After the COVID-19 pandemic, governments and society will face the compounded challenges of building back economies and tackling the climate crisis. Collaborative governance at different levels is necessary to garner meaningful input from across sectors of society and government. To improve collaboration between administration levels, for the past six years the Vertical Integration and Learning for Low-Emission Development project has been working closely on governance strategies with national, municipal and regional administrations in Africa and Southeast Asia. Here are three identified ways in which local governments can get on track to advance collaborations for low-emission development and more resilient pathways.
1. Building Governance Coalitions for Local Climate Planning
When developing local climate strategies, a non-communicative sectoral approach continues to be the norm: Typically, departments responsible for relevant sectors, such as health, transport and waste management, work without talking to each other. This represents a major challenge to effective climate action planning in many cities around the world. Some good practices however can be observed.
For instance, Ormoc City in the province Leyte, the Philippines, established an interdepartmental climate change technical working group that gathers local government departments in sharing knowledge, making decisions, and assigning concrete climate responsibilities to each member. The results of the broad involvement were public officials’ heightened knowledge and skills for climate advocacy, collaborative problem solving, and the use of climate science and information in policymaking. The Ormoc experience shows that a local climate action plan is not merely a piece of paper. Instead, it is a key way to build the necessary coalitions that can help the city achieve stronger, agreed-upon results that secure buy-in.
In South Africa, a coalition, formed by the national Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), municipalities and provinces, stands behind the country-wide Local Government Climate Change Support Programme. The programme’s vision is to catalyse climate action at the local level while building collaboration between the spheres of government. Its key objectives are to mainstream climate change into municipal development planning and support municipalities in developing and financing climate projects.
Central to the programme’s method is an all-hands-on-deck approach that includes all relevant spheres of government, from the national level to the local level, as well as districts and provinces. To date, the programme’s training has reached nearly all South African municipalities and all 44 districts have completed risk and vulnerability assessments and developed climate change response plans, of which some have already been adopted by their municipal council.
2. Financing Community-Led Climate Change Priorities
Kenya is no stranger to the disconnect that can exist between official climate planning processes and the priorities of local communities. For the past decade, a pioneering governance and finance mechanism has been put to the test to address this divide.
The County Climate Change Funds (CCCFs) are county-controlled funds that finance climate projects identified and prioritised by local communities, thus empowering citizens. Designed to combine climate finance from different sources with the counties’ own funds, CCCFs aim to increase access to finance, promote local ownership and participation and increase county capacity.
Concretely, the CCCFs rely on county and ward or village climate change planning committees that facilitate the process of identifying local needs and priorities on the ground. These link up to the county-managed funds to finance climate projects prioritised by communities by pooling public and private resources from local, national and international climate finance streams.
The CCCFs across five pilot counties have financed more than 100 local climate change projects in its first decade, increasing drought resilience and providing sustainable livelihoods. They are now a key component of Kenya’s nationally led climate finance strategy and have increased public knowledge about climate change, community oversight of government interventions and improved devolved governance, ultimately improving outcomes for the communities themselves.
3. Involving the Private Sector as an Ally
For municipalities in the Philippines, even after they formulate their local climate action plans, the lack of access to funding and limited own-source revenues are significant barriers to implementation.
Ormoc City sees its planning process as a tool that helps the city access funds for priority projects while communicating clear climate objectives. By engaging in broad conversations with the public and the private sector, Ormoc has been able to secure private investment and national public funding to implement eighty per cent of the climate projects prioritised in its 2019 local climate change plan. Some example projects are the redesign of Ormoc’s city plaza to include a rainwater capture and storage system or conservation and “no plastic” projects supported by private companies and the Ormoc Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Capitalising on increased business engagement, the municipal government is giving clear policy signals to steer investments to align with the city’s climate targets. The city government is sending a message to its private-sector allies that it is committed to economic growth while also forging a path towards sustainable development. The result of this process has been widespread public and business buy-in of climate projects that modernise the city.
To conclude, the experiences from these four countries show that targeted and effective involvement of different stakeholders can be key to scaling up interventions and aligning them with the priorities of citizens and businesses. By leading collaborative strategies, they provide inspiration and innovation for others to follow suit.
This article was originally published on URBANET in May 2021.