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In conversation with Scott Muller: accelerating low emission development from local to global


Scott Muller leads the Subnational Integration Working Group, working with teams in Asian, African and Latin American-Caribbean localities to create awareness of low emission development, support actions, and catapult the results and findings into global debates. The LEDS GP’s Mairi Dupar caught up with Scott to explore the Working Group’s 2018 activities and how people can get involved.

MD: Scott, you have something of the reputation of a bumble bee, cultivating cooperation among fellow LEDS champions around the world. You make connections among people who share your passion for avoiding and cutting greenhouse gas emissions while delivering on the vital development benefits that low income and emerging economies need. How would you characterize your strategy for the Subnational Integration Working Group (SNI-WG)?

SM: Hmmm… making honey. I like that— thanks. Indeed, the SNI-WG strategy really has evolved organically, thanks to the LEDS GP network’s improving the connections between a great deal of purposeful behavior that’s happening across different sectors and tiers of government. Over time, improved clustering of actors results in new domestic institutional arrangements and improved, integrated governance for more ambitious — and equitable  climate actions.

During the past few years, active participants in the SNI-WG have worked heroically, scaling up activities across their national governments and subnational non-state actors to more accurately understand intersectoral and multi-level dependencies. They have pursued innovations in integrated governance that will help countries achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

This participatory process has really helped advance the dialogue about what NDC implementation means; the importance of domestic institutional arrangements, resolving information asymmetries between levels of government, taking a more balanced territorial approach to development. It includes addressing fragmentation in metropolitan regions as well as strengthening the links between urban and rural systems. Better “nestedness,” improved linkages, and more stability are needed.

Thanks to the efforts and support of many talented people, several of the cases have been published and you can find many of them on the LEDS GP website. However, I confess—I get most excited about the many discussions and debates the Working Group participants are engaging in across different forums. Multilateral and transnational actors are now recognising that integrated governance is an unaddressed priority in the Paris Agreement.

Now, we are at the point where the SNI-WG efforts to “foster joint actions” – to use the words of the LEDS GP’s strategy – are constrained by demand and scale, the interventions want and deserve more resources. The actions of the SNI-WG are maturing—“beyond the hive”, so we need more partners and more resources to join the journey. We are looking outward.

MD: What’s next, how is that strategy evolving in 2018?

SM: At this stage of the SNI-WG evolution, our work plan is primarily focused on fostering joint actions between national and subnational governments. In selected countries, we are supporting integrated governance and new domestic institutional arrangements for climate actions. Our method is to help these countries establish Multi-level Governance Climate Action Teams (MLG-CATs).

Three of these teams were initiated in 2017— in Chile, Paraguay and Sri Lanka; and they will be finishing up their “early -mover” projects in the next couple months. Those collaborations came out of a call for applications last year which received 16 responses. Unfortunately, we only had sufficient resources to support three. The general trajectory is:

  • The country organizes an inter-agency/ministerial team which, as the name ‘multilevel governance’ suggests, includes some subnational participation. This is the Multi-level Governance Climate Action Team (MLG-CAT).
  • One of the first activities is to generate an “Institutional Mapping” report prepared by a local principal investigator. The goal of this is to improve clarity on institutional jurisdictions, functions, and mandates; across levels of government and civil society to deliver emission reductions and improve the climate resilience of infrastructure services. It is also intended to improve the understanding of the political processes and the evolution of “the machinery of government,” more specifically, how subnational governments make decisions towards achieving the NDC, SDGs or other national targets. The reports also highlight key aspects (or gaps) in legislation, jurisdiction, communication, etc.
  • Then, based on the report and consultations, the MLG-CAT identifies some priorities and needs to address in a domestic technical workshop among key actors and decision makers.

Over the next 18 months, we aim to support six further MLG-CATS: two each in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. There will be implementing partners in each case.

MD: What is the profile of the ‘implementing partners’? Are you talking about governments?

SM: The implementing partners are certainly not limited to governments, although national government authorities tend to have the convening power to pull together an inter-ministerial MLG-CAT.

Together with them, there are other governmental authorities -national, provincial, municipal, etc., along with universities or research institutions who are observers, and are interested in the training and participating, or replicating the pilot initiatives. There are also low emission development professionals and local NGOs who are eager to find new ideas, relationships, and opportunities – they are very pragmatic, action-focused people.

Importantly, there are also Key Partner Institutions involved in the SNI-WG. These are expert multinational NGOs and private companies who are interested in relationships with innovative decision makers in developing countries. The expectation is that they provide technical support to the MLG-CATs, and then at the completion of the “early mover” MLG-CAT activities, they will partner with the country on some of the major priorities identified in the process, e.g. to pursue full project proposals, etc.

MD: How can readers become involved in your planned activities in 2018?

SM: Watch this space! Over the course of the year, there will be competitive calls for applications for forming MLG-CATS in selected countries. We will issue calls for expressions of interest – readers can sign up to the LEDS GP enewsletter for more information.

Find out more about the Subnational Integration Working Group here.

Photo: LEDS GP

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