The Evaluator’s Race against Climate Change- Reflecting the IDB Seminar on the 4th of December 2014

“The Race against Climate Change, Economics, Politics and the High Stakes of the next 12 months”

By choosing this title for his presentation, Andrew Steer immediately addresses the key issue for evaluators, since these “sleuths with superhero potential” have the Herculean task to race against the closing time window for climate change. Despite this new and difficult territory, the President and CEO of the WRI makes a strong case for more real time evaluation in order to face the highly political arena.

But how much responsibility can be put on evaluators shoulders?  The evaluating superhero has to not only reframe the economics around climate change but also to incentivize voluntary coalitions between different stakeholders.  It seems like evaluators have to provide new tools in an uncertain territory to find the leverage for a political argument which has long been known. The motivation is fairly obvious since climate actions involve high level economic costs, which are consequently the main reason for divisive ideological battles between scientists and economists.  So, are $100 bn losses to climate disasters per year (alone in the US) not enough evidence?

Key drivers of growth and climate performance

Source: The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate: Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report, IMF-WB Annual meetings, 8 October 2014

Based on calculations from the recent IMF and WB Climate Economy Report, the key for green growth is to interconnect resource efficiency, infrastructure investment and innovations and to start smart climate actions. As Andrew Steer states, “High Greenhouse Gas emissions are clear indicators for an inefficient economy.” It is therefore necessary to change the economic narrative and create coalitions for change.

Green Transition and its reality check

During the plenary discussion, an important aspect of the initial costs of green growth was highlighted.   Julie Katzman (IDB) raised the question of what happens when energy change actions become concurrent with poverty reduction efforts in developing countries. Without doubt, infrastructural investments are necessary to improve efficiency and pave the way for a climate friendly economy. Still, most of the limited public budgets can’t keep up with the climate efficient ambitions because technical innovations are expensive.  So how do we balance needs? Emerging and developing countries with a growing middle class have to weigh between the equally growing energy- need of the private sector in the urban areas against the needs of already green but impoverished rural communities.  Especially those people who depend on nature for their subsistence and are the most vulnerable to climate change. 

‘Going green’ therefore has to be inspired by good examples to influence the political economy. It is important not only to reinforce established economic interests but also to strengthen social technologies and local innovations. For a sustainable green transition, dominant trajectories have to be diversified from leading (corporate) solutions in order to face the complexity of the challenge.  A green transition therefore has to be started with a systemic change, which is also the sine qua non condition for efficient climate change efforts- not only for the governments but also for the donor community.

Julie Katzman and Naoko Ishii both emphasized the need to exchange the best examples in order to facilitate these innovations and effectiveness. But it should also widen the portfolio of approaches for good change and inspire stakeholders to create the possibility to finance the difference between ‘doing it’ and ‘doing it right’ and herewith bring the balance to the different needs.

At the end, Andrew Steer’s superhero really has to win the race by establishing an angle between good examples and policy efforts.  In order to drive green growth into the right direction the general course of politics has to be shifted into a long but necessary direction- a direction which is hopefully part of the current Lima summit.

Michelle Peña Nelz recently started her short term consultancy in the Knowledge Management Team at the GEF IEO. She holds a Master Degree in Development Studies from the Institute for Development Studies (Brighton, UK) and worked previously as a consultant at the German Church Development Service on (among others) Biodiversity and rural development issues in Latin America. 

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