Evidence to Action 2020: Climate Change and the Global South
CEGA Communications Intern, Yevanit Reschechtko (UC Berkeley MDP ‘22), recaps the first virtual edition of CEGA’s annual Evidence to Action (E2A) research symposium.
Global South economies bear the brunt of global climate change, with warming temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns driving economic hardship, food insecurity, and migration. Misuse of resources and unchecked pollution exacerbate these social and economic impacts, especially for people already struggling with poverty.
Industrialized nations are to blame for the lion’s share of global carbon emissions. Still, the “greening” of energy, transport, agriculture, and other sectors in Global South nations is a worthwhile goal, with untold benefits for humans, the environment, and the economy. Evidence produced by CEGA and the broader development research community is essential in helping governments, NGOs, and the private sector understand and implement the most promising “green growth” strategies.
On November 16, 2020, the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) hosted Evidence to Action (E2A): “Climate Change and the Global South.” The event featured CEGA researchers and collaborators from the Global South who are bringing new types of data and analysis to bear on a set of questions related to climate change, the environment, and global poverty.
Keynote speaker Morrison Rwakakamba, CEO of the Agency for Transformation (AfT) in Uganda, kicked off the event by sharing examples of the ways in which Ugandans are harmed by global warming and pollution. He described the rapid depletion of Uganda’s forests and wetlands, which alongside a series of recent weather events have led to widespread food insecurity and displacement, crippling power outages, and devastating loss of life. Rwakakamba then highlighted a few policies and technological innovations that promise to improve both human and environmental health, including dedicated climate finance for smallholder farmers, investments in wetlands restoration, and forest conservation through the promotion of clean cooking and renewable energy. He further emphasized the need for rigorous research to convince policymakers to take action, noting, for example: “We need evidence to prove the correlation between Value Added Tax exemption, uptake in use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, and increased forest cover in Uganda.”
Building on the conversation, Susanna Berkouwer, Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the Wharton School, shared her research on the barriers to adoption of energy efficient cookstoves in Nairobi. The study found a low willingness to pay for cookstoves despite significant savings, likely due to credit constraints. Berkouwer explained one key policy takeaway is that “improved access to financial tools or subsidies is crucial to enabling adoption.”
How can marginalized communities get involved in climate change mitigation? Saad Gulzar, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and CEGA affiliated faculty, shared the results of his research, which found that new Indian policies that increased political representation of Scheduled Tribes (officially designated groups of people) in local governance led to a decrease in deforestation rates in the areas they managed, as well as improving communities’ economic outcomes.
Reacting to concerns that climate change is reducing inhabitability of many regions, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and CEGA EASST Fellow Solomon Walelign joined the discussion by sharing a framework he developed with co-authors that looked at factors such as natural hazards and propensity for conflict to better understand which regions of Ethiopia can handle an influx of climate-induced migrants.
Finally, Kelsey Jack, an Associate Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara and CEGA affiliated faculty, provided promising preliminary evidence that training and information provision can increase adoption of climate resilient agricultural technologies like rainwater collection techniques in Niger. The demi-lune rainwater collection method they examined offers a unique solution, as it requires no capital investments in seeds or machinery.
One theme that crosscut the presentations was a resistance to the perceived tradeoff between environmental conservation and economic development. As Gulzar noted, “Contrary to the popular concern that environmentalism must come at the expense of local development, we see evidence that conservation and development can actually work in tandem.”