Connecting Knowledge and People
On the 20th of May, after the culmination of many months hard work, a group of postgrad students at the University of East Anglia (UEA) welcomed 40 participants to the conference ‘Climate Friendly Pathways for Developing Countries: how do we mitigate whilst also adapting and alleviating poverty?’
The 40 attendees included many prominent academics from across the country as well as several from overseas, drawn together to discuss and exchange ideas. Specifically, the climate change and development challenges ahead, the low emission pathways for development and if climate smart landscapes are the way forward.
For the first session, the eminent Prof. Corinne Le Quèrè from the Tyndall Centre at UEA examined the challenges ahead: the scientific case for radical emission reductions, the 2-degree limit and the global scale and perspective on the need for radical reductions.
Corinne’s talk was followed by Prof. Tim Forsyth from the London School of Economics, who began by attributing the failure in climate change action, in part, to the divide between science and policy. This, he argued, boils down to a disconnect between the science surrounding emissions and the science – and communication – surrounding impacts. Using a wealth of examples and data that traversed the climate change policy landscape, Tim described the transition between three modes that define and redefine risk and policy. These begin with a Kyoto protocol style mode, preoccupied with systemic change and various flexible mechanisms. This then evolves into more contemporary modes, which understand adaptation as the reduction of vulnerability in a broader sense, as well as the current engagement of development, driven by political issues such as the hockey stick paradox and limits to growth. These transitions need to be reevaluated in order to acknowledge the divide between the modes in the discussion of climate change policy.
The second session aimed to discuss the low emission energy pathways for development, which was kicked off by Dr. Robert Byrne from the University of Sussex. Using several case studies from Africa, Robert gave a very thought provoking talk, arguing that the building of energy pathways in low carbon development is about processes of change and not just about transfers of technological hardware. He concluded that the assumption that market forces alone can facilitate technological transformation is incorrect. Instead a holistic approach is required, which combines the building of local capacity of stakeholders, public involvement and access, funding ideas through projects and integrating national institutions in the process.
Dr. Lucy Baker, also from the University of Sussex and an alumnus of UEA, was second to present in the session. Lucy provided a political economy perspective to the challenges and approaches to energy as a structural issue. This was an engaging talk, which used a political economy approach to illustrate the influence of global economic function, transnational corporations, and multi-lateral financial institutions in state decisions, as well as the relationships between political power and economic development. The masters’ students in the audience who had studied political ecology were especially appreciative of the insight into the power and access discourses in the energy sector.
The final talk in the session was from Mr. Larry Lohman, an activist and advocate from the Corner House. His provocatively titled talk ‘Know your friends (and enemies)’ delivered an analysis of the overarching ambiguity of the concepts and fields that the conference tackled. The highlight for many was his translation of the conference title to illustrate this ambiguity: “How can we as Northern-trained academics or activists investigate and support ways in which social and political movements in the global South and elsewhere can mobilize more effectively behind strategies and policies that will ensure emissions reductions?”
Larry’s talk also divided the concept of energy, between persistent, older forms of energy (little e-energies) such as the labor revolt against the discipline of fossil fuel machinery, and new, easily developed, modern thermodynamic perceptions of energy (Big-E’s).
After an Eritrean lunch in the sunshine, the conference entered its final session, with Ms. Nanki Kaur from IIED presenting on climate change adaptation planning in the context of Nepal and Ethiopia. Nanki’s talk gave great practical on-the-ground insight into climate change adaptation and financing, as well as the institutional dimensions of governance and pro-poor development.
For the second talk in this session, the conference heard from Dr. Yuelai Lu who is working with UEA and the government of China. His talk illuminated the current status of agriculture in China, both as a source of climate change and as a means of development. This included some very interesting transitional data regarding the agriculture sector in China.
Dr. Oliver Springate-Baginski from UEA gave the last talk of the conference, entitled: ‘is there any escape from ‘REDD’? Towards integrated landscape governance’. With a typical blend of gravitas and humour, Oliver delivered an impassioned plea for action, with anecdotal material from a career working with rural, indigenous and forest communities from around the world. It was a strong ending to the presentation sessions, which reinforced the importance of considering the potential for communities to be marginalized and dispossessed in the name of climate change mitigation and development programs, such as REDD+.
The conference was drawn to a close with research posters presented on a range of related topics by MSc and PhD students and a final breakout discussion session to summarize each of the key topics of energy pathways and climate friendly landscapes.
These key topic summaries included:
– The need for the coordination of climate change policy and planning from national and provincial governments, NGOs, and research institutions, implemented by all sectors.
– More emphasis and communication about energy access and demand especially in the MDGs and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as this is not properly addressed.
– The need for developing country strategies/policies in climate change that capture national government goals and visions, international laws/obligations, and the MDGs and SDGs.
– The need for developing country coordination between high carbon emitting sectors and land use sectors and climate change mitigation policy and planning.
– Creating public-private partnerships to transform climate change and poverty alleviation policies and strategies into investments. This should be pursued through bringing together public and private capital and capacities to enable and enhance national and sub-national institutions in order to drive climate-compatible development planning and implementation.
– The importance of developing a climate change mitigation policy preparation process, specifically concerning natural resource utilisation (including land). This should involve consultation, coordination and rigorous processes between all relevant Government agencies, as well as thorough equal participation of other key stakeholders (notably resource owners) in full compliance with requirements of the developing country constitution and laws.
Arguably, the biggest success of the conference was the depth, breadth and vigor of the discussion that was generated, illuminating the interconnected nature of many cross cutting issues, which prompted talk of making this an annual event.
For most, more new questions were posed than old questions answered. However, resolves were also strengthened and the 40 participants toasted this during a well-deserved cocktail reception.
Written by Grace Eun Lee, Karen Hiawalyer and Rory Walshe
More details from the conference can be found here
Thanks to the organisers (Left to Right) Grace Eun Lee, Karen Hiawalyer, Maria Cadahia Perez, Daniela Guaras, May Ricardez and Seol Song.