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Integrity Insights: Considering climate in evaluations

With the global acceleration of climate change worldwide and the busy climate action agenda, global decision makers are picking up the pace. The complex 2022 context has accelerated important regional discussions and shifts, for example regarding energy sovereignty in Europe in response to the war in Ukraine. European leaders are organising to find alternative solutions to natural gas from the Russian Federation.

The severe droughts and wildfires that have been affecting Europe and countries in the Northern Hemisphere have also made real the effects of climate change for leaders and millions of people. Climate change can no longer be seen as something happening only in developing countries. These extreme climate-related disasters happen all over the globe indiscriminately, affecting communities and biodiversity alike. They serve as a wake-up call for leaders and communities to invest more and invest now in climate protection and adaptation. Traditional investments in climate mitigation (renewables, transport, etc.) will never be sufficient to avoid the disasters that come at 1.1 degrees (global average in 2021), 1.5 degrees (Paris Agreement target) or 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Climate investments must be made to continue to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, restore our environment and biodiversity, avoid further degradation and adapt to the inevitable changes that are already afoot.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation

Here, Integrity climate security specialists Lamia Renaud and Caitlin Smit use their recent project experience to reflect on how Evaluation and Learning techniques can better support portfolios and programmes to consider and address the effects of climate change.

The Prosperity Fund was a £1.2-billion cross-UK government fund comprising 26 global and bilateral programmes operating across multiple sectors in 46 countries across the globe. Integrity, in consortium with prime contractor Tetra Tech and partner NIRAS-LTS International, delivered Evaluation and Learning services to the Prosperity Fund between 2017 and 2021.

The primary aim of the Prosperity Fund was to improve the conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth and poverty reduction. The Fund recognised that supporting partner countries to mitigate against and adapt to climate change is fundamental to achieving that goal. Many of the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, have a disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest and can exacerbate inequality and vulnerability.

The Prosperity Fund made several investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. In 2019, for example, investments were made in the following initiatives:

  • Supporting the development of the agricultural insurance market in Colombia so that poor farmers and small enterprises can better protect their crops and incomes against climate change risks.
  • Supporting Indonesia’s renewable energy policy, regulation and financial instruments.
  • Building disaster resilience within cities facing rapid and unplanned urbanisation by embedding sustainable, inclusive and participatory processes in city authority planning mechanisms.
  • Aiding green finance flows and improving energy efficiency across the ASEAN region, for example by working with the government of Thailand to build green bond capacity and supporting pilot projects to prove the feasibility of energy efficiency retrofit projects and their financing models.
  • Working with governments in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean to strengthen planning, embed early action and use risk financing tools like insurance and contingent credit to finance more cost-effective, rapid and reliable disaster emergency response.

In addition to direct funding, one of the Fund’s 18 cross-Fund key performance indicators examined the volume of public and private finance mobilised for renewable energy projects.

Creating space for climate in evaluation and learning

Within the Prosperity Fund Evaluation and Learning contract, we attempted to capture results and facilitate learning on climate change programming across the Fund in a number of ways. Firstly, our consortium designed an Evaluation and Learning structure to reflect that of the Fund itself. Small teams of evaluators conducted annual evaluations of individual programmes, and these were grouped according to sub-sectors, one of which was focused on low-carbon energy. We established working groups focused on each sub-sector, leveraging a tailor-made online platform (PFLearning) to convene and share lessons amongst the relevant programme managers, who rarely had a chance to connect and learn from each other’s experiences. Our team also aimed to conduct annual sector syntheses to collate results and lessons from individual programmes within each sector.

Within programme evaluations, we interrogated the logic and assumptions behind how each programme was attempting to make a difference in the world and developed targeted evaluation questions that examined the emerging and potential impacts of programmes. However, the consideration of climate-related issues within this process was often limited to those programmes with an explicit climate focus, rather than something we applied to all programmes.

The ongoing challenge

The focus on climate change within both the Fund and our evaluation and learning work intensified over time, though was not explicitly mainstreamed from the outset. This had an impact on the time afforded to tackling this specific set of challenges. Add a global pandemic to the already tight time frames and the challenges began to intensify.

The Prosperity Fund programme made some progress to establish a collective understanding of climate impacts. However, more could be done to ensure that any future large-scale programmes and evaluations regard this cross-cutting issue as critical. In fact, the case could be made that, in today’s context of accelerated climate change, embedding climate and biodiversity protection in all programmes and evaluations, regardless of the focus of the programme, is necessary to progress towards achieving the UK Nationally Determined Contributions at home and overseas.

Reflecting on changes within the international development sector, we recognise that a similar battle was fought and won to integrate gender equality and social inclusion meaningfully in all Official Development Assistance work. A similar process would be beneficial to ensure that climate and biodiversity lenses are mandatory in all development sector programme evaluations.

As with gender and inclusion mainstreaming, embedding climate and biodiversity considerations would need to be supported by tailored evaluation frameworks and guidance. While existing frameworks, for example Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) Evaluation criteria, provide some steer, they only go so far. The sector needs greater depth to ensure that programmes are encouraged and equipped to learn and adapt if they are to have sustainable impact.

What more can we do to elevate climate in evaluations?

Reflecting on the Prosperity Fund Evaluation and Learning experience, we now know that there are numerous opportunities for Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) teams to incorporate a climate lens in their work. This can both help identify climate-related impacts and encourage programme teams to consider and address climate-related concerns in their design and implementation. This is starting to happen more and more, with a greater number of programmes and MEL practitioners developing climate-conscious principles and frameworks, for example: the UN SDG Project Assessment Tool developed by UN-Habitat as part of the Prosperity Fund Future Cities programme; the Welsh climate-conscious M&E framework; the CDC Climate and Health Evaluation Framework; and many others.

These positive changes are more important than ever. At Integrity, we believe evaluators have a clear role to play in mainstreaming climate and biodiversity considerations across the programme cycle. We have started to and will continue to play our part in embedding these crucial considerations in our work going forward.