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What is "Just Transition"?

Using climate finance to advance climate justice: the politics and practice of channeling resources to the local level

The report makes a case for the targeting of adaptation finance at the local levels of government through direct access modalities to address equity concerns and describes the main obstacles local governments and local civil society groups face in accessing adaptation finance.


The authors argue that some of the social, political, and economic processes that create and sustain inequalities within a country are typically the same as those that allocate climate finance. Adaptation finance may, therefore, advance climate justice between countries, while doing little to enhance climate justice within countries. The latter is viewed, in part, as a means of increasing justice through the redistribution of resources.

Using an urban lens for its analysis of low- and middle-income countries, the report outlines the ways that local governments and local civil society groups can increase the adaptive capacities of urban residents. The subsequent section identifies the barriers to disbursing adaptation finance to local organizations by illustrating how power relations favoring national and formal agencies create various economic, technical, and institutional obstacles for local organizations. This analysis informs the assessment of financial intermediaries and planning systems as entities that could be deployed to enable local organizations to access adaptation finance. The authors use some examples to illustrate how municipal authorities and organized groups of urban residents have been successful in using small amounts of resources to shift political dynamics. They suggest that there is scope for adaptation finance to have a transformational impact on procedural and distributive climate justice.

The authors acknowledge the risks involved, as channeling finance to the local level could end up: supporting patronage networks and clientelism; overburdening local actors with responsibilities beyond their existing capabilities and lead to the formalization of their processes that result in new exclusions; and/or making such organizations dependent on donors, rather than strengthening local accountabilities. However, the authors suggest that there are emerging capabilities, particularly within some local civil society agencies, that can enable the reversal of exclusionary practices and demonstrate how this may work with respect to adaptation finance.