Guidance Development Spotlight: Transformational Change

This series provides a window into the development of the various components of the Initiative’s Methodological Framework. Previous installments here and here

Almost all policies and actions lead to some kind of change, but few are truly transformative. The Initiative for Climate Action Transparency’s (ICAT) Transformational Change Guidance aims to help practitioners assess both the potential of policies and actions to be transformational and their transformational impacts. The Transformational Change Guidance complements the other framework components, including sector-specific guidance such as the Agriculture Sector Guidance, and can be applied to all kinds of policies and actions.

First and foremost, the guidance will help define what we mean when we say “transformational change.” In brief, a transformational change is a fundamental change to any kind of system at a large scale and with a sustained impact. In the context in which ICAT operates, a transformational change disrupts established high-carbon practices and contributes to a zero carbon economy in line with the global 1.5 degree and sustainable development goals.

The Transformational Change Guidance will go into detail to outline key characteristics that define transformational change. Practitioners can use the guidance before, during and/or after policy implementation. Transformational change outcomes will be expressed in terms of change in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and/or sustainable development impacts. The GHG sectoral guidance and Sustainable Development Guidance will support practitioners in estimating and reporting on those impacts.

The Transformational Change Guidance will include sections that, for a given policy or action, help users to:

  • Choose which transformational change characteristics to assess
  • Do an impact assessment, including assessing the starting situation and an ex-ante assessment of TC impacts
  • Conduct ex-post assessment of TC impacts after policy is implemented
  • Set up monitoring, reporting and verification
  • Use results for learning and decision-making

Ex-ante assessment of the extent of transformation expected can create a feedback loop that informs and strengthens policy design. It can allow policymakers to compare a portfolio of potential policies and actions based on their potential for transformational change. And it can enable policymakers to seek financing based on assessment results.

Ex-post assessments can enable practitioners to hone in on the impact of the policy or action either as a whole or of particular characteristics, furthering learning and iterative policymaking. Understanding policy impacts means that practitioners can potentially replicate successes as well as assess barriers and policy aspects that were less effective than anticipated.

With limited time and resources and the enormous climate change facing us, country leaders cannot afford to enact policies that don’t fundamentally shift emissions and sustainable development outcomes. The Transformational Change Guidance will support policy makers in defining policies that have the greatest potential to promote decarbonisation and sustainable development.