Meta-Evaluation of climate mitigation evaluations – Two case studies for long-term energy efficiency programs (GEF Theory of No change)

Project Background

Evaluating projects, programmes and policies is typically based on information supplied from within the narrow domain of the intervention – implementers, designers, recipients, affected stakeholders. Often, the program logic is taken from project design documents, and not questioned further. If a project fails, the programme logic might be discarded as faulty without further ado. But without going beyond the assumptions and logic that underlie the evaluandum it is often hard to understand why an intervention might not have delivered the intended results. In such cases learning from the evaluation is necessarily limited. This meta-evaluation of climate change mitigation evaluations supported by a community of practice hosted by the Evaluation Office of the Global Environment Facility (GEF EO) identified a series of factors underlying failures. This led to a better understanding of “why” interventions failed and directed attention towards policies that might have more impact on climate change trends. Rather than a classical theory of change, which postulates that certain causal linkages and assumptions make an intervention “work”, a theory of no change puts forward hypotheses regarding why certain causal linkages are in fact broken or why interventions cannot (yet) work in identified circumstances.

Type and scope of services

In the framework of this project, two case studies were undertaken for long-term energy efficiency programs, in order to deduct general cause-effect logic. One of the case studies dealt with market transformation for different energy efficient household appliances in Thailand and the other with the integration of renewable energies in the polish long-distance heating sector. In both cases, evaluations of internationally financed climate change mitigation projects were reviewed to analyze the dynamic of market transformation and climate change mitigation over a period of around 15 years. A third study summarizes the findings of this analysis and develops on this basis an abstract framework for analysis which is applied on the countries of the case studies. This analytical framework was published under the title “Theory of No Change”. It is generally applicable on the evaluation and planning of short-, mid- and long-term programs on climate change mitigation, including more fundamental energy efficiency investments, changes of practices and the field of renewable energy generation and other substitution processes. It is applied in on-going evaluations (GEF EO).

Related Publications

1/2016
The Theory of No Change

Theory-based evaluation is the order of the day. However, many theory-based evaluations focus on programme logics rather than actual theories of change. Programme logics start …

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