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Adapting International Methodologies to Local Contexts for Successful Policy Planning and Design

Participants in the transportation working group for Guatemala’s Low Emission Development Strategy visited an exposition on electric vehicles that highlighted low-carbon options for the country’s transportation sector.

As the world begins to face the effects of climate change, leaders in many countries are learning that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not in conflict with economic expansion.

Guatemala is on this journey. From 2014 to 2019, USAID and the Government of Guatemala (GOG), with implementation by RTI, worked together to create a Low Emissions Development Strategy, or LEDS. The strategy is now in place and aims to build institutional capacity to reduce the effects of climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and grow the economy to reverse the increases in poverty that the country has seen in recent years.

How did the team succeed in developing a LEDS for Guatemala? A central feature of the project was RTI’s facilitation of seven working groups from key areas of the economy: agriculture, forestry and other land use (FOLU), waste, industry, energy, transportation, and urban development. More than 500 Guatemalan citizens joined in the groups to discuss how to address greenhouse gas emissions and long-term economic growth. The team found that adapting international methodologies—such as the 10-step methodology employed by partner Center for Climate Strategies in the U.S., Mexico, Asia, and Europe—to the particularities of the local context is crucial to successful policy planning and design.

Creating seven working groups, instead of a large multi-sectoral group, was crucial and helped build on each group’s varying dynamics. Each group could review, select, and design policy options based on sector-specific priorities and objectives. Under this design, each working group was led by the corresponding GOG agency – e.g. the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) for energy and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA) for agriculture – facilitating greater appropriation and buy-in from sector stakeholders.

Key Results

  • 43 LEDS policy options prioritized and designed, together forming a clear path toward achieving Guatemala’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) commitment and reducing 2.4 billion tons of CO2e through 2050.
  • Economy-wide and sectoral GHG emission baselines developed for the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario through 2050, validated through the sectoral working groups and providing a basis for evaluating alternative scenarios.
  • Economic impact analyses carried out for each LEDS policy option, including marginal abatement cost curves (MACCs) and an assessment of macroeconomic effects such as job growth, local supply chains, and costs/savings

GOG leadership remained at the forefront of the process throughout, with GOG agencies leading working group discussions and helping to build on existing policies that meet both LEDS and national development objectives. Yet each working group also comprised representatives from the private sector, academia, and civil society. This diversity of experience contributed to an open, multi-stakeholder dialogue. The working group process was the first time many representatives, especially those from the GOG and private sector, had previously sat down at the same table together to discuss these topics.

“The great strength of the process is the participation of various actors with different purposes, combining approaches, and seeking to identify, prioritize and validate mitigation options that contribute to establishing a competitive and efficient development within the framework of common goals," said Edith Morales, a waste working group participant.

Over the course of 2017-2018, each working group progressed through six sessions in the LEDS action planning methodology, reviewing GHG emission baselines and forecasts, establishing a vision for long-term LEDS implementation, and voting to adopt 43 priority policy responses that meet sectoral environmental, economic, and social objectives. As opposed to previous policy design processes, the LEDS working group structure enabled participants to provide input and comment on the information being rolled into the process, facilitating their acceptance and agreement with final results.

Through the working group process, the project built a robust network of low emission development champions in various sectors and throughout GOG agencies—at the national and municipal levels, the private sector, academia, and civil society—including women’s and indigenous organizations.

This sense of local ownership makes LEDS initiatives more likely to be sustainable even though the project itself closed in July 2019.

For example, on September 19, 2019, the MEM announced it would be taking the lead on moving the energy working group forward now that the project has ended. Another key example of the project’s lasting effects occurred on October 3, 2019, when all palm oil industry members of the national palm oil union (GREPALMA) signed a public no-deforestation agreement which references the LEDS Project’s support.

Disclaimer: This piece was written by Jennifer Park (Associate Director, Environment) and Jonathan Schwarz (Associate Director, Environment) to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.