Especially with a global issue like climate change the demand for impact evidence ranges from “what works here and now” to “has it contributed, or will it contribute, to stop climate change”. The first is very local, time and scale bound, just looking at whether a specific mechanism works as it is supposed to. The second looks at the planet, at scenarios that go into the future and that are at the highest (global) scale. Both are relevant questions and need to be answered.
This translates into issues of time, space and scale. It is quite clear that a project of $ 14.6 million cannot change the national energy market for remote hilly areas overnight. This takes time; in fact the impact assessment done at the end of the project asked for “adequate time” to pass and for a stable situation to be achieved before impact is assessed (Ittyerah et al. 2005, p. xv). And if individual projects need adequate time to have an impact, it follows that market change can only be observed and measured over even longer stretches of time. Longer time lapses are well known in environmental circles and on environmental impact, as Hildén (2009) and Rowe (2014, 54–55) have pointed out, but they tend to be less associated with market change. The slow pace of market change is more often observed with impatience, raising the question why no change is happening, which led Wörlen (2014) in her study of climate mitigation
to reformulate the “theory of change
” approach to a “theory of no change approach” that focuses on a better understanding of market barriers
and how they can be overcome.
In general environmental boundaries do not follow jurisdictional boundaries. One ecosystem may spread over several countries, and one country may have several ecosystems. Rowe (2012) asked attention for the fact that location may differ conceptually and practically between a social and economic system that is targeted for change and an ecosystem that is influenced through the same intervention or action. But this is not only an issue of different locations of systems, but also of scope of an intervention: it may be focused on a direct impact in the villages in which it is implemented, while other areas are still outside the scope of the project or have not yet been approached by suppliers, or invited to participate by State or Federal government.
It is an issue of scale when impact needs to be observed at several levels: that of energy supply and demand, of greenhouse gas emissions related to energy, of greenhouse gas emissions including deforestation
and alternative sources of energy, of livelihood and financial resources issues in the villages, of hilly rural areas in general, and perhaps somewhat more removed, whether greenhouse gas emissions in India are positively influenced by what happens in remote hilly areas. The last does not seem likely, and it may lead to a feeling of disenchantment – if it does not help India, it does not help the world, and it does not stop climate change.Footnote 3 But that was the reason the project was co-funded by the Global Environment Facility in the first place!
Scale is not easily defined. It seems clear that while interventions or actions move from one actor to multiple, from one location to many, from a “local” to a “national” or even “global” level that moving up scales is involved, but scales can also be understood in terms of different dimensions or sectors. Kennedy et al. (2009) recognises jurisdictional and management dimensions as different scales, and Bruyninckx (2009) asks attention for overlap and discrepancies between social, economic, environmental and spatial scales. Yet even though there is no universal agreement on how scales should be defined or what their boundaries are, there is widespread agreement that to mainstream, replicate, reproduce, upgrade or upscale interventions to higher levels is an essential perspective in understanding causal pathways from the micro-level to higher level goals.
Garcia and Zazueta (2015) argue that at higher scales interventions should be interpreted and looked at from a systems perspective. Individual components and elements do not a system make, but when they start interacting, they tend to take on characteristics of a system, which can have its own dynamics and shifts and changes. Arguably markets operate as systems and market change is systemic change: subtle changes in supply, demand and enabling environment
can lead to “tipping points”, after which slow, reversible change becomes irreversible, or the point in time at which a new technology (such as hydel power) becomes mainstream.
In conclusion key questions related to time lead to the realisation that impact can be measured at each moment in time – ex ante as impact assessment, through modelling and calculations, real time through monitoring
, experimental design, trend analysis etc. and ex post through various evaluations
and studies. Key questions related to space make us realise that impact differs per area and that areas have different impacts. Key questions related to scale point to the need to mainstream, replicate, upscale and broaden the scope of interventions before impact can be achieved at higher levels.