularly extreme poverty, and the recognition that ending poverty and action on climate change are completely interconnected
  • a recognised need to achieve sustained economic growth, which will be hampered by the overstepping of Earth’s natural limits if it is not environmentally sustainable
  • the need to bolster climate resilience – awareness may become acute when a country suffers climate-related extremes or disasters (see box)
  • a concern about energy security
  • a desire to capitalise on new economic opportunities
  • a desire to capitalise on climate finance and aid
  • a desire to act as leaders on climate compatible development in the international arena (for more, see Chapter 7).
Residents walk on a road littered with debris after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013.– REUTERS/Erik De Castro
WORKING PAPER: Drivers and challenges for climate compatible development
WORKING PAPER: Drivers and challenges for climate compatible development
Regions: Bangladesh
Regions: Bangladesh

The hurdles to winning the argument for climate compatible development can be significant. Like development more broadly, climate compatible development can be contested territory. There are no one-size-fits-all approaches. Rather, navigating the specific approach is a place-by-place and country-by-country affair.

However, proponents of action on climate change do face some common challenges:

  • Interest groups are opposed to change.
  • There is often a lack of awareness and lack of trusted information about what the future climate holds and what scientific projections mean.
  • There are real and perceived costs associated with change, and risks, opportunities and trade-offs to be navigated.
  • Decision-makers and influential stakeholders may prioritise more expedient, short-term issues.

This chapter suggests ways of framing the issues and building alliances to marshal political, social and financial support for climate compatible development solutions.

Compelling narrative must show the ‘cost of inaction’

First, a compelling narrative is needed, around the costs of failing to deal with climate change. The conversation about the costs of failing to cut greenhouse gases is, naturally, a global conversation, because emissions released in one place affect us all. In the climate-vulnerable and least developed countries where CDKN has worked, per capita emissions are well below global averages and so the national and subnational conversation about ‘action on climate change’ often starts with the case for investing in climate change adaptation and building resilience.

In Nepal, an exercise to calculate the cost of climate change impacts over the next few decades has provided a focus – previously lacking – for the different ministries of national government to engage in the climate debate, assess implications for their sectors, and develop more climate-resilient interventions. Nepal is a predominantly rural society, where 70% of the population relies on farming for income. Recent temperature rises and reduction in winter rainfall are affecting productivity and the livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations. The CDKN-supported study, Economic impact assessments of climate change in Nepal, identified agriculture as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It found that 2-3% of the country’s GDP will be lost by 2050 as a result of climate change. This was a wake-up call for government to support new farming practices that would increase farmers’ resilience to climate change.

REPORT: Economic impact assessment of climate change for key sectors in Nepal
REPORT: Economic impact assessment of climate change for key sectors in Nepal

The case for taking action is a convincing one because the economics line up: many of the options for adapting to climate change are ‘no regret’ or ‘low regret’ options. That is, they make development sense and would cost little or no more than programmes the government would support anyway. The Government of Nepal is investing in a programme to scale up these practices and CDKN is advising the government on how to build the capacity of local researchers and farm workers.

[This study] has helped sensitise all of us to the challenges and way forward associated with climate change impacts and has helped build the capacity of the scientific community in Nepal.

Dr Krishna Chandra Paudel, Secretary, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment Government of Nepal
FEATURE: Scaling-up climate smart agriculture in Nepal
FEATURE: Scaling-up climate smart agriculture in Nepal

In Uganda, the National Development Plan (2010/11-2014/15) recognises that climate change will affect most of the country’s economic sectors. The plan acknowledges that addressing climate change is crucial if the country is to achieve sustainable economic and social development, and the Vision 2040 goal of transforming Uganda to a competitive, upper-middle-income country. At the time of writing, the national government is in a process of evaluating how to further strengthen low-emission and climate-resilient measures into the country’s next national development plan.

