The ability and desire to think ahead is known to improve long-term success. But planning for the future is full of challenges, particularly when it involves unforeseeable events arising from a changing climate.
To date, there has been limited discourse on the importance of long-term planning to fully integrate climate and development. We know, however, that changing current development paradigms and emissions trajectories will require a significant shift from more traditional near-term planning cycles. This shift is critical, and begins with a fundamental question: "Where do we want to be as a society, and how do we get there?"
To tackle these complex topics, WRI and the 2050 Pathways Platform, LEDS Global Partnership, NDC Partnership, and UNDP, in collaboration with UN Climate Change, hosted a two-day global meeting in Bangkok on July 10th and 11th. With more than 100 participants, including policymakers, donors and technical experts from nearly 50 countries, the dialogue focused on how to plan for the long-term with climate change in mind.
Planning for the Future We All Want
Discussion at the event drew on countries' responses to an open invitation to all countries in the Paris Agreement to prepare and submit their long-term, low GHG emissions and development strategies by 2020. As participants shared their views on what long-term planning for climate and development prorities would look like in different country contexts, a few key themes emerged:
Long-term strategies have lasting benefits: Long-term strategies can be an essential tool to support the integration of climate change and sustainable development. Countries can use the long-term planning process to develop a national vision for economic and social development while engaging a broad range of stakeholders. This will inform near-term planning for years to come; provide pathways to manage the transition process and avoid disruptions; and capitalize on innovation and new technologies that reflect national circumstances and priorities.
Although the ingredients may be common, the recipes are diverse : Participants recognized there are shared elements involved in designing and implementing a long-term strategy: crafting a vision, developing scenarios and pathways, engaging stakeholders, collecting inputs, accessing finance and developing investment strategies, considering adaptation and sectoral strategies, and ensuring good governance. Yet in practice, how countries fit these pieces together will vary greatly. What works for one country may not work for another, although the different processes still can provide useful lessons and insights for other countries.
Long-term strategies are also about the near-term: The integration of long-term strategies into near-term planning is critical to help minimize the risks of carbon lock-in. During the forum, participants shared a number of practical approaches to align the long-term vision with near-term plans and processes: take stock of what is in the existing near-term plans; determine what near-term plans will achieve and assess their alignment with the long-term strategy; involve those responsible for near-term planning in the development of the long-term strategy; continue stakeholder engagement beyond design and into implementation; and build in flexbility to course- correct along the way.
Stepping Forward to 2050
Countries are already actively taking steps to realize the ambition set forth in the Paris Agreement goals, but we know we need to do more. How can we accelerate momentum? Building the pathway to lower GHGs will require further visioning, strategy, and honest dialogue about how to get there. Recognising there are different starting points, workshop participants recommended these steps for advancing national long-term strategies:
Identify the specific benefits for your country. Develop a strong case for what a long-term strategy will help to achieve and link this case to the people, needs and priorities of the country. Consider the economic case and social benefits of robust long-term planning, and pull together the necessary data, figures and spoksepeople to help make the case.
Consider the appropriate form of a customized, long-term strategy for your country. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but the strategy needs to fit with existing planning practices, national circumstances, and economic and development priorities. Consider what long-term planning may already exist in your country and identify the critical near-term decisions that need to be most informed by long-term climate implications.
Secure high-level political leadership. Successful leadership often involves both a political component combined with broader national momentum. Esuring there is sufficient political will, driven at the highest level possible, may help integrate the long-term strategy into existing government practices and drive the design process forward.
Identify a committee or group to oversee the design process. This "driver" of the process should build on arrangements that already exist, such as those that were established during the development of the NDC, but also incoporate past experience. The driver should have clear responsibilities and a timeline to help keep the process moving forward.
Utilize what is already in place. Collect relevant inputs, such as exsisting sectoral plans and other near-term planning efforts that reflect what is already happening in your country. Gather the resources and inputs needed to inform the design a smart, practical tool to inform decision-making.
Trigger a national dialogue on the future. Start the conversation if it hasn't already begun. Identify who needs to be engaged and what roles they can play to build and achieve a national vision for the future. Draw these stakeholders together and bring in planners, sectoral experts and the business community. Citizens are a country's best resource and need to own the design and implementation of a long-term strategy.
As discussions during the forum in Bangkok emphasized, each country's situation is different. Effective long-term strategies need to be tailored to the domestic context and tied to existing climate and development planning efforts. And there's no time to waste, because #2050 Is now.