Donor Support for Sustainability Transition: The case of low-carbon development in the cement sector of Tunisia

Zyaad Boodoo

    Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

    731 Downloads (Pure)


    The overwhelming evidence and scientific consensus on the impacts of human-induced climate change have prompted enhanced mitigation responses over time, led by developed countries representing the biggest emitters historically. More recently, rapid economic growth in developing countries has led to soaring emissions of greenhouse gases. As a result, measures to promote a shift to low-carbon and sustainable futures in all countries of the world are now vital elements of global goals for the climate and sustainable development as established in two historical agreements in 2015, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda on sustainable development. To address the global challenge of sustainability transition, developed nations have confirmed in the Paris Agreement 2015 at the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to jointly mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 for climate change action supporting developing-country counterparts. As part of this pledge, bilateral development cooperation agencies and multilateral financial institutions have been identified as key channels through which funding will be delivered. In turn, this indicates that the international community envisages donors playing an important role in supporting developing countries in their attempts to shift towards more sustainable futures.
    Against this background, the key aim of this PhD thesis is to contribute to the emerging literature on the role of donors in promoting sustainable transitions by investigating how transition concepts and donor practices influence low-carbon transitions in the developing world. This overall research topic is addressed in two ways throughout this thesis: 1) through a theoretical review of the management approaches that are prevalent within the donor community, and 2) by applying case-study methodologies to examine the impacts of donor interventions on low-carbon transitions in the case of the Tunisian cement sector. The theoretical and conceptual basis of the three articles comprising this thesis are drawn from the "Transition Management" literature to understand how transitions to low-carbon development can be governed and from the “Multi-Level Perspective” to understand the factors that influence the development of niches within the Tunisian cement sector. Analyses are based upon qualitative data collected mainly from semi-structured interviews, direct participation and observations conducted during consecutive periods of fieldwork in Tunisia in 2014-2015.
    This thesis finds that donors contribute towards stimulating low-carbon transitions in the developing world by addressing issues that limit the development of low-carbon measures in recipient countries, such as a lack of local expertise, coordinated action, and available funding. Donors address these constraints by engaging in niche development processes and encouraging regime-level changes through support for political and regulatory reforms or, more broadly, via donor funding modalities, which provide a basis for rational thinking and project structuring. In addition, this research finds evidence that current donor modalities suffer from a lack of attention to sustainability transition features of path dependency and lock-in. In particular, factors that constrain donor attempts towards sustaining low-carbon transitions in the developing world are: the lack of key change agents, the absence of formal decision-making legitimacy by donors within the formulation of transition initiatives, the short-term nature of development aid, a lack of coordination amongst donor agencies, the limited attention given to addressing local political processes, a lack of reflexivity, and assumptions regarding foresight and control in donor interventions.
    Given that the Parties to the Paris Agreement are now moving towards an implementation phase of increasingly ambitious climate policies and actions set out in Nationally Determined Contributions, the results of this thesis provide useful lessons that could be used to enhance donor impacts by avoiding the pitfalls highlighted.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUNEP DTU Partnership
    Number of pages187
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

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