Climate Justice Fund evaluation: final report

Full report of the independent evaluation of the Climate Justice Fund's work to date, drawing on the experiences of those who have implemented or been directly supported by the Fund.

4 Conclusions and Recommendations

4.1 Conclusions

Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia are amongst the countries contributing least to climate change but amongst those most vulnerable to climate change. For example, in 2020, Rwanda was the eighth most affected country,[22] while in 2019 Malawi was the fifth most impacted country.[23] A climate justice approach is therefore highly relevant because it allows sustainable development for the countries such as Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia, not only through direct funding support for climate change adaptation projects transferred from more developed countries but also through strengthening local capacities to respond to climate change and advocate for their own needs.

Despite being coined more than 20 years ago,[24] climate justice is still a relatively new concept for many stakeholders and definitions vary. The evaluation finds that the CJF has been effective at delivering on its climate justice objectives, particularly in terms of mainstreaming climate justice within the Scottish Government and building knowledge and experience around climate justice through the CJF-supported projects. Although results vary across projects, CJF has achieved climate justice impacts on-the-ground, including increased adaptive and absorptive capacity of vulnerable communities and, in some instances, improving equity. This was particularly the case for projects that addressed all three pillars of climate justice, engaged with local and national stakeholders and ensured the projects responded to local needs. Nevertheless, opportunities exist to build on this experience and share lessons to a broader audience beyond CJF direct stakeholders.

Key learnings emerging from the evaluation include:

  • It is important that the CJF clearly articulates its objectives, definition of climate justice, expectations and processes to project grantees. This supports them in delivering on the CJF objectives;
  • All three pillars of climate justice proposed by this evaluation are important for achieving CJF objectives and should be integrated from the design phase (through project selection, monitoring and reporting criteria):
    • Procedural Justice: Engaging with both external stakeholders (such as national and district government) and local stakeholders (including women and the vulnerable) as part of a participatory and needs-based approach to identifying who to target and ensuring locally appropriate solutions;
    • Distributive Justice: Ensuring support for climate change resilience (such as, livelihood development, access to water and energy etc.) is built into all projects (especially for innovation and mitigation focused projects) to ensure participants benefit from project activities;
    • Transformative Justice: Active participation in finding solutions and advocating for their needs, empowering communities and ensuring sustainability of results;
  • The time required for such an approach needs to be built into project timelines.

Project stakeholders (in Scotland and the partner countries) credited the CJF with building their knowledge and understanding on the concept and this has resulted in additional climate justice projects (and replication of some CJF projects) beyond the CJF. In addition, the evaluation found that CJF implementing partners, and in many cases, programme beneficiaries, have strong understanding of climate change, its impact in their communities, and climate justice. They also understand the factors that make some people in their communities particularly vulnerable to climate change, and they understand the nuances of how both externally-driven climate change and local factors contribute to challenges that should be taken into account when designing and implementing CJF projects. Allowing programme design to be driven by local understanding of these issues is likely to lead to highly relevant and popular programmes, which as demonstrated by Malawi Project 1, can be highly effective.

The CJF, through its portfolio of projects, covers all three pillars of climate justice: distributive, procedural and transformative. However, despite an increasing focus on broader aspects of climate justice, CJF project selection criteria have largely focused on distributive aspects of climate justice, which mean that some projects are more traditional development projects (with a focus on innovation), rather than climate justice projects per se. Some of the projects that have taken a more holistic approach to climate justice have come to understand climate justice and its different elements as a result of CJF, while others draw on existing practices from within their organisations (although, again, potentially influenced by earlier rounds of CJF funding). In terms of project targeting, CJF projects have tended to target most vulnerable areas but could go further in ensuring the most vulnerable peoples are involved, in particular, targeting women, youth and the elderly.

Projects that have clearly addressed all three pillars of climate justice tend to be more effective, have greater impact and achieve more sustainable results. However, some aspects of climate justice (such as, participatory project design, developing capacity for advocacy and improving equity) may require longer implementation timelines than standard development projects.

Overall, investment in a large, four-year project was more effective than investing in a portfolio of small projects and was significantly better at achieving climate justice outcomes across all three pillars. However, it is difficult to draw strong conclusions on how the large (£4.7m) project compares to the smaller, innovation projects, given their considerably smaller budget (approximately £100,000 per project, over two to three years). These projects also had considerably shorter timeframes for delivery, with three of those announced in 2019 having an implementation period of only 16 months. In addition, the focus on innovation within the small CJF projects meant that many projects focused more on trialling innovation and technology and where it would be best implemented, rather than focusing on communities needs. As mentioned above, there are benefits to encouraging new technologies to support communities but this would be better achieved with a focus across all aspects of climate justice. Nevertheless, the success of the large project indicates the benefit of investing in large programmes or potential benefit from supporting projects to form clusters of interventions to ensure projects support communities' needs and build their capacity for decision-making and advocating for their own needs beyond project support.

