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Recommendations for Effective Low Emissions Development Strategies

In recent years, several developing countries, with support from donor agencies, have begun to seriously consider Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS), country-driven plans that enable the transition to a low-carbon economy as an effective mechanism for combating climate change. Last week, the LEDS Global Partnership – launched in early 2011 and comprised of 30 governmental and international institutions – held a workshop on the topic in Chesham, U.K. WRI is a member of the steering committee of the LEDS Global Partnership and attended the meeting. Others in attendance included government representatives, donors, and representatives from research institutions.

The workshop focused on three key themes: (1) strategy development for LEDS, including governance of the LEDS process and integration of LEDS into other national plans; (2) analytics and tools for LEDS; and (3) financing LEDS implementation. Highlights included discussions on: LEDS scenario development in Chile and South Africa, leadership and cross-ministerial cooperation for LEDS in Kenya, and a new World Bank initiative to develop an open source tool database that can equip LEDS planners. Reflecting upon the rich conversations during the workshop, below we provide some initial takeaways, including challenges and opportunities, related to LEDS:

  • LEDS cannot be defined too narrowly: Some have argued that LEDS provide too narrow a lens to overcome the complex development challenges facing countries. It is vital to define LEDS and their link to broader themes like green economy, green growth, among others. In particular, any inference that LEDS are additional to and distinct from low-carbon development strategies (which have now been integrated into the UNFCCC decisions) is likely to be counterproductive as countries may feel overburdened with multiple strategies. Hence, there is a need to reaffirm that LEDS build upon existing national plans and strategies and are not an imposed additional requirement.

  • LEDS should be framed in terms of development: Integrating and ensuring the primacy of national developmental priorities in LEDS is fundamental to making a political case for decision makers. Building an evidence base, and narratives around the positive impact of LEDS on jobs, manufacture/export, competitiveness, health, mobility, energy security and energy access would support such a case.

  • LEDS should support both mitigation and adaptation: While LEDS are primarily a mechanism to mitigate climate change, it is important that strategies support and complement efforts to build climate resilience and adaptive capacity, and are explicit about such linkages. This is a major challenge, but an imperative.

  • There is great value in the LEDS decision-making process: LEDS are as much about a transparent, inclusive decision-making process as they are about the end product. From that perspective, LEDS, if designed effectively, are likely to be different from existing planning processes that do not take into account all relevant stakeholders in every step of the process.

  • We don’t need to start from scratch: Successful planning for LEDS is not something new. They need to build upon and integrate climate change into best practices in existing national developmental planning processes, including implementation at national and sub-national levels.

  • Significant capacity needs related to LEDS exist; sectoral LEDS provide an opportunity: Economy-wide LEDS at the national level could be challenging to several countries due to lack of access to and quality of data, sophisticated scenarios, technology road maps, tools and methodologies for measurement, reporting and verification, among others. First, capacity building efforts will need to be scaled up accordingly. Second, to partially overcome such challenges, as well as target specific high emitting sectors, sectoral LEDS are increasingly being promoted. Another pervasive challenge across countries appears to be inter-ministerial coordination, which is fundamental for an effective LEDS. Examples are emerging to overcome this barrier and they need to be amplified as best practices.

  • Efforts need to increasingly focus on moving from planning to implementation: Arguably the biggest challenge for the success of LEDS is their conversion into actionable implementation plans, backed with adequate finance. Success stories from countries around the world, particularly in developing countries demonstrating LEDS working on the ground, would build powerful evidence and lend credibility for LEDS.

At the end of the workshop, participants drew upon the discussions to collectively brainstorm activities that the Global Partnership could carry out. For example, there was broad agreement that regional initiatives would be vital, sector-specific tools and dialogues could facilitate LEDS planning, and the partnership could assist in identifying sources of finance and coordinating funding. Over the coming weeks and months, the list of activities will be used to further define the vision of the partnership and its scope of work and teams will be convened to implement the activities.

WRI has several projects underway that build the capacity and tools for LEDS and similar plans. The Major Emerging Economies Initiative and the Measurement and Performance Tracking project in particular are explicitly focused on supporting developing countries in meeting national development goals and international climate change commitments. Some of our related initiatives are dedicated to: ongoing interventions in power sector in India at the state level, building capacity of developing countries to measure and track performance of climate and energy goals, promoting city-level leadership and strategies in India, China and Brazil, and mobilizing climate finance. We look forward to continuing to share our experiences and learning from the partnership.

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