The impacts of climate change are expected to be felt across all sectors of Uganda’s economy in the coming years. In the next 50 years, average temperatures are expected to rise about 2°C and rainfall is expected to decrease slightly across most of the country – most significantly over Lake Victoria, with slightly wetter conditions in the west and north-west.

CDKN-commissioned research on the future impacts of climate change in Uganda and the cost of inaction found that:

  • The cost of adaptation is high – estimated at around US$406 million over the next five years. On an annual basis, this amounts to about 5% of net official assistance received and 3.2% of total government revenues (excluding grants).
  • However, the cost of inaction is far greater, estimated at around US$3.1–5.9 billion a year by 2025 – between 24 and 46 times greater than the proposed adaptation budget. (These costs combine current climate variability and future climate change, so some of the costs will occur regardless of climate change impacts.)
  • The economic case for adaptation is clear. Most of the adaptation measures proposed in the study are ‘no regrets’ investments, in that they are valid even in the absence of climate change.
Economic assessment of the impacts of climate change in Uganda
Economic assessment of the impacts of climate change in Uganda

Locally and nationally, climate disasters make the case for action

CDKN has documented how extreme weather events and climate-related disasters play a role in convincing national and subnational policy-makers that they need to build resilience to climate change impacts now.

For instance, Bangladesh is ranked as one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world: in the past 25 years, the country has experienced six major floods, a severe tropical cyclone every three years and seasonal droughts. Bangladesh was early in preparing its national adaptation programme of action in 2005 and the Government of Bangladesh has invested over US$10 billion to make the country less vulnerable to natural disasters.

In Colombia, increased flooding and sea level rise are affecting the Alto Cauca River basin where Colombia’s coffee, cocoa and sugar industries are based. The agricultural sector supports the livelihoods of 3.7 million Colombians and accounts for 10-14% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Farmers depend not only on price stability in global markets, but also on a predictable climate to make a living. In 2011, heavy rainfall resulted in unprecedented flooding that destroyed crops, infrastructure and homes across the basin, and economic losses totalled 2% of Colombia’s GDP. This economic loss led to a major multi-agency vulnerability assessment project, involving Colombia’s Department of Agriculture, to bolster resilience to such disasters in the future.

The dominance of the debate around climate change-related loss and damage in the UNFCCC negotiations reflects the importance placed by developing countries on the present-day effects of climate change and the potential of severe climate impacts this century even at less than a 2°C temperature rise (see Chapter 7).

The reality of climate change impacts is prompting developing country governments to take action on adaptation – least developing country governments are investing more of their own funds in adaptation activities through their national budgets than they are receiving in adaptation finance from donors. Neil Bird finds that in Ethiopia and Uganda the overwhelming majority of spending on climate resilience is being funded domestically: for instance, the Government of Ethiopia is funding in the order of US$440 million a year in climate-related activities, while international donors contribute in the tens of millions; the Government of Uganda’s US$23 million per year expenditure compares to international contributions of some US$2 million. For more on the monitoring of national financial expenditure on adaptation, see discussion in Chapter 4.

CDKN and its learning partners have investigated many initiatives for building climate resilience at the city and subnational level and have noted that mayors and city officials often bear the brunt of criticism when extreme weather and climate-related disaster strike: “when it floods, you don’t call the president, you call the mayor.” The learning initiative documented many cases when small and localised disasters convinced citizens themselves to self-organise to understand the root causes of disaster and guard against future losses such as: initiatives to restore the waterways of Madurai city in southern India; to prepare for and avert flooding-related disasters in the urban Philippines; and to map and tackle the repeating small-scale risks, which create ‘risk traps’ for residents of Lima, Peru in the changing climate.

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The ‘development’ in ‘climate compatible development’ is key to making the case for climate action

Second, a compelling narrative on the benefits of climate action is essential for overcoming political resistance and successfully making the case for climate compatible development policies. For climate mitigation in particular, where the benefits of immediate action to curb or avoid greenhouse gas emissions will not manifest themselves for several decades, the case must be made on the development benefits of low-emission actions today.

