Lone wolves must ‘co-evolve’ to repair climate change, says Jyotsna Puri

16 Nov 2018

Green Climate Fund leader on behavioral science and climate change

By Julie Mollins
Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

Jyotsna (Jo) Puri is up for a challenge. She oversees the team responsible for evaluating the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was established in 2010 to help finance the fight against climate change.

Puri, head of the Independent Evaluation Unit (IEU) at the GCF, will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Global Landscape Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany on Dec. 1-2.

The IEU operates at an arm’s length from the fund to track impact and ensure its accountability. Set up by the U.N. Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) to establish adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries, the fund is intended to be a catalyst for public and private sources of climate finance to the tune of $100 billion a year by 2020.

In October, the fund approved investments of more than $1 billion for 19 projects aimed at tackling climate change and its effects in poor countries. So far, the fund has invested $4.6 billion overall.

Originally, countries committed $10 billion, but due to President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the U.N. Paris Agreement on climate change, the fund faces a $2 billion shortfall.

Now, as part of its strategy, the GCF is being replenished.

Puri shared her views with the GLF just as the IEU begins an initial performance review of the fund.

Q: What do you plan to speak about at GLF? Why GLF?

A: The most critical problems that we face today – food, water, climate, home are inextricably linked and complex. Complexity is a word not to be used lightly because unheeded; it quickly takes us into uncontrolled chaos. Forums such as the GLF provide an exciting opportunity to explore linkages and learn from different disciplines while also crafting solutions that are workable and practical. My talk at the GLF will talk not just about the complexity of the topic but also about what we are learning from the evidence so far, in different spaces, and will underscore the need for introducing new learning and disciplines into our dialogue. Key among these is the need for us to introduce “behavioral science” into our thinking and planning.

Q: In your specific role at GCF, what are your main objectives?

A: My main objective is to learn from the speakers and from the participants. Climate change is a “wicked problem” and a problem that my organization is dealing with, along with many others. None of us can afford the arrogance of being lone wolves. We must learn and “co-evolve.”  The GLF provides that opportunity.

Q: The GCF has not received full-targeted financial commitments. What is the strategy for this?

A: The GCF is getting ready for its next replenishment and the world will need to be hopeful and ambitious. In this context, the GCF Board has asked the IEU – the Independent Evaluation Unit of the Green Climate Fund, to undertake the first performance review of the GCF so that the GCF may openly, critically and transparently acknowledge its strengths and its opportunities while forging partnerships.

Q: I’ve heard you say that part of the challenge is that climate change is a long term phenomenon and that many of the outcomes and impacts are also long term and distal, making it difficult to evaluate. Does the recent Special Report on 1.5 degrees Celsius from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, change your view or the reality we are facing? 

A: The IPCC report underscores the clear and present danger of climate change. It amplifies the clarion call for action. One of the things required in our toolbox today, is the need to recognize that individual and crowd-behavior must change and we all must discover and mutate to these other types of behavior. Together. Cooperation and large numbers can only meet the challenge of climate change. But that means, we must find ways to change our behavior en masse. Behavioral science is an ignored subject in development or climate change. We cannot afford to ignore this any longer. My talk will focus on this.

Q: What role does funding play in meeting the temperature targets laid out by the U.N. Paris Agreement on climate change? Do you have any examples of successful initiatives?

A: Funding is important not just as a “signal” but also as an “enabler.” There are many initiatives that have at least initial evidence of likely success. REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries) is one example. However funding is not a sufficient enabler. We need good evidence on “what works” and “what doesn’t” in different contexts and also to inform scalable action, so that we are investing in impactful initiatives. For this, all sides must commit to being “evidence based” and not “eminence based.” I’ll talk about this at GLF.

Learn more about how to attend GLF Bonn online or in-person 2018 here.


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