Writing Prompt: The Role of Qualitative Approaches in Developing Long-term Strategies

Under the Paris Agreement, Parties are invited to communicate “mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies” (long-term strategies). Countries have flexibility to formulate their plans in a manner that they see fit, within the context of their national circumstances and respective capabilities.

Policymakers may approach the development of long-term strategies using quantitative research methods, qualitative research methods, or a mixture of both.

Quantitative methods can provide a measure of the transformation required to achieve long-term goals. For example, using model-based scenarios, a quantitative research method, can help reveal what and when specific mitigation actions could be implemented. These scenarios can also be used to examine trade-offs, explore different technological uncertainties, and estimate the associated implications to society.

Qualitative methods, on the other hand, can explore why and how the necessary shifts will happen to achieve long-term goals. For example, focus groups with government officials in different ministries can help to establish a long-term qualitative vision; interviews with key stakeholders can identify policy-relevant information, which traditional quantitative data and metrics might overlook. Qualitative methods can also complement qualitative approaches to gain deeper and richer insights, for example, to explore the links between sustainable development objectives, and mitigation and adaptation responses.

In this paper series, we are soliciting expert perspectives on the role of qualitative approaches in developing long-term strategies.

Specific questions that experts may choose to address (but should not be limited to) include:

  • In what ways do qualitative approaches capture policy-relevant information that traditional quantitative data and metrics overlook?

  • How can qualitative approaches—such as expert judgment and information gathered through stakeholder consultations—complement and enhance quantitative approaches when developing long-term strategies?

  • How can qualitative approaches generate innovative thinking in the development of long-term strategies, which might otherwise be constrained by model-based scenarios that rather prepare narrowly for more probable futures?

  • What is the role of decision support tools—which consider qualitative and quantitative data together—in the development of long-term strategies?

  • How can countries that lack data and analytical capacity make effective use of qualitative approaches when developing long-term strategies?

  • Are qualitative approaches alone sufficient to set policy priorities and guide current and future decisions? What are the limits to qualitative approaches?

  • How can decision-making principles and methodologies—which are able to deal with climate-related uncertainty—support the development of long-term strategies?