As you will read in the ‘Regional Insights’ linked on the side of this page, in those cases where action on climate change mitigation and adaptation has been meaningful, ambitious and has truly gained traction at national level, it has been firmly embedded in a country’s development vision and strategy – at a macroeconomic and cross-sectoral level. Carl Wesselink talks about how the Rwandan and Ethiopian governments have done exactly this.

You can’t go into Africa talking first about climate change, you have to talk about development. Poverty and inequality must be tackled now, so the question is, what are the lowest-emission and most climate-resilient means possible to do so?

Shehnaaz Moosa, CDKN’s Africa operations manager

Of course, each individual country’s circumstances are unique and the parameters in which a national narrative for climate compatible development can be constructed are, likewise, unique. Far-sighted political leaders recognise, articulate and respond to a new development story, a climate compatible development story “characterised by changing patterns of innovation, production and trade tied to climate responses and to financial, disaster, conflict and climate risks and uncertainties at an unprecedented level”. Again, the ‘Regional Insights’ essays provide examples of such narratives, as does the box (below) on China’s leadership in renewable energy, below. Here are glimmers of an emergent paradigm, by which a country’s overall economic growth prospects and competiveness in the global economy may be defined by its ability to offer ‘clean’ and ‘green’ products and services and manage climate change-related risks.

The term ‘co-benefits’ has become increasingly common, particularly with regard to interventions at project, programme or sector level. Discussion of ‘co-benefits’ reflects the fact that action on climate change produces many other benefits, not directly related to the climate. For example, action to reduce traffic congestion can have major benefits in terms of air quality, which in turn benefits public health. Identifying and quantifying the co-benefits can strengthen the overall case for climate action. A two-year expert assessment, Green growth in practice: Lessons from country experiences presents countries’ practical experience in delivering jobs, economic growth, export revenue, income diversification, energy access, improved public health and more resilient infrastructure and cities, as a result of climate compatible development policies.

An excellent example of ‘co-benefits’ comes from Tanzania, where the government supported a Small Power Projects programme – with limited financial resources – to enable the expansion of decentralised renewable energy, such as solar photovoltaic installation. The CDKN Inside Story Achieving development goals with renewable energy – the case of Tanzania, describes how these renewable energy solutions are contributing to Tanzania’s climate compatible development by: supporting economic development through improved access to reliable electricity; lessening vulnerability to fossil fuel price shocks and to drought-related hydropower shortages; and also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Now a significant scaling up of Tanzania’s renewable energy infrastructure is being supported by the Climate Investment Funds – as it has become a pilot country for the Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) in Low Income Countries. Many further examples of co-benefits are explored under the sectoral entry points for planning climate compatible development in Chapter 3.

Achieving development goals with renewable energy: the case of Tanzania
Achieving development goals with renewable energy: the case of Tanzania

Economic and social benefits alone would make many low-carbon policies and approaches worth pursuing.

New Climate Economy - Seizing the global opportunity (2015, page 12)

Political leadership is essential

Strong political leadership is a minimum, essential requirement for making the case for, and progressing, climate compatible development. The initial phase of the Future Climate for Africa programme, for example, concludes that “the prominence of climate change in, and the uptake of climate information into, national planning and decision-making in sub-Saharan Africa, is dependent on three interrelated areas of political economy: i) support from powerful actors and stakeholders; ii) the structure of governance arrangements and institutional incentives; and iii) the ability to take advantage of appropriate windows of opportunity.” Jones et al. find that action on climate change within national policy and programming in sub-Saharan Africa has mostly been coordinated through ministries of environment and natural resources management, or their equivalents, which is suboptimal as these ministries are “often weak and under-resourced.”

In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame has championed the integration of climate action into all areas of national development, pioneering a National strategy on climate change and low-carbon development for Rwanda. Jones et al. add that “President Kagame’s enthusiasm has also facilitated a strong role for senior – and therefore powerful – ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning”. A learning paper by authors in Rwanda’s Environment Secretariat together with CDKN and the University of Wolverhampton tells the story at greater length, as does a CDKN-commissioned film Rwanda: Emerging in a changing climate.

