Exploring Political and Socio-economic Drivers of Transformational Climate Policy: Early Insights from the Design of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy

"In recent years, the label ‘transformational change’ has rapidly gained traction within the climate discourse. Much of this arises from the recognition that incremental adjustments may, in many contexts, be insufficient in addressing the dual challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change in the longer-term. This push has trickled through to the political arena. Policy-makers tasked with designing and implementing climate policies are increasingly referring to transformational change in justifying the scope of national climate strategies. The development of Ethiopia’s CRGE Vision and Strategy provides a number of useful insights into the political and economic drivers of transformational climate policy. Ethiopia stands as one of few developing countries to have embedded climate-related objectives into the heart of their development and growth model. A number of relevant factors point to this achievement, notably: strong leadership from politicians at the highest level of government; ownership, inclusion and interest from influential line ministries; the prospect of being an early pioneer of green growth and attracting international climate finance; and careful framing of the climate discourse around economic growth and development. However, the design of the CRGE points to notable concerns with regards to the institutional design and processes used in delivering transformational climate policy. A lack of internal capacity to provide key technical inputs towards the policy’s design, as well as failure to acknowledge important social, cultural and political implications of the CRGE’s actions have serious implications for its success and sustainability in the long-term. In addition, the separation of the Green Growth and Climate Resilient elements of the Strategy points to a failure to capitalise on potential overlaps and synchronicities between the two. More importantly, a failure to meaningfully engage stakeholders at all levels of society, particularly at the local level, raises key issues of equity, representation and recognition. The implications of which will be felt by those already politically and socially marginalised. Alongside other early assessments of political and economic challenges in the delivery of climate policy in developing country contexts, these findings point to delicate considerations and trade-offs in matching the need for delivering transformational change with a need to recognise the implication of the policies on complex social-economic and political realities at both national and local levels. Above all, it suggests that, alongside technical inputs, it is important to give consideration to ‘softer’ issues – vested interests, incentives, and power – and institutional processes within the design and implementation of transformational policy. Failure to do so risks not only underestimating the complex political and cultural factors that affect successful uptake of policy reform, but misalignment between the needs and interests of different stakeholders and communities - from the local to the national. Above all, the authors argue that alongside technical inputs, a more nuanced appreciation of the social and political implications of transformational climate policies is needed."
adaptation, climate change, climate policy, transformation