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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 61 - Thursday, 15 January 2009
Capacity Development for Policy Makers to Address Climate Change
By the Environment and Energy Group, Bureau for Development Policy, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Nearly all sectors of society contribute to greenhouses gas emissions and are affected by climate change. The magnitude and the impact of the problem will require a co-ordinated, effective response—both nationally and internationally—to both move societies towards low carbon-economies and make inroads towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The challenge of combating climate change means that every policy and investment decision will need to be assessed in light of both its greenhouse gas reduction capacity and its contribution to long-term sustainability—a challenge heightened all the more by the current global financial crisis. Moreover, policy makers must also find solutions to directly improve the well-being of millions of poor and vulnerable people adversely affected by the impacts of climate change.

At the international level, governments agreed in 2007 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process to step up their efforts to combat climate change. With the “Bali Road Map,” governments will seek to reach agreement on a number of forward-looking issues essential for ensuring a secure climate future by the 15th Conference of the Parties in December 2009 in Copenhagen. This includes the “Bali Action Plan” – the UNFCCC negotiations on long-term cooperative action, which is centered around the four thematic “building blocks” of adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer and deployment, and financing.

The year ahead will therefore prove to be the most challenging year for climate change negotiations in over a decade, as the results in Copenhagen will set the stage for global action on climate change for many years to come.  On the international level, developing countries will need to participate fully in the negotiating process, while, at the national level, they will need to take steps to ensure they are prepared to address climate change in a manner that will ensure their sustainable development.  The UNDP Capacity Development project seeks to help support developing countries in achieving both of these important goals.

Capacity Development for Policy Makers to Address Climate Change

The UNDP Environment & Energy Group has launched a groundbreaking US$7 million project to strengthen the national capacity of up to 20 developing countries to assess the magnitude of their efforts that will be required to address climate change and to position themselves and develop policy options for addressing climate change across different sectors and economic activities. Funding has been provided from the United Nations Foundation and the Governments of Switzerland, Finland, Spain and Norway. UNDP is implementing the project in partnership with the UNFCCC Secretariat, International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The project is a strategic and targeted capacity development initiative that will run in parallel with the Bali Action Plan. Currently, 18 countries are participating: Algeria, Gambia, Niger, Namibia, Turkmenistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Paraguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Peru, St. Lucia and Togo. Participation is based upon country demand, with additional countries joining in from the Latin America and the Caribbean region as a result of regional fund-raising efforts.  

Global project strategy

The overall goals of the project are twofold:  

  • To increase national capacity to co-ordinate ministerial views, participate in the UNFCCC process, and negotiate positions within the timeframe of the Bali Action Plan; and
  • To assess investment and financial flows to address climate change for up to three key sectors and/or economic activities and enhance sectoral planning capacity to address climate change.

The project will support these goals by expanding the knowledge base on climate change issues and broadening access to this knowledge so that policy makers, parliamentarians, technical experts and other key stakeholders can participate and share experiences at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels. As a result of this project, both the technical understanding of key climate change issues and their economic and policy implications within the context of the Convention will be enhanced.

Outcome 1:  Increased national awareness through capacity development
Under the aegis of the project, UNDP commissioned a series of documents that address the key issues under consideration for the Bali Action Plan building blocks, with a focus on the developing country context. A document on land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), which is a key sector for many developing countries, was also included. The documents have been prepared by leading international experts – many from developing countries – and translated into all UN languages to inform policy makers across the entire spectrum of economic sectors.

The Bali Action Plan materials are used as briefing documents for national inter-ministerial workshops in the participating countries, which seek to raise awareness on the international negotiations and the positions of developing countries. However, the workshops also feature discussions on how to assess the possible steps need to combat climate change in key economic sectors identified by the host countries. The most common key sectors identified by countries are:  energy (mitigation), transport (mitigation), forestry (mitigation and adaptation), agriculture (adaptation), fisheries (adaptation), tourism (adaptation), coastal zones (adaptation), health (adaptation), and water (adaptation).

Outcome 2: Assessments of investment and financial flows to address climate change for up to three key economic sectors
Each country will conduct an assessment of opportunities to expand and enhance investment and financial flows to address climate change in up to three key sectors/economic activities. UNDP is finalizing a User Guide for analyzing and assessing investment and financial flows that incorporates guidance on: 1) developing a comprehensive workplan for the assessment; 2) the methodological approach for undertaking the assessment; and 3) reporting. The User Guide, developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), will be available in English, French, Spanish and Russian. International and regional centres of excellence will provide technical backstopping support to countries for the duration of the assessments. The results of the assessments will be presented at a second round of national workshops in late 2009/early 2010.

Outcome 3: Web 2.0 knowledge platform—the UNDP Climate Community—in multiple languages
IISD is developing a web-based knowledge platform for UNDP that will be used to disseminate materials, best practices and lessons learned to national stakeholders. The site will be dynamic, to encourage participation, with the use of RSS feeds and list-serve functions, the ability for users to upload information, and thematic forums where stakeholders can exchange views and experiences. Key sections of the knowledge platform will also be made available in French and Spanish.

Project Milestones

Activities to date include the development of the Bali Action Plan documents on the four building blocks and LULUCF, and their translation into all UN languages. The documents are being distributed to all participating countries and can be downloaded from the project website (see below). The documents were also distributed as part of a UNDP package at UNFCCC COP 14, as well as at various high-level meetings that took place in 2008, e.g. the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS).

In addition, national inter-ministerial workshops were organized during 2008 for Namibia, Niger and Bangladesh to raise awareness of key decision makers. Workshops are planned in early 2009 for the remaining participating countries. In parallel, governments are preparing work plans for undertaking the investment and financial flows assessments, which will be undertaken over a six- to eight-month period, with US$100,000 in funding per country. Each country will receive training on UNDP’s User Guide for assessing investment and financial flows from the regional centres of excellence that will also provide backstopping throughout the assessment.

Finally, a global workshop was held in New York in September 2008 for the 10 pilot countries involved in the project, to obtain early feedback on the User Guide for assessing investment and financial flows. Representatives from the UN Secretariat, UN STATs, UNFCCC, ISDR and World Bank also participated. A second workshop was held in November 2008 with the regional centres of excellence—the Pan African START Secretariat (PASS) for Africa, the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) for Asia, the SEI and Oxford Consulting Partners for Turkmenistan, and Instituto Torcuato Di Tella (ITDT) for Latin America and the Caribbean—to clarify outstanding methodological issues on the User Guide.

For more information on the project visit, visit:
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