Is it time to devolve climate change policy making?

Growing levels of finance are flowing into national climate funds, but barriers to effective implementation exist

National and regional aims often conflict, leading to confused policymaking and inefficient use of funds (Pic: Kamil Porembinski)


By Nick Harrison

Too often, when designing and implementing national strategy and policy such as Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS) or Nationally-Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), the efforts of national and sub-national actors are not well aligned.

Barriers such as poor communication, lack of incentives or differing perspectives, priorities and capacity between national and sub-national levels often mean that states, districts and cities are not fully involved in designing policies which they are often responsible for delivering.

As a result, a range of barriers threaten effective implementation of these policies and prevent opportunities for bottom-up innovation such as piloting new approaches at sub-national level or building national policies based on sub-national successes.

With up to 80% of investment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions taking place at the sub-national and local level the involvement of sub-national actors in national policy design has increasing importance for climate finance and aid effectiveness.

Ensuring ‘vertical integration’ of climate policy through vehicles like LEDS or NAMAs is consequently a fast emerging area of interest to policy-makers and donors keen to ensure cohesive and efficient delivery of mitigation actions.

With growing volumes of finance now flowing into NAMA implementation, understanding and overcoming the barriers to sub-national involvement may hold important lessons for improving the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of how this money is spent.

A recent study undertaken by Ecofys on behalf of GIZ and the German Ministry of Environment provides an interesting initial snapshot into some of these barriers drawn from a review of current sub-national involvement in NAMAs.

The study informs the start-up phase of an innovative global vertical NAMA (or “V-NAMA”) initiative piloting effective national/sub-national integration of NAMAs in Indonesia and South Africa.

Analyzing the current status of sub-national involvement in NAMAs listed on the Ecofys NAMA Database[1] and drawing on insights from expert interviews, the study identifies key barriers to involvement and highlights emerging good practice drawn from both NAMA and broader climate policy implementation experiences.

Some of the barriers identified include:

– lack of financial or political incentives to attract and motivate sub-national involvement
– Institutional weaknesses which prevent effective coordination or regulation of policies
– a ‘culture of separation’ between staff at national and sub-national level
– weak capacity in skills, knowledge, data and information required to deliver effectively

The report goes on to highlight further practical questions raised by the analysis and offers examples of emerging good practice which could help overcome the barriers identified.

The challenges of sub-national policy integration are not new, but with the global trend towards devolution continuing, its implications for the effectiveness of climate policy and the efficiency with which climate finance is now deployed are clearly considerable.

The study Sub-national involvement in NAMA development: Current and emerging practice towards vertical integration can be downloaded here.

Further information on the GIZ VNAMA initiative is available from: [email protected]

Nick Harrison is a senior consultant in the Ecofys International Climate Policies Unit and was formerly an adviser to the UK government on sub-national climate policy implementation. [email protected]

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