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Griffin Smith (MCP2) spent the summer in Salt Lake City, Utah, working with the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program in the S.J. Quinney College of Law – University of Utah and the Environmental Planning Center at the The University of Utah. He mediated consensus-building efforts in underserved areas in the Mountain West. In particular, he focused on a rural Utahan community, helping it develop a regional plan, incorporate climate change projections into its efforts, and develop resiliency against other emerging challenges. As part of this, he supported community conversations about climate risks facing the vulnerable region around Zion National Park and piloted and tested climate communication methods. He also researched affordable housing policies for such gateway and amenity communities. He turned this work into a teaching roleplay for students learning about collaboration. In addition, he created a framework for a state civility initiative to restore and build civil politics and discourse in the state. Griffin’s work this summer builds off his previous work mediating conflicts at the Consensus Building Institute and studying public and environmental policy at MIT.

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How Can Cities Fund Themselves for Adaptation to Climate Change?

SuratDespite a growing acknowledgment for need for cities to adapt changes presented by climate change, the question of adaptation finance remains uncertain. Often unable to access global climate funds, cities must seek out alternative sources to support their adaptations to climate change.

In her thesis, Toral Patel (MCP ’14) examines the particularly challenging environment for local governments in India, where incomplete fiscal decentralization resulted in developmental deficits and resource constraints. Using Surat, Gujarat, as a case study, her research examines how cities in India might fund climate adaptation despite limited fiscal and administrative autonomy. It furthermore explores how the urban finance system might affect the implementation of climate adaptation strategies at the city level.

The study of Surat suggests that cities can effectively marshal funds from international, national and state sources to invest in climate adaptation. However, relying on external sources for funding has required trade-offs between policy agendas, resulting in a fluid understanding of “climate adaptation” on the ground. While the urban finance system appears to have encouraged experimentation in Surat, it may constrain the effectiveness of climate adaptation at the city level.

In addition, limited fiscal autonomy has hindered access to alternative sources to finance, such as public-private partnerships and municipal bonds. Combined, these factors have contributed to a project-based approach that may compromise longer-range and comprehensive adaptation plans.

To further cities ability to adapt to climate change, Toral identifies experimentation and innovation in financing climate adaptation as the crucial elements. Read more about Toral’s work in her thesis.

Governing International Climate Risk in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Ntondo Village WomenClimate change is expected to have particularly adverse effects on developing countries for a host of reasons. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, where MCP ’12 Ian Gray did his thesis research, people are at risk because of the high percentage of the population that is subject to subsistence living and complete dependence on forest resources for survival.

The DRC, along with other countries facing similar challenges, is expected to grow its economy and stabilize carbon emissions at the same time. While the country works to develop policies that meet each objective individually, Ian argues that they tend to fall into a process that Sheila Jasanoff calls “co-production,” or a dialectic in which efforts to change the natural order depend on unquestioned ideas about the social order, and vice-versa.

After spending three months doing ethnographic work in the DRC’s Ministry of Environment, Ian came to the conclusion that the instrumental goals of making carbon governable in the DRC ran a high risk of reproducing embedded inequities found at the local level. Ian argues that if REDD* architecture is to live up to its stated goal of protecting forests while improving livelihoods, it must engage in more explicit co-productionist politics of carbon management. He says this means developing overt mechanisms that provide more continuous interactions between different epistemic communities in the REDD eligible countries (including international experts, national administrators, land users and local communities) and linking local level institutions with larger scales of administration to set rules for carbon management. Ian also suggests strengthening community control of resources so local groups play a larger role in defining for whom, and for what, carbon sequestration is good. Read Ian’s full thesis here and share your thoughts on this topic in the EPP Facebook Group.

*UN-REDD is the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries