On Tuesday I held my second webinar for the Climate Evaluators Community of Practice. The presentation focused on some of the more operational aspects of the guidelines. The guidelines have two parts. Part I deals with some of the more conceptual aspects, while Part II deals with more aspects relating to the practical application of the guidelines.
The webinar was divided into three sections: in the first section I discussed some of the persistent challenges of climate mitigation evaluations; some of them can be solved "for them it is all about accepting and applying best practices. However, for others, each new evaluator will need to tackle them again which will require making some clean decisions while documenting his or her assumptions clearly. One of the biggest challenges is in setting the systems boundaries and correctly defining the baselines" this topic was at the heart of the second part of the webinar.
The second part also discussed some measurement issues around greenhouse gas emission reductions as well as some alternative concepts. In the third part, I briefly outlined the discussion of outcome indicators for the Theory of No Change (TONC) which is documented in more detail in the guidelines as well as the previous studies for the Community of Practice.
Questions from the webinar
The questions from the audience were very helpful and pointed to some aspects not covered in the guidelines so far. So the most important thing I will do with them is to include them in the final drafts. Thanks!
In addition, I can briefly summarize the answers here:
Questions on broad topics were raised: What are free riders and how to measure them? What are indicators for non-climate co-benefits of climate mitigation projects? How do you deal with political expediency and lag time (benefits not matching political cycles)?
Let me answer them starting with the last question: Political expediency is actually already integrated in the TONC, where motivation and awareness of policy makers are the stand-ins for their preferences. Obviously, political ideas shift quickly, and windows of opportunity close fast. For an example of how the TONC can reflect changes over time, please refer back to the case study on Thailand.
In response to the question about indicators for non-climate co-benefits, the answer is that there are many. In particular, many climate change mitigation have an eye to economic indicators classic growth indicators (GDP, BIP, jobs, etc.) as well as structural indicators like innovativeness. In addition, health and environmental impacts, as well as social co-benefits can be measured, and should be, depending on the gist of the evaluation.
The final question was about baselines and free-riders: To answer,climate mitigation projects strive to change peoples' behaviors towards emitting less greenhouse gases. Free riders' are people who benefit from the project, e.g. enjoy the project's subsidies or other offerings, and then adopt the emission-reducing behavior that the project wanted to initiate but: they would have done that anyway in the absence of the project. The free riders' behavior was already part of the baseline, i.e. the world without the project. Their behavior cannot be attributed to the project, and is not an impact of the project. If you then look at cost effectiveness of an intervention as the ratio between the impacts of a project and the inputs to a project, free riders reduce your cost effectiveness.
There is no way around this. Free riders are the good guys who are already behaving correctly, even without additional intervention; you don't need to do the project because of them! It's the non-free-riders that you have to worry about. They are the ones who do not do what would be good for the climate. If you do something to change their behavior, there is no way to exclude the "free riders" from benefitting from the project too. Or at least none that I know of.
The thing to do is: plan you project on a scale so large that the free riders are a really small minority compared to your overall impact. And by the way: this is yet another reason to know the baseline.
Please feel free to keep questions and comments coming!
A note on issues with the sound
Unfortunately, the audio quality on the webinar transmission was very bad for which we apologize to all listeners. We are looking into ways of how we can make up for that, either by doing another voice over for the online recording, or by doing the webinar a second time in this or another settings. Stay tuned.
Dr. Christine Worlen is an internationally renowned expert in the area of renewable energy policies and energy systems integration as well as economic impact of renewable energy deployment. Her main area of expertise is the design and evaluation of projects and programs for sustainable energy policy as well as for the integration of renewable electricity. International activities brought her to all regions of the World, for example to China, Thailand, India, South Africa, Western Africa, USA, Canada und Mexico.