What can we larn about the ‘country ownership’ of international climate finance by employing a relational conception of scale?

Authors: Jon Barnes*, London School of Economics
Topics: Energy, Africa, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Climate change, justice, Africa, just transition, renewable energy
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper employs a relational scalar ontology in order to engage with the ‘country ownership’ in a novel way. It distils four analytical categories to distinguish hierarchical and relational scale and emphasises the relational, scalar aspect of assemblage theory. This is applied in order to better understand the productive effect of renewable energy projects financed by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in South Africa. It frames the project development process as an assemblage from which projects emerge and territorialise. This theoretical framework permits an empirical analysis of how projects are made that acknowledges the range of contingency and possibility. In focusing on how the projects are made, rather than what is made, country ownership is scrutinised. South Africa has an ambitious electricity reform programme, an empowered civil society and a failing coal-powered utility company, yet progress towards renewable energy is frustrated by political, financial and material barriers in the country. GCF funded projects must fit to the national context, must reflect and reproduce it. But the benefit of these projects is actually focused on a narrow actor set in country that is poorly specified via a hierarchical conception of scale. This paper highlights the productive scalar effect of country owned GCF project development. It advances a heuristic generalisation that can move analysis beyond pre-figured scalar labels. It advances a version of ownership premised on multiplicity, immanence and emergence to offer a novel perspective on how different people and things ‘own’ the programming of resources.

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