In the context of climate change, capacity building focuses upon developing the infrastructure, response and communication mechanisms, access to finance, climate awareness, and human capital of developing countries. This in turn enables the countries to meet carbon emission goals and develop sustainably. Developing countries face significant capacity challenges, which frustrate their ability to carry out their commitments under interactional climate change agreements. These issues stem from a lack of public awareness, shortage of experts and research institutions, insufficient international, aid and domestic political instability.
The COP 23 capacity building session entitled “Balancing International Standards & National Context” further delved into this issue. Speaker John O Niles, representing the Carbon Institute, identified the need of a stable workforce that can measure, report and verify obligations under international agreements as invaluable elements of effective capacity building. For instance, the Paris Agreement requires “soft” pledges of domestic commitments to take inventories of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), submit national communications, make pledges, and then implement those pledges over time. This essentially requires capacity in the form of a “GHG accountant” at each step of the process to be making assessments and informing policy decisions. Without an active educated workforce, this process falls apart.
Ideal capacity building allows for sustained and transformative development of domestic infrastructure. In other words, ideal projects would lead to the creation of an educated workforce well-equipped and funded to address international climate change obligations. Traditionally, capacity building has taken the form of monetary investment paired with training by experts. These are usually conducted via bilateral and multilateral efforts. This often involves a developing country investing money in consultancy companies which provide training workshops. These short-term assistance projects can be unresponsive or unadaptable to the local customs, political climate, and economic markets. In addition, many are considered high risk investments that deter possible foreign investors. Thus, capacity building has met with many challenges to effective implementation. However, new strategies to implementing capacity building have been gaining traction.
One such expanding category of capacity building that has met with increased success is the trans-border partnership of academic institutions. These allow for sustained negotiations and trainings between developed institutions and developing countries. For instance, Emory University initiated the Global Climate Initiative by partnering with Nanjing University. This relationship provides mutually beneficial collaboration on climate change issues and trains a new generation of internationally-aware students. Additionally, the Norad Program allows for training of faculty and universities. Norad connects higher education institutions within Ethiopia, Malawi, and Norway. This program develops an educated faculty, improves regional collaboration, and enhances outreach to local communities by their home institutions. These partnerships between academia and developing governments is beneficial because it allows national governments and their respective universities to build a qualified workforce.