National and Subnational Linkages to Enable Low Carbon Development at the Subnational Level in Developing Countries: The Cases of Thailand and the Philippines

No. GC-2012-04
Discussion Paper
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Rapid urbanisation has led to a host of environmental and social issues in Asia, with increased energy consumption being the most alarming. Effective low carbon development policies aimed at rational land use, energy efficiency, and improved public transport and an emphasis on renewable energy sources are the need of the hour. Such efforts are necessary not only at the national level, but also at the local or subnational levels. In order that Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) are realised as intended, national and international efforts are needed to design and implement effective institutional linkages between national and subnational governments, so as to promote low carbon development at the subnational level.
This paper outlines important points to help design effective mechanisms linking national and subnational governments based on past experiences in the field of climate change mitigation, environmental management, and international development in developing and developed countries. The literature review helps to identify important lessons in the field of low carbon development and provides concrete suggestions for forging possible linkages among the national action plans for low carbon development in developing countries. Then, it focuses on two Southeast Asian countries, namely Thailand and the Philippines, and explores how these ideas may be applied to these particular countries.
In order to build national and subnational linkages for low carbon development, this paper argues that there is a need to develop a ‘knowledge of’ policy processes, in addition to specific ‘knowledge in’ policy processes in the field of climate change mitigation, such as regulation, taxation, economic incentives, information provision, and capacity development.
Possible institutional mechanisms, including those categorised as NAMAs, to enhance low carbon development at the subnational level include: (1) incentive provision and ownership development, (2) effective monitoring and evaluation of policies, (3) adaptation to and appreciation of diverse local conditions and contexts, and (4) support for policy diffusion and mutual learning among subnational governments.
Lastly, the paper explores the importance of much-neglected attitudinal issues, to enable better design and execution of possible linkages between national and subnational governments towards low carbon development. Change agents (namely, national and subnational governments and international development agencies) promoting new low carbon development policies and measures at the subnational level would do well to recognise the various perceptions, views, attitudes, and priorities of different stakeholders, in particular, those at the subnational level. Continuous stakeholder dialogue and discussion without confrontation are necessary to genuinely assimilate new land and energy policies into the mainstream. To that end, a good starting point would be to appreciate existing assets, namely, the physical, ecological, and social capital, at the local level. It would also be necessary for the change agent to pay due attention to the perceptions and emotions of stakeholders, in addition to logic and facts. Lastly, while persuasion differs from understanding, both require continuous communication and interaction, so that both sides may learn from each other and transform for the better.