Promoting the use of climate information for long-term development in sub-Saharan Africa
Promoting the use of climate information for long-term development in sub-Saharan Africa
WORKING PAPER: Climate compatible development in the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’
WORKING PAPER: Climate compatible development in the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’

In Peru, climate change became a leading issue in national politics thanks to the impetus lent by the then Minister of Environment, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who established the Planning for Climate Change (PlanCC) project. PlanCC has been designed by public, private and non-governmental institutions under the leadership of a public steering committee and also involves the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Centre for Strategic Planning. PlanCC seeks to develop sound evidence about possible climate change mitigation scenarios in Peru, strengthen capacities and lay the foundations for long-term low-carbon economic growth. Since the initiative started in 2013, Peru has compiled the necessary evidence to plan for climate compatible development and to prepare an (Intended) Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC with significant domestic support (this paper in Spanish provides detail).

In one ‘small but beautiful’ example which may inspire other governments, Barbados’s solar water heater industry has been very successful. It boasts over 50,000 installations that have saved consumers as much as US$137 million since the early 1970s. The Government of Barbados has created a framework to support the development of solar water heaters and ensure long-term fiscal and regulatory certainty for manufacturers and customers. The technology saves an estimated US$11.5-16 million per year for consumers. Analysts credit a major factor in the promotion and sustained uptake of the scheme to the leadership role of the prime minister, who visibly embraced solar water heating and communicated his support widely in the press.

INSIDE STORY: Seizing the sunshine – Barbados’ thriving solar water heater industry
INSIDE STORY: Seizing the sunshine – Barbados’ thriving solar water heater industry
Barbados water heater – Acclimatise

Political leadership: The case of China

China has embraced a restructuring of its economy towards clean energy – at least partly motivated by the poor air quality in many of its large cities.

The New Climate Economy report Seizing the global opportunity (2015) describes how China “has now embarked on a historic structural transformation … China is moving away from a development model based on rapid growth in capital accumulation and energy-intensive export industries, powered largely by coal. It is seeking to move towards an economy based on growth in domestic consumption and services, with stronger innovation and more efficient resource use, powered increasingly by cleaner forms of energy. At the same time it is trying to reverse old patterns of urbanisation, which resulted in sprawl and rising air pollution. China’s leaders have listed what they describe as building an ‘ecological civilisation’ as one of the country’s five top priorities guiding reforms.”

Dramatic air pollution has been a central driver for this ecological leadership drive. The air quality in Beijing, home to 21 million people, has made the city “almost uninhabitable for human beings” in the words of one study, forcing schools to construct airlocks and clean air domes for their pupils. The Government of China has recently placed a national cap on coal consumption and the “seven ‘strategic emerging industries’ prioritised for economic growth in the government’s 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2016) include … new developing energy sources, energy conservation and clean vehicles.” A CDKN Inside Story, How China built the world’s largest wind power market, charts how the Chinese wind power market has grown to become the world’s largest, with China overtaking the United States to become the leader in terms of installed capacity in 2010. Domestic manufacturing has “exploded” since 2006, says author Ailun Yang, and now supplies more than 70% of the domestic market for wind energy equipment.

A clear expression of political will, backed by a set of effective policy measures, has been key to China’s success in building the world’s largest wind power market, she concludes. These includes the establishment of a stable and favourable pricing mechanism for wind power domestically, which has stimulated China-based manufacture of wind power equipment.

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INSIDE STORY: How China built the world’s largest wind power market
INSIDE STORY: How China built the world’s largest wind power market

Leaders must build a national consensus

Champions inside government need champions outside, too. They must build broad alliances with non-governmental actors – identifying and partnering with the constituencies that will benefit from climate mitigation and adaptation in the short and long term (and ensure interventions are soundly designed to yield short- as well as long-term benefits). “Make industries and regions benefit from the change – identify interest groups that are against you and make them benefit from the change,” Stephan Hallegatte of the World Bank has said at a recent ODI event to introduce his Three steps to decarbonizing development for a zero-carbon future report.

