Climate Knowledge Brokering in Latin America and the Caribbean

Submitted by Julia Barrott 28th March 2017 16:45
CKB LAC Report Cover

About this report

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are especially vulnerable to the current and predicted impacts of climate change, due in part to the heavy reliance of their economies and populations’ livelihoods on fragile natural resources. This makes sound, climate-sensitive decision-making based on reliable climate change information particularly important. Currently, though, decision makers in LAC are often faced with a lack of tailored resources: the information they can find is not in their language, or not applicable to their particular situation. A lack of awareness and difficulties accessing existing information, among other issues, also form important barriers to climate change information being used in decision-making.

Climate knowledge brokers help users overcome these challenges by working in chains to connect producers with users of information. They point decision makers to the right information, and they filter, synthesise and tailor information to make it more relevant and useful. 

This report* is based on a study carried out by the Coordination Hub of the Climate Knowledge Brokers Group, on climate knowledge brokering in Latin America and the Caribbean. It aims to describe the current landscape and devise a way forward for the CKB network in the region.

The report contains information on:

  • the demand for climate knowledge brokering in LAC;
  • the climate knowledge brokers working in LAC;
  • the main challenges faced by climate knowledge users and brokers in LAC; and
  • the funders supporting climate knowledge brokering initiatives in LAC.

*The report is available in English and Spanish. The English version is available to download from the right-hand column. The Spanish version can be downloaded from the Further Resources section below.

Approach

The paper has been developed based on a literature review, internet research, interviews with 29 climate knowledge users, producers, brokers and funders working across the region
and a series of short consultation webinars, to gather feedback on findings and to facilitate discussions around possible actions and alliances moving forward. 

The interviews with the climate knowledge users, producers, brokers and funders discussed their work, the most important information challenges they face and the solutions they would like to see. After the interviews, three small-scale consultation webinars were organised, in Spanish as well as English, to give the interviewees and other interested stakeholders a chance to comment on the preliminary conclusions, and to discuss ideas for future initiatives and collaborations.

Challenges

The interviewees shared many different challenges faced by climate knowledge users and brokers in Latin America and the Caribbean. These are described in detail in chapter 3 of the report and included (in summary):

  • Lack of Certain Types of Information. Most climate knowledge users and brokers cited the lack of local (national, sub-national) climate change information as one of the most important challenges they face in the LAC region. The underlying causes are manifold and include weak data gathering capacity in (governmental) institutions working on climate change, a lack of understanding and budget for the construction and maintenance of monitoring stations, poor coordination/communication between institutions leading to multiple, overlapping and often incoherent datasets, as well as a lack of funding and infrastructure for processing and disseminating data in the region.

  • Centralisation. Expertise related to climate change tends to be centralised in big cities, and information on climate change is often focused only on those cities and their immediate surroundings. This means that it is challenging for more rural organisations and institutions to produce information, plans or projects with a climate change lens or to find climate change experts with knowledge of their local area.

  • Inaccessible Knowledge. Where information does exist, it is often inaccessible. Firstly, a lot of information is not written down, or not published, or not digitalised, which means that it is impossible to access at a distance. Secondly, government and especially private sector-owned information is often not made public, either because it is confidential or because it never progresses past the draft stage.

  • Public Opinion and Agenda-Setting. Climate change tends to be overlooked in favour of other issues, which may be related to climate change but are seen as higher-priority, such as disaster risk reduction, food security, employment, poverty reduction and halting deforestation. 

  • Challenges Related to Translating and Tailoring Information. A lot of information about the region is not available in either Spanish or Portuguese, including reports produced by regional and international agencies. As a result, best practices from other regions often do not reach those who could apply them in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

  • Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). Though some of the climate knowledge brokers interviewed collect basic performance statistics, such as number of website visits and report downloads, many struggle to really understand and make visible the impacts that their work is having. They are not aware of any methodologies for measuring the impact of information on decisions made by users. This lack of solid proof of positive impacts of climate knowledge brokering activities can make it difficult for knowledge brokers to attract funding. 

  • Funding. In general, users feel that funders do not prioritise climate knowledge in the LAC region and they do not work together in a coordinated way to produce and disseminate relevant information. Some of the interviewees said that it is difficult to convince politicians and funders to prioritise climate change because most of the measures necessary to tackle the issue require long-term investments without producing immediate, tangible results. 

