Transformational Change for People and the Planet

Our founder, Christine Woerlen, PhD, and our team contributed the chapter “Using a Realist Framework to Overcome Evaluation Challenges in the Uncertain Landscape of Carbon Finance” in the newly published book “Transformational Change for People and the Planet: Evaluating Environment and Development”.


In 2013, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy published a business case for the Carbon Market Finance Programme (CMFP). The core mandate: to build capacity and develop aids for least developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa to access finance via the carbon market. The chosen strategy involved signing emission reduction purchase agreements with private sector enterprises, using the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to verify generation of tradeable certifed emissions reductions. The World Bank’s Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) would implement the 12-year program. The team for the 2019 midterm evaluation found that program uncertainty—from sociopolitical challenges in pilot markets to global indecision on the future of Article 6 and carbon markets—would complicate assessing progress toward business case objectives. The collapse and failed recovery of the carbon market impacted underlying assumptions of the CMFP’s theory of change, and uncertainty about CDM’s future complicated evaluation of program sustainability. This chapter presents a practical approach to using realist evaluation to overcome the contextual uncertainties of the carbon market landscape, providing strengths and weaknesses of the approach applied and recommending a revised approach for future evaluations.