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What Can We Learn About the ‘Country Ownership’ of International Climate Finance by Employing a Relational Conception of Scale?


Year published: 2022
Categories: Book Chapter
URL Link: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-031-12619-2_5

Author / Authors:

  • Jonathan Barnes


Part of book
The Political Economy of Climate Finance: Lessons from International Development pp 99–128Cite as


Country ownership re-frames development aid as development cooperation that empowers national governments to choose and implement policies. This chapter addresses a conceptual impasse where a lack of clarity about what it means and how to use it blunts country ownership. I argue that a relational conception of scale can unpack development work and look beyond reified generalities that limit explanatory value in a hierarchical interpretation. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) exemplifies this muddled thinking, where country ownership is simultaneously presented as a principle, investment criteria and an outcome. South Africa has a varied and dynamic partnership with the GCF which I frame as an assemblage to explore who and what steers climate finance in a relational ontology. Four analytical categories are distilled to operationalize and distinguish a relational approach from a hierarchical one. This permits an empirical analysis of how projects are assembled that acknowledges the wide range of contingency and possibility. I demonstrate (1) a material-human hybridity; (2) how complex social actors imprint in proceedings indirectly; (3) what shapes categories of actors that own proceedings in an emergent sense; and (4) how raised expectations and misunderstandings help and hinder different project development processes. This re-affirms the value of relational scale in human geography and enlivens country ownership conceptually. It advances a heuristic generalization that highlights partial scalar effects and moves analysis beyond pre-figured labels and a version of ownership premised on multiplicity, immanence and emergence. This nuance is missed when a hierarchical conception of scale is applied.


  • Book Chapter