Katie Browne's Dissertation Defense
Title: Advancing Equity in International Climate Finance: New Approaches to Informal Institutions and Power
Chair: Maria Carmen Lemos
Date: April 30th, 3-4pm
Access: https://umich.zoom.us/j/99227613776 (passcode: 237399)
Abstract: The negative impacts of climate change are particularly damaging for communities in low- and middle-income countries that have fewer resources available for adaptation. Grounded in principles of equity and restitution, international climate finance has tremendous potential to enable adaptation among the most vulnerable. High-income countries have pledged $100 billion USD annually to support efforts to mitigate climate change and cope with its impacts. Concern is growing, however, that international support for adaptation is not reaching communities that need it most. Recent studies have shown that many international interventions fail to recognize the social and political underpinnings of climate vulnerability and can actually increase inequality. Many have pointed to informal and entrenched systems of unequal power, like clientelism and patrimonialism, as key obstacles to more equitable adaptation. Such informal institutions – unwritten codes and conventions that shape behavior – have long been seen by international actors as obstacles to equality.
This dissertation explores how informal institutions shape equity in internationally financed adaptation. It is comprised of three separate analyses, each one addressing informal power at a different scale. At the global level, I examine the overall architecture of climate finance, arguing that it fosters space for experimentation with new approaches to informal institutions in recipient countries. At the national level, I compare how informal institutions of clientelism and patrimonialism shape the equity of international adaptation projects targeted at vulnerable communities in Mauritius and Madagascar. Finally at the sub-national level, I measure the distributional outcomes of an adaptation project in rural Madagascar, focusing on the relationship between project participation and household political connectivity.
Overall, this dissertation illustrates how informal institutions can influence internationally financed adaptation. I argue that new approaches are needed to ensure equity, especially in targeting funding to disadvantaged and marginalized groups. I focus in particular on identifying opportunities and approaches to advance equity, especially by focusing analysis as much on positive outcomes as negative ones. Taken together, the new spaces for experimentation within the overall architecture of climate finance can combine with new implementation approaches on the ground to foster more equitable adaptation and contribute to broader efforts to transform inequitable systems long-term.