3 Priorities to ensure an effective and inclusive Global Climate Action Agenda

The Galvanizing the Groundswell of Climate Actions network has been discussing how the Global Climate Action Agenda should look like; how it could contribute to closing the global emissions gap; and how it can safeguard credibility and effectiveness of non-Party actions.

I would like to point out three things to ensure an effective and inclusive Global Climate Action Agenda.

First, and foremost, we have seen an unprecedented groundswell of climate commitments. But we also need to acknowledge what commitments are; they are promises, we cannot assume these promises are kept. The Global Climate Agenda needs to ensure transparency, and clearly communicate what it takes for actions to be part of the Agenda, for instance to be featured in the NAZCA platform or the high-level event on Climate Action at COPs. A careful balance must be struck between robust criteria to ensure a degree of transparency, and the flexibility for Non-Party Stakeholders to self-organize and to design their own actions. This could be achieved, through possible variations of sets of criteria specific to certain action areas and sectors. You could also think of a funnel-model; on the wide end a set of very minimal criteria could allow for broad participation, for instance in the NAZCA database, while successive criteria – for instance on progress and performance – can be applied to smaller sets of initiatives that get featured in the Action Agenda, and in the high-level event at climate conferences.

Second, the Climate Action Agenda needs continuity over time, and retain momentum beyond the formal climate negotiations process. With rotating presidencies, it may be difficult to remain strategic over the long term, for instance: which action areas need sustained attention; and who helps foster a regular rhythm of events for cities, businesses, investors and civil society? To ensure consistency and provide necessary capacity, a light-touch support unit could closely work with successive high-level champions and help them monitor progress over time, assist in communications, and the assist in the organization of events. We now see a wave of climate action, but this is also dependent on continued high-level political support. This is not a given. COP presidencies change, elections change the political landscapes in some of the countries that are crucial to a successful implementation of the Paris Agreement, and leadership changes – for instance, we will have a new Secretary General of the United Nations at the end of this year. The Champions may find benefit from an informal advisory group – ‘Friends of the Champions’ – with representatives from various stakeholder groups to guide them on matters of long-term strategy, representation and communications.

Finally, we need to have a Global Climate Action Agenda. I emphasize global, because most initiatives we see are initiated and implemented in North America and Europe. However, until 2040 emissions in developing countries are projected to grow by 51% percent. Developing countries are also bearing the brunt of climate change impacts, including extreme weather events, migration, and falls in agricultural output. By 2050 developing countries could face adaptation costs of almost 300bn dollar annually, and even double that amount in economic losses. Participation and leadership by actors based in developing countries is therefore critical. The Global Climate Action Agenda should help stir the groundswell of climate actions in developing countries. Greater visibility and a better understanding of climate actions in developing countries will be crucial to designing initiatives that can harness much needed low-carbon and resilient development. This is also an opportunity to link and deliver on two of the most recent achievements in global cooperation, namely the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

To conclude, the Climate Action Agenda has played an important role in stirring up the groundswell. We see more than 11,000 commitments by cities, regions, business, investors and other groups. But now it is time to deliver on those commitments. We need transparency and criteria, without stifling non-state action. We need a consistent push and capacity for climate action, and the Action Agenda could benefit from support from ‘Friends of the Champions’, as well as ensure consistency and capacity over time through a light-touch support unit. Finally, for the climate action agenda to be truly global, it needs to encompass the global North and South. We need more international and transnational collaboration. The Global Climate Action Agenda will be crucial to keep climate action at the heart of efforts under the Paris Agreement; it will bring us together to deliver the results we so desperately need.

This post is based on a speech at the 2016 Climate Chance – Climate Actors World Summit, 25 September 2016, Nantes, France.

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