Aligning national climate policy and sustainable development in Kenya
2015 has seen the adoption of both the "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the "Paris Agreement" under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An effective implementation of the goals and objectives that both agendas entail, i.e. the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the case of the 2030 Agenda and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the case of climate policy creates formidable challenges for international cooperation as multilevel governance - notably with a view to achieving coherent policy making and implementation at national and subnational levels.
The Republic of Kenya provides for an interesting case study to employ a multilevel governance perspective to explore these challenges and ensuing research questions. First, at the interface of international process and domestic policy, second, at the interface of national government and subnational implementation.
At the international level Kenya has demonstrated noteworthy leadership by co-chairing the UN's Open Working Group on the SDGs as well as by submitting (relatively) ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC. It thus belongs to a distinct group of "middle countries" whose pledges proved instrumental to overcoming the engrained dichotomy between developed and developing countries in the negotiation of the Paris Agreement. Domestically, Kenya is of particular interest due to its ambitious devolution agenda that seeks to decentralize political authority to 47 counties following a major constitutional reform in 2010.
As a (lower) middle-income country with a fairly robust economy and a dynamically emerging middle class Kenya makes for a suitable "LAG-country" that is also an important regional player in Eastern Africa and an international hub that hosts several UN agencies and many international actors, including non-governmental and research organizations. With some exceptions in the Northern and Coastal regions (East) it can also be considered as reasonably save.
The LAG is envisaged to examine whether and how national strategies and policies concerning the implementation of SDG- and climate-related objectives are being aligned politically as well as technically. It is expected that manifest inconsistencies and trade-offs can be identified as well as (potential) synergies, both at the national level and between levels. On that basis, the LAG should be able to develop relevant recommendations that address policy coherence at the nexus of sustainable development policies and climate governance. The overarching context will be the universal quest for transformative governance towards climate-smart and just development.
Pending composition of the LAG-team and the skills thus available, the empirical research is envisaged to zoom in on county-level approaches to implementing sectoral SDGs (goals & targets). The focus will presumably be on resource-based SDGs that can be assumed to be interdependent with climate policy objectives (for instance SDG 6, 7 or 15). Coherence with domestic climate policies may be pragmatically assessed by a desk-study approach to the corresponding climate policies. To the extent possible, comparative methods will be applied to increase the explanatory value of empirical findings. Comparative insights are to be generated either across sectors (e.g. land-related vs water-related SDG targets) or across counties (e.g. Western counties vs Central Province counties) or, ideally, a combination of both.