Policy coherence and integration

While climate policy cuts across economy and society, different sectors will require responses that are more narrowly defined. While some countries are establishing institutions designed to coordinate and direct economy-wide climate policies (such as the UK and Kenya, as described earlier), the effects of economy-wide climate policies cannot be contained to one institution (Asselt et al., 2015). There have been calls for climate policy integration (CPI) to ensure that climate policies are compatible with sustainable development, are synergistic and are not contradictory with sectoral policies or development plans (Ahmad, 2009).

Environment ministries are often the focal point of low-carbon policy development and implementation, but they rarely wield significant clout within central governments. Lateral influence over ministries of finance, planning and development, trade or industry is a key issue (Bailey & Preston, 2014). These ministries may see low-carbon development as a barrier to reducing unemployment or stagnant gross domestic product (GDP). Much of the literature reflects on lessons learnt from environmental policy integration during the past few decades, and identifies the following strategic approaches to integration:

  • Procedural tools and instruments, such as checklists and environmental policy appraisal, to build awareness and integrate considerations of climate impacts in sectoral policies;
  • Administrative coordination and organisational change to align incentive structures and shift organisational culture by internalising climate objectives, improving coordination and introducing audit/accountability functions; and
  • Expressions of high-level political will, such as high-level visions and objectives or strategies (see Kenya’s Climate Change law as an example) (adapted from Asselt et al., 2015, citing Lafferty & Hovden, 2003 and Persson, 2007).

Achieving policy coherence across sectors and with national planning processes is one of the goals of climate policy mainstreaming. The European Commission has provided incentives for CPI through its 2014–20 Multi-Annual Financial Framework by earmarking 20% of its budget (€200 billion) for climate-related activities while proposing that it come mostly through mainstreaming (Asselt et al., 2015). Alam et al. (2011) have argued that an insistence by donors on monitoring aid effectiveness may create parallel planning processes that are inefficient and less inclusive. Tanner and Allouche (2011) note that India’s decision to dedicate strategic management of the renewable energy sector to a single ministry has helped it avoid problems of overlapping and duplicated mandates and responsibilities.

While coordinating structures and procedures may help policy integration, they will not necessarily insulate climate policy implementation from vested interests, particularly if they stand to lose from new donor requirements. Policy-makers will have to evaluate and negotiate trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation and between sectoral policies (such as agriculture and water). In some cases, these trade-offs may become politically contentious. At what scale these are resolved will depend on institutional relationships and context at the country level (Asselt et al., 2015).

Despite the convergence of interests and approaches, climate resilience and disaster risk reduction responses are often still fragmented and incoherent at the country level (World Bank, 2013). In a report on disaster risk reduction and climate-resilient development, the World Bank asserts that, ‘getting the institutions and incentives right is often the most important issue’ (ibid.: 39). Particularly in developing countries where decision-making power or enabling resources may be situated outside of the formal institution, gaining buy-in from politically powerful leaders is likely to be important (WRI et al., 2011). Faustino and Booth (2014) recommend prioritising actions that ‘lock in’ new behaviours by altering the incentives of individuals and organisations without requiring them to change their interests or values in major ways.

Countries are addressing this institutional challenge in different ways:

  • China’s creation of National Energy Commission, which has ‘super ministry’ status and can influence other ministries and reports directly to state council (Bailey & Preston, 2014). At the same time, China’s government has given significant autonomy to provincial governments to experiment with policies to achieve the targets and goals.
  • The Zambian climate change technical committee, responsible for cross-coordination on climate policy, is located in the ministry of finance, which is typically a locus of power and influence.
  • Ethiopia has established its Environmental Protection Authority directly under the prime minister. While structure does not dictate functional success, experience suggests that a central coordinating locus where political power is located improves the its chances of being adequately resourced. Ethiopia has also created a Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy that links its economic development goals of becoming a middle-income nation by 2025, while limiting GHG emissions through greater use of renewables, energy efficiency and forest restoration. Importantly, the strategy includes a strong emphasis on institutional setup, both by situating it under the prime minister and by involving 50 experts from 20 government institutions in its development and implementation (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 2011).
  • In the past few years, Vietnam has created a Committee on Climate Change to help guide its National Green Growth Strategy and coordinate efforts across the government. While these bodies are at risk of being rendered ineffectual if key political players do not participate or are actively opposed, the approval of the Action Plan on the Green Growth Strategy sends a strong signal that the plan will receive budgetary support, according to Zimmer et al. (2015).