The following descriptions show just how complex it can become to identify and engage with the different groups that are affected by, or consider they have an interest in, climate-related policy. These interest groups may include global actors as well as local and national ones.

The first example is the contentious issue of fossil fuel subsidies, the worldwide phenomenon worth a staggering US$1.9 trillion globally – the equivalent of 2.5% of global GDP, or 8% of government revenues, according to a 2013 IMF report. Shelagh Whitley has demonstrated how removing such polluting subsidies needs extremely careful handling (Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate). She notes that fuel subsidies have originated for a variety of reasons, such as providing social support for lower-income households to access energy, or as a form of indirect subsidy for certain productive sectors of the economy; therefore, “The barriers to reporting on subsidies and to their removal are based on the multiple and often diverging interests of a wide range of stakeholders in both developed and developing countries. These include government officials, industry associations, companies, trade unions, consumers, social and labour political activists, and civil society organisations – all of whom need to be on board if subsidies are to be eliminated. Those pushing for the phase-out of subsidies must therefore harness the support of a wide variety of actors.”

CDKN-commissioned research on the political economy of climate compatible development provides other examples of the complexity of socioeconomic gains and losses among groups in any local or national context. One of the case studies examines Ghana’s marine fisheries as a microcosm of climate compatible development possibilities. It sheds light on the fears, insecurities and risks that can threaten local people if decision-makers adopt a pro-climate policy without providing sufficient, tangible support to affected stakeholders – and communicating the process for managing change.

In the coastal fisheries, there are two environmentally unsustainable and polluting activities – tackling them could address greenhouse gas emissions. First, fishermen use a polluting premix fuel (a mixture of petrol and oil for two-stroke engines), and the government currently subsidises artisanal fishermen’s use of the fuel. Second, mangroves are being cut unsustainably and lack effective government protection; as a result, they emit more greenhouse gases than they absorb (the destruction of coastal mangroves also increases the vulnerability of coastal Ghana to storm surges, which could become more frequent with climate change). Both issues are tangled in a “complex political economy” which makes it difficult to navigate solutions. The authors find that

“there is theoretical scope for a ‘triple-win’ outcome by removing the subsidy to reduce incentives to unsustainable fishing and supporting alternative policies [but] in practice this is highly problematic. Artisanal fishermen strongly oppose removing the subsidy on the grounds that it would damage their livelihoods, and do not have the confidence that they would be appropriately compensated for any hypothetical reform. Moreover, it is argued that removing it could have negative unintended consequences if fishermen are forced into alternative livelihoods that are themselves unsustainable. Meanwhile, although improved mangrove protection could have significant ‘triple-win’ benefits, this area suffers from a lack of funding and administrative coordination across ministries and agencies, leading it to be neglected.”

Tanner’s case study reveals that there are robust policy options that would move coastal Ghana toward more climate compatible development, but the major constraint to doing so is institutional failing. Different interest groups, including the most economically vulnerable, may “demand short-term improvements to current problems rather than aspiring to triple win outcomes in the long term, creating a major challenge for climate compatible development.” What does this imply for decision-makers? There is a need for robust institutional processes that enable stakeholders to appraise the problems together, and come up with a menu of options for action together. We analyse such multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder planning processes in the next chapter.

Leaders in the executive part of government must also build alliances with those in the legislative part. The importance of building alliances across different branches of government is explored in greater detail in the next chapter.

Building a broad-based alliance includes acknowledging and dealing with real and perceived losses from climate compatible development

Without question, the impacts of climate change are already creating losers in society – and some of these losers are documented in detailed technical loss and damage research supported by CDKN.

