Post Paris: On ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘who’

Having worked from within the small climate change mitigation community of practice in South Africa for many years, I was recently made aware both that we are just that (a small community of practice with particular approaches and norms), and that we have a particular entry point to the issue of ‘development’.

These realisations, perhaps obvious to others, came to me when a group of development practitioners were invited to respond to our discourse at a 2014 MAPS Programme conference on development and climate mitigation in Cape Town.

The climate mitigation perspective on development focuses on linear pathways, technical possibilities and development indicators, the ‘what’. The development experts spoke of different things, of hearts and people and irrationality and politics and messiness. Perhaps more of the ‘how’ and the ‘who’?

531865-rags-and-richesThe milestone Paris Agreement may well be the turning point that those working on climate change have sought for so long.

So what does it mean for our on-going work on climate mitigation policy in development contexts? Seeking a coherent framework that can embrace the strengths of the climate mitigation community’s dominant approaches within a broader conceptualisation of the development context sent me off on my PhD journey, where I’ve been encountering complex dynamic systems thinking, transdisciplinarity and a lot of philosophy!

More on these as this blog evolves.  But for this post, what strikes me in relation to the question of ‘where to after Paris’, is that perhaps we need to actively look at ‘how we do what we do’ particularly given this sea change in the international policy environment.

Perhaps the objective now is less to identify ‘what’ individual countries can and should do, but rather to focus very closely on doing it. And this takes us firmly into the present, the ‘how’ and the ‘who’.

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