Developing countries exploring pathways to climate compatibility

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The Long Term Mitigation Scenarios: a decade later

The Long Term Mitigation Scenario (LTMS) process was an innovative and significant South African initiative conducted between 2006-8 in the emerging policy area of climate change mitigation.   It was the first interpretation of international climate mitigation policy in a domestic developing country context, combining a participative stakeholder process and rigorous technical analysis to identify what the country could do in terms of climate mitigation action to 2050. It also identified that taking action in line with the requirements of climate science to remain within a two-degree global warming limit, the ‘Required By Science’ scenario, was robust and compelling.

Almost a decade on, the MAPS Programme has undertaken research to assess the contribution of the LTMS to domestic climate mitigation policy.   Currently, the country has a National Climate Change Response White Paper, which it is in the (slow and contested) process of implementing. Little actual implementation of mitigation action has yet occurred. As researchers we interviewed 17 senior actors in the South African climate mitigation and development policy communities, and used public policy and administration theory to help interpret what we heard.

The LTMS was unanimously remembered as seminal and a resounding success domestically and internationally on its own terms and as a product of its time. It successfully placed climate mitigation on the formal domestic policy agenda, no mean feat in an era of policy exhaustion in South Africa due to the substantial post apartheid policy reform push. It also provided South Africa (and the world) with an ambitious Copenhagen Pledge.

However, a number of factors have limited its ability to influence sufficient and timely implementation of its suggested policy actions. The LTMS happened in a domestic policy vacuum, and there was no process to sustain the momentum it built. This resulted in stakeholders reverting to entrenched positions and resisting, rather than maintaining and growing, the social capital realised by the LTMS. This social capital is necessary to find new and low carbon ways of developing.   Further, the LTMS did not engage a sophisticated understanding of ‘development’, nor was this political priority placed at the heart of the approach. The review analysis revealed that the role of the international climate change policy process is significant. At times it provided support for domestic initiatives, including the LTMS itself, but at other times it was a dangerous distraction from the country determining a truly ‘nationally appropriate’ and effective framing of mitigation policy domestically. How a policy initiative is placed on the agenda has been found to be important in determining the entire subsequent policy cycle and its outcomes. In particular, political economy was not tackled head-on. South Africa has a political economy still largely dominated by coal based energy and energy-intensive mineral extraction, powerful interests vested in resisting a low carbon socio-economic transition.

The LTMS was not successfully integrated into the policy agenda of departments other than its champion, the Department of Environment. Climate mitigation is a cross-cutting and essentially economic issue, requiring implementation by line departments. With insufficient political will at the central level, this lack of integration is crippling when it comes to implementation. Interviewees also commented on the role of evidence-based policy processes in developing country contexts. To what extent does long term planning influence action in a predominantly irrational, under-resourced, poorly capacitated policy system?

Whilst highly contextually determined, the authors hope that these insights into the ‘early mover’ SA LTMS experience will provide for useful reflection in the design and integration of future domestic mitigation policy initiatives in developing countries, as we continue to navigate the twin challenges of development and climate mitigation with ever-increasing urgency.

Bio: Emily Tyler is a climate policy specialist based in South Africa who focuses on mitigation policy in developing country contexts. View Emily’s website here 

2 Comments, post your comment ...

  1. This is a very valuable reflection on a process which was one the one hand imaginative, innovative and path-breaking and on the other hand unable to make the transition to become lasting institution or set of relationships, and a sustained set of initiatives. Without the LTMS SA would not have had the confidence to make its famous pledge at Copenhagen, and yet the follow through has not lived up to expectations. This story would make a useful teaching case study (on the one hand, on the other hand, and what could we have done better?) and we should explore the possibility of developing such a resource.

    Comment by Alan Hirsch — 28th May 2015 @ 11:06

  2. This is a very reflective, innovative and though provoking paper. It has explicitly set the new pathway to mitigate the super-wicked problem of development and climate change through developing a Long Term Mitigation Scenario (LTMS). A new approach has entered into the domestic climate change mitigation policy agenda, which appeared significant in policy integration. The paper also highlighted the political, bureaucratic and the implementation problems. This will be an exemplary efforts in the climate change mitigation movement, that other developing country team can adapt in their context. In designing and integrating the future domestic mitigation policy, the reflection of this paper would be worthwhile.

    Comment by Ananda Paudel — 1st Feb 2016 @ 16:08

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