The Age of Climate Structural Adjustment Programs

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A seminar co-convened by the Climate and Energy College and the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.

In the aftermath of the adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change, raising climate ambition has gained significant political salience. Modelled on a hybrid logic, the Paris Agreement is based on top-down global climate targets and bottom-up nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Yet there have emerged other developments that are significantly shaping climate action through transnational structural forces.

Based on these developments, a new paper by MSSI Research Fellow Kennedy Mbeva argues that we are now in the age of Climate Structural Adjustment Programs (CSAPs). Six particular forces underpinning the CSAPs are salient: emission reduction targets such as net zero; anti-fossil fuel norms shaping public opinion; divestment from fossil fuels; bans such as moratorium on coal mining and the proposed fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty; sanctions such as carbon border taxes; and climate conditionalities such as those linked to debt relief.

It is therefore argued that these transnational structural forces mark a significant development of the international climate change regime. In conclusion, the paper considers the strategic opportunities presented by the CSAPs to raise climate ambition, but also the attendant normative issues such as equity, justice and fairness.


Dr Kennedy Mbeva is a Fellow of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI), member of the Climate and Energy College, and incoming postdoctoral research associate at the Blavatnik School of Government, the University of Oxford. His current research, as part of the Future of Climate Cooperation project, examines how the global economic system can be aligned with climate stability, with a focus on emerging and developing countries. A Kenyan national, he has studied and worked in various parts of the world including China, Europe and Australia. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Melbourne.

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