However, climate compatible development policies will also be perceived as creating some losers, especially in the short term. As the New climate economy report states: “The shift towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient path of growth and development will not be easy, and governments will need to commit to a just transition. Not all climate policies are win-win, and some trade-offs are inevitable, particularly in the short term. Although many jobs will be created, and there will be larger markets and profits for many businesses, some jobs will also be lost, particularly in high-carbon sectors. The human and economic costs of the transition should be managed through support for displaced workers, affected communities and low-income households. Strong political leadership and the active participation of civil society will be needed, along with far-sighted, enlightened business decisions.”

Simon Maxwell also picks up this point, foreseeing that “Adjustment [towards green growth pathways] is likely to be disruptive, with winners and losers as between sectors, geographies, genders and generations … a focus on mitigation and adaptation alone is unlikely to encompass the range of likely effects” (Ten propositions on climate change and growth). Therefore, “some kind of national strategy is necessary to manage change on the scale expected.”

Ten propositions on climate change and growth
Ten propositions on climate change and growth

‘Knowledge brokers’ can facilitate debate and action

A group of students sit together outside at North-West University – Marc Shoul

Intermediary organisations and individuals who tailor knowledge to make it more accessible and usable for others, can play a critical role in deepening actors’ understanding of climate impacts and solutions, so empowering them to act. Such ‘knowledge brokers’ can create bridges between the languages of science and climate-impacted communities and policy-makers.

There is a range of knowledge problems. Actors with a stake in climate action may simply be unaware of climate trends and prospects and the range of climate compatible development solutions. Or they may be aware of the issues and completely overwhelmed by the volume of information, and may need guidance on how to find information that is most relevant to them.

The Climate Knowledge Brokers (CKB) Group defines the knowledge broker’s role as interpreting, sorting, translating and integrating this wealth of information, and tailoring it to the needs of different audiences – from government decision-makers and industry chiefs to consumers and voters. The CKB Group is composed of more than 100 organisations and has a mission to make sense of the increasing ‘ocean’ of climate information so that people are well informed to act on climate-related risks.

“Only now are we really grasping the full extent to which our lives, our jobs and our environment are being altered by a changing climate”, said Florian Bauer, Chief Operations Officer at the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) at the launch of the Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto in September 2015. “To improve our resilience in the face of these changes, we need more effective decision-making in practically all sectors and at all levels. And the people charged with making decisions need the best available information and knowledge to do their jobs well.”

NEWS: Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto launched

The scoping phase of the Future Climate for Africa programme (2013-2014) used case studies to explore whether and to what extent climate information is being used to inform decision-making in Africa. These comprised four country case studies (Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and a combined study of Accra, Ghana and Maputo, Mozambique) and two desk-based studies focused on long-lived infrastructure in the ports and large hydropower sectors. The final report, Promoting the use of climate information to achieve long-term development objectives in sub-Saharan Africa, concludes that, in many cases, scientists are not producing the right type of information for people who need to make investment decisions. Even when they do, there is a pressing need for intermediaries or ‘knowledge brokers’ who can help decision-makers to understand the limits of the information and how it can usefully guide the decision-making process:

“Embedding climate information into important development decisions often boils down to creating the right ‘sales pitch’: promoting the usefulness of climate information [to decision-makers]. A sales pitch could demonstrate how climate information will increase decision-makers’ understanding of how certain long-term investments will affect their country’s economic growth, productivity, and the protection and creation of livelihood opportunities.”

The authors also add that there is a generic need “to help decision-makers understand what climate information should and should not be used for, and to encourage more systematic and evidence-based approaches to decision-making under uncertainty.

Future Climate for Africa
Future Climate for Africa
Promoting the use of climate information for long-term development in sub-Saharan Africa
Promoting the use of climate information for long-term development in sub-Saharan Africa

CDKN itself plays a role as knowledge broker in making climate information more accessible. Its work to create a range of guides, presentation packs and infographics to communicate the science of the IPCC has catalysed new forms of education, awareness raising, media work and policy debate in developing countries, as captured by an independent review (see Box).