  • Challenges Connected to Communication and Coordination. From the interviews, it appears that all climate knowledge brokers working in (Spanish-speaking) regional organisations were part of networks and communicated well with colleagues in other (Spanish-speaking) regional organisations. However, national organisations and those with different working languages seemed to have less strong ties with other knowledge brokers both at the national and the regional level. 

  • Challenges Related to User Capacity. According to the report on a World Climate Re- search Programme (WCRP) conference on climate knowledge in the LAC region, held in 2014, one of the main problems climate knowledge brokers encounter is that governmental institutions and others often have limited capacity for identifying their own climate information requirements, and also for applying climate information. The interviewees agreed, saying that governmental institutions are often understaffed, that many politicians lack a basic understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change and that government tends to be technologically ‘old fashioned’. 

  • Political Issues. A number of interviewed knowledge brokers commented on the fact that building relationships with and raising awareness among policy makers at all levels can be difficult because the turnover of politicians as well as employees in government departments is very high. This also jeopardises the government’s ability to effectively implement climate change (and other) projects, because newly elected officials tend to cancel existing projects and start their own, abandoning valuable work that has already been done or duplicating efforts by starting over. 

Proposed Action

Not all of the challenges mentioned in this report can be dealt with by the organisations in the CKB network. Below is a list of actions that CKB and its network partners in LAC could take to encourage new climate knowledge brokers to step up, and to increase the effectiveness of climate knowledge brokering in the region.

  1. Identifying and promoting Latin American and Caribbean climate knowledge producers and brokers – especially those producing and disseminating national and local information – amongst users across the region and at different levels.
  2. Strengthening networks
    • Strengthen the regional network to bring together climate knowledge brokers through meetings, workshops for peer learning and identi cation of joint projects, and training and funding opportunities. 
    • Connect universities working on climate change with each other and with other knowledge producers and brokers to reinforce the ow of information across the region. This could include the joint-development of courses aimed at strengthening professional capacities to inte- grate climate change into a range of relevant sectors. 
    • Link climate knowledge producers and brokers with regional networks of journalists and communications professionals, and organise joint capacity building activities on how to communicate climate change issues. At the same time, strengthen ties among these journalists and communications professionals interested in climate change in different countries in the region. 
  3. Conducting research on...
    • M&E methodologies for measuring the impact of knowledge on decision-making (where these do not exist already).
    • Policy-making processes in the different countries of LAC, and speci c needs of de- cision makers, particularly those working on mainstreaming climate change into policy and practice.
  4. Training and/or knowledge exchange (perhaps in the form of a series of webinars) for climate knowledge brokers on topics such as...
    • Understanding decision-making processes and adapting information to suit.
    • Co-creation processes, how to develop knowledge products with the involvement of di erent stakeholders.
    • Monitoring and evaluation and impact assessment methodologies.
    • Best practices for designing and managing climate knowledge portals including state-of-the-art and open access technologies.
    • Mapping, analysing and visualising data for different types of users.
    • How to communicate uncertainty related to climate change projections.
    • Encouraging user engagement in online communities.
    • Key funding opportunities and what funders look for in climate knowledge brokering projects.
    • Combining the roles of effective climate change advocates and climate know- ledge brokers.
  5. Awareness raising to improve the use of climate knowledge in decision making...
    • Amongst decision makers, of current sources of national and local knowledge.
    • Amongst funders, of the importance of climate knowledge brokering, preferably connected to the Paris Agreement, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
    • Amongst funders and knowledge producers, of information gaps.
    • Amongst educators, of the need to include climate change in social science degrees in universities. 

Further resources

  • Catálisis del Conocimiento sobre el Clima en América Latina y el Caribe
  • About the authors

    Maria van Veldhuizen is Communications Officer at the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) in Vienna, and is a member of the Communications Working Group of the CKB Coordination Hub.

    Rebecca Clements has lived and worked in Latin America for nine years, first for Practical Action Latin America and then as an independent consultant specialising in fundraising, project management, research and knowledge brokering covering a diverse range of social and environmental themes. 

    Suggested Citation

    van Veldhuizen and Clements (2017) Climate Knowledge Brokering in Latin America and the Caribbean: Towards a regional agenda for action. Climate Knowledge Brokers Group.