Evaluating effectiveness and equity in climate mitigation and transportation policy: A webinar recap

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) North America's Leveraging Evaluation and Evidence for Equitable Recovery (LEVER) recaps its December 2023 webinar, "Building better policy: Evaluating effectiveness and equity in climate mitigation and transportation programmes," which included panelists from J-PAL North America, Results for America and representatives from King County, Washington. Moderated by Erin Graeber, environment, energy and climate change sector lead for J-PAL North America, the webinar focused on local and state government leverage randomised evaluations to access federal funding opportunities.


At both federal and local levels, governments are setting ambitious climate goals that require transformational changes to transportation, energy, and economic systems. Meeting these goals will require jurisdictions to work in new ways, experimenting with strategies that may not yet have an evidence base. Carrie Cihak, King County evidence and impact officer, called for more shared learning among jurisdictions to build a knowledge base and ultimately drive more rapid change. “We are often measuring—or just estimating—inputs and outputs rather than really rigorously understanding whether our actions are making a difference in our communities,” she said, emphasising the need to conduct rigorous, randomised evaluations in order to understand the causal impact of programmes and whether they are making a difference in King County communities.  

J-PAL affiliated researcher Peter Christensen (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), noted that many researchers focused in the climate arena are interested in evaluating the underlying mechanisms—often behavioural mechanisms—of climate programmes that aren't well understood. Peter emphasised that better understanding the human behaviour aspects of climate and transportation interventions, such as how individuals take-up or engage with programmes, “could potentially have a very large impact on emissions reductions, poverty alleviation, or equity impacts of climate programmes.”

Rachel Brown, research associate at King County Metro, added that incorporating programme evaluation early on can help both clarify program mechanisms and ensure policies are being implemented equitably. She encouraged governments to ask more questions about who is bearing the burden of new policies, “who are we asking to make changes to their lives and live more sustainably?”


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