Using the messages of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report to galvanise stakeholder action

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) covers the physical science of climate change; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; climate change mitigation; and a final synthesis report.

It was released in stages in 2013-2014. CDKN ran a wide-ranging outreach programme to bring the AR5 findings to developing country governments and other stakeholders, so that the latest state-of-the-art climate science could be better incorporated into their decision-making. CDKN produced four regional summaries of the AR5 science, in a colourful and appealing format: ‘The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: What’s in it for Africa?‘ ‘…What’s in it for South Asia?‘ ‘….What’s in it for Latin America?’ and ‘…What’s in it for small island developing states?’ Each region-specific guide boiled the relevant information contained in the AR5’s more than 5,000 pages down to 24 pages. CDKN also launched an online toolkit, which contains slide packs, free infographics and image resources for communicators to use in disseminating the AR5 content. CDKN also organised policy dialogue events at which IPCC authors spoke with more than 1,200 decision-makers and hundreds of young scientists and journalists.

Of online users who registered for the free graphics, 69% are from developing countries. The main uses to which the materials were put were: using them for university education (17%), internal organisational capacity building (28%) and external awareness raising, including policy-makers (32%), publications (13%) and journalism (10%).

An independent evaluator assessed how CDKN’s work of crafting, tailoring and distributing the communications toolkit made a difference, and found the following examples:

  • An NGO worker described the materials as his ‘armour’ to contribute to plans and forums on how to mitigate the effects of climate change.
  • One ministry representative in Rwanda said they would use the material for community sensitisation programmes.
  • One academic said they would use it to prepare the national UNFCCC delegation of Uganda for climate talks.
  • One of the participants reportedly used his new knowledge to build a stakeholder engagement platform for taking forward the investment plans proposed under the Future Proofing Cities project at the corporation and district levels in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.
  • Most of those with research backgrounds said they would use the material for proposal writing and for their research.

Interviewees emphasised the value of easy-to-use summaries of the climate science. Almost all of those originally surveyed said they would refer to climate change more frequently in their future work.

The experience shows the need for knowledge brokers – even as knowledge brokers walk a fine line to promote the ‘accessibility’ of the science while maintaining its core accuracy and integrity. The role of the knowledge broker includes acting as a neutral convenor, creating a platform for dialogue among parties. CDKN works as an intermediary between policy-makers and communicators, a kind of ‘matchmaker’ between these professional communities.

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What’s in it for South Asia
What’s in it for South Asia
What’s in it for Latin America?
What’s in it for Small Island Developing States
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: What’s in it for…
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: What’s in it for…

Much as the role of the climate knowledge broker can be vital, and is highlighted in these examples, there are also risks that the mass media and individual communicators can misconstrue or misrepresent climate information, by accident or design. A study by Pegasys for the Future Climate for Africa programme, The political economy of long-lived decisions in Africa, cautions that climate programme managers “should be mindful of the role of communicators and approaches to disseminating knowledge … It is important to consider who is communicating as well as what is being communicated. The role of ‘science-policy intermediaries and ‘trusted messengers’ needs to be explored and appropriate approaches identified that show practical benefits.”

Climate change in the media: Accurate reporting is vital

To avoid inaccurate reporting on climate change, it is important for journalists and other communicators to be well grounded in the basics of climate science – or at least well networked with science experts who can check their work.

CDKN and other donors have invested in climate change training initiatives for journalists, to improve the accuracy of reporting. This has included expert briefings for the media on the findings of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and on the significance of NDCs for their countries. In 2016-17, CDKN joined with the World Weather Attribution initiative to support analysis of whether climate change was making certain extreme weather events more likely (the Raising Risk Awareness project). The partners held multiple events in South Asia and East Africa to brief journalists and policy-makers, with the aim of deepening their understanding of how climate change is changing our current weather – and when it does not play a role. This is to counter the tendency to attribute every extreme weather event to climate change when there may not be a verifiable link, but rather, to ensure careful reporting every time and to foster honest public debate.

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