The procedural and transformative justice pillars are important for addressing systemic climate justice issues. However, focusing on these aspects in short-term projects creates a risk that communities will participate in these initiatives and contribute to long term outcomes, but see few immediate returns, despite facing urgent need in the face of climate change. This could be addressed by ensuring projects cover all aspects of climate justice in their design and implementation and/or by layering projects with strong procedural and transformative justice focus alongside projects with a greater distributive justice focus, whether implemented by the CJF or other partners.

Projects that focused on innovative approaches and/or research and development often also require longer implementation timelines and potential follow up support to overcome obstacles in introducing new technologies and/or support access to markets and replication for successful projects. However, these projects (in particular, some mitigation projects) tend to be less holistic in their approach to addressing climate justice. As a result, there are several examples of CJF projects that have not been successful in fully introducing new technologies (and therefore did not achieve distributive justice) that did not focus strongly on local needs or co-design (i.e. lacking procedural justice) nor on building capacity for local decision-making and advocacy (i.e. lacking transformative justice). Nevertheless, some innovation projects were able to adopt broader climate justice pillars, for example co-designing innovative solutions to local problems through participatory processes. The pilot nature of some grants meant that projects were successful in trialling the innovation which was their main focus, but would require follow-on funding to support roll-out or scaling up of sustainable impacts and contributions to the different pillars of climate justice on a wider scale.

In addition, it is not unexpected that the projects that focused on community-driven initiatives that identified 'low hanging fruit' would be more successful. However, these projects will necessarily be limited to interventions that communities are already aware of. Creating some space for introducing innovation, or interventions based on promising evidence from other countries, may help to identify new, transformative approaches. Projects may also need to push for interventions focused on long-term solutions, particularly in communities that by necessity focus on immediate needs. For example, livestock pass-on was a highly popular intervention, but participants largely describe it as contributing to absorptive capacity: people can sell the livestock when they experience a shock. As noted by a Malawi Project implementer, it may make sense for projects to also include participatory processes that encourage inclusion of evidence-based activities focused on adaptation. Additionally, projects with innovation or research and development components may also need to be viewed through a portfolio lens (by definition, some innovative projects would be expected to fail). Nevertheless, where projects are successful, support to scale-up or replicate their approach could result in step changes in community resilience. This may also mean adapting how these projects are evaluated and how their success is judged. Fully leveraging this approach may also require creating a plan for how such winners can go on to be scaled up, either within CJF or through dissemination of learning. In addition, these projects should include aspects of climate change resilience, to ensure participants benefit from the project regardless of whether the technology is successful or not.

Finally, while many projects demonstrated strong learning components, especially with respect to integrating communities into learning, cross-project learning should be strengthened. Models such as Malawi Project 4, which built on learning from previous projects, should be replicated. Data and evidence from CJF projects should be documented and made widely available and cross-learning workshops could be hosted to support projects sharing lessons not only on new technologies but also on strengthening processes that support climate justice.

4.2 Recommendations

The following recommendations are targeted at the Scottish Government CJF management team to support future CJF phases.

Recommendation 1. It is recommended that CJF develops a set of project selection and monitoring criteria that ensure projects incorporate all aspects of climate justice (including procedural and transformative) in their design and implementation (Findings 1, 6, 7, 9, 11, 15, 20 and 24)

The current portfolio of projects includes aspects of all three climate justice pillars; however, the majority of projects - in particular innovation and mitigation projects - are weaker in procedural and transformative justice and could go further in targeting the most vulnerable peoples. Systematically integrating these aspects in future CJF projects through selection criteria that require projects to clearly articulate how they will contribute towards distributive, procedural and transformative aspects of climate justice through their projects would deepen CJF projects and programme's climate justice impacts, improve project coherence, and support the development of more efficient, effective, impactful and sustainable projects. For example, as part of the grant application process, projects could be required to explain how their activities align with the priority climate justice interventions identified under each of the climate justice pillars. After an initial project scoping phase (e.g. of six to 12 months), projects could then be required to develop indicators with quantitative targets (based on the project needs assessment and selection of appropriate activities) against these interventions. In addition, projects that focus on innovation and/or mitigation should include other aspects of distributive justice (such as climate smart agriculture) to ensure that participants benefit from the intervention. If the CJF were to develop an overarching results framework (aligned to the Climate Justice Interventions ToC), it would be beneficial to have grantees align their M&E and reporting with the CJF programme-level indicators. Projects could build CJF distributive, procedural and transformative indicators at the output and outcome-level into their M&E frameworks. This would both ensure projects focus on climate justice elements through implementation, as well as enabling CJF to monitor and report on its progress at the programme-level.

