Evaluations as a tool to enhance policymaking: from COVID-19 to the climate crisis

News, 26 October 2020
A new briefing analyses how evaluations can be used to improve policymaking to address the climate emergency, using examples from the global reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.
People in medical suits and masks taking notes.

Lessons from the management of COVID-19 can serve as lessons to address other imminent emergencies, such as the climate crisis, according to a new briefing (Photo: CDC Global via FlickrCC BY 2.0)

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that governments are able to legislate promptly, implement new national policies and endure costly actions in order to tackle the health emergency and save lives – in the short term.

But while the public health crisis has emphasised the importance of using global and localised data to inform flexible and adaptive policies in fast-changing situations, it has also pointed to the risks of making policies without a strong and robust evidence base – over the longer term.

In light of this, a newly launched briefing by IIED, EVALSDGs and DEval – German Institute for Development Evaluation highlights how lessons from the management of COVID-19 can serve as lessons to address other imminent emergencies such as the climate crisis.

Despite a wealth of climate change data, global political action has failed to enact rapid and effective actions to build more resilient societies. This publication assesses how governments can use evaluations to introduce evidence into decision-making in order to accelerate progress towards climate policy – looking at what has been done well, and what needs to be improved from the COVID-19 experiences.

Authors Dirk Hoffmann, Dorothy Lucks, Kassem El-​Saddik and IIED’s Emilie Beauchamp and Stefano D’Errico suggest four ways evaluations can be used to respond to the climate crisis. These are to:

  • Integrate different approaches to produce evidence in complex settings – such as individual behaviours, expert knowledge and models like the theory of change or scenarios
  • Improve policy coherence and cooperation across scales and sectors to check if different policies are reinforcing, neutralising or even negatively affecting their intended outcomes
  • Promote flexible policies and learning for sustainable solutions, so they can be incorporated into timely responses to unexpected crises, and
  • Help identify opportunities for socially just transformation and help promote mutual accountability.

Evaluations can play a key role in designing what resilient societies look like, by providing spaces to understand complexity, learn and adapt better

The publication concludes that evaluations are a critical mechanism to integrate adaptive management in policymaking, which allows for adjustments to sudden change, and to generate recommendations to respond to climate risks and advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

This briefing is part of the project 'Effective evaluation for the Sustainable Development Goals'.


Emilie Beauchamp (emilie.beauchamp@iied.org), senior researcher, IIED’s Strategy and Learning group

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