Recommendation 2. It is recommended that CJF supports the sharing of lessons and learning from across its portfolio to support a community of practice that improves climate justice impacts both from across its portfolio and beyond (Findings 8, 10, 18, 19 and 22)

The CJF is a 'first of its kind' government programme supporting a climate justice approach for holistic sustainable development. As a result, it has supported a portfolio of projects that have been producing lessons on both technical aspects of sustainable development, as well as learnings on participatory approaches for decision-making and advocacy. The CJF could also go further to elevate voices towards other donors, for example by inviting a selection of CJF-supported climate justice leaders to speak at the upcoming COP26. Additionally, given limitations in local understanding of climate change and climate justice, CJF could support the development and sharing of terminology, definitions and briefing notes on these topics that could be utilised by CJF projects and other stakeholders within the CJF countries. Many of the projects have been producing lesson learning briefs and presenting lessons from their projects and the CJF could capitalise on these results by sharing lessons (for example on a CJF website), as well as bringing together practitioners from the CJF projects and beyond to share lessons and build support for climate justice projects beyond the CJF. This would also create a meaningful space for collaboration and sharing across CJF grantees and partners, supporting enhancing procedural and transformative justice outcomes within the CJF programme. There could also be benefit in inviting prospective grantees and implementing partners, so they could work together to map areas of need, gaps in community support and/or potential synergies - which could also support the involvement of smaller partners who may not be able to cover all aspects of climate justice on their own. The learning component of the CJF could be part of a grant manager's remit, although it would require dedicated funding for the learning component.

Recommendation 3. It is recommended that the CJF invests in larger programmes and/or supports smaller projects to provide clusters of interventions to communities (Findings 3 and 21)

Given the scale of risks and challenges many of the most affected areas and peoples are facing (particularly in countries like Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia) communities need a suite of interventions and capacity support to meet their needs. A larger programme can address these challenges more effectively than small individual projects. Alternately, a cluster of smaller projects could potentially work together to achieve similar results. Options for project clustering would need to be further explored but could potentially involve projects building on existing projects within a landscape, shared project development (i.e. two to three projects working either through a consortium or separately but in collaboration to each deliver different aspects of climate justice within the same landscape), some form of landscape working group structure that supports collaboration of multiple projects or the staggering of smaller CJF projects that build upon the impacts and learnings of previous projects.

As noted above, by combining the three pillars of climate justice, these projects could also be expected to increase their effectiveness, impact and sustainability. Nevertheless, some of these processes take time and this would need to be built into project design - either at the outset or through an extension option, or through a project-clustered approach. A clustered approach would also require that Recommendation 2 goes beyond sharing learnings across existing projects to support lesson learning and collaboration across actors within the climate justice space.

Recommendation 4. It is recommended that the CJF builds upon the flexibility of its approach that supports participatory processes in project design and implementation and complements these with more flexible project design and reporting cycles (Findings 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17)

The flexibility of the CJF funding mechanism is supportive of project designs that utilise more participatory approaches for identifying problems and solutions within communities (procedural and transformative justice), as well as allowing for more risky innovation projects. The benefits of this approach could be improved by developing a one or two year project extension option (for projects that meet certain criteria, such as having engaged effectively with communities and maintained strong communication and reporting in implementation, and showing potential for scale-up or need for support to fully realise benefits). In addition, it is recommended that implementing partners have a six month or 12-month budget and reporting cycle (or automatic roll over of budget) to smooth implementation when funding is passing through a number of project actors before it reaches the field. Support for some pre-financing of field activities should also be considered, particularly where small national partners are otherwise pre-financing field work and community engagement. In addition, agreed decision timelines for various partners (Scottish Government, grant managers, Scottish grantees and implementing partners) would reduce uncertainty in decision making and action.

Recommendation 5. It is recommended that Scottish Government leverages CJF learnings to support the integration of climate justice by other donors and programmes (Findings 10, 22 and 25)

The Scottish Government is in a unique position whereby other bilateral donors have thus far not referred to programming specifically around climate justice. For example, the UK Government refer to similar ways of programming within their 'leave no one behind' policy. Building on the strong buy-in for climate justice that CJF has leveraged within the Scottish Government and amongst its project stakeholders, the Scottish Government should capitalise on their use of climate justice phrasing within the international development space, and therefore engage with other bilateral donors to assess how the integration of climate justice goes beyond 'best practice' development work. The Scottish Government should use in-house resources to help leverage wide reaching and high impact media productions to help elevate the voices of beneficiaries within project areas and beyond. This would help raise climate justice issues to an international stage – such as COP26 (where project specific productions may not be as high level in their reach). The Scottish Government should also work directly with other donors and philanthropic organisations who are tagging their climate work under the 'justice' phrasing, in order to build a network, knowledge bank, and potentially a repository of shared lessons learning. This could create a unique opportunity to create something new – beyond traditional climate adaptation and resilience programming.



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