Climate change adaptation is increasingly seen as a question that involves globally con- nected vulnerabilities and impacts which necessitate transboundary action by non-state and subnational (transnational) actors. Traditional actors such as governments and inter- national organizations leave deficits in norm development, enforcement, capacity building, and financing. Orchestration has been suggested under the functionalist assumption that transnational actors can make up for these deficits, through optimizing complementarity between the realms of international and transnational governance and through eliciting more action toward the achievement of globally agreed climate goals.
In the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), orchestration has taken the form of an evolving Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA). Few studies have examined the role of orchestration in bolstering transnational adaptation. In our new article we therefore ask: Has the GCAA effectively mobilized and prioritized transnational adaptation action? Further, has it effectively addressed functional, participatory, and geographic deficits?
Analyzing a unique dataset of a hundred cooperative climate actions, we find that current patterns are incongruent with some functionalist expectations. GCAA orchestration has featured a political prioritization of both adaptation and mitigation and a focus on building a positive narrative of climate action. This combination of priorities has led to neglect of underperforming actions—many of them adaptation actions in developing countries. Subsequent iterations of the GCAA failed to recognize these actions and did not identify support needed for them. This has strengthened the bias toward mitigation aspects of climate change and exacerbated imbalances in the geography of transnational action under the GCAA.
The More Engagement the Better? – Risks of Non-State Action in Sustainability and Climate governance
Article full text link (open access): https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wcc.57
development and climate change are governed through separate international
processes, they converge on two key assumptions. First, governments fall far
short of the goals they set. Second, wide gaps between political commitments
and governmental action can be narrowed through efforts by non-state actors,
such as businesses, investors, civil society organizations, cities and regions.
Encouraged by prominent leaders such as US President Barack Obama and former
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres, international organizations and
governments are leading large-scale efforts to promote and mobilize non-state actions.
These efforts are based on recurring optimistic arguments, such as: the more
action, the better; everybody wins from non-state action; every actor can do
its part in implementation; and, action by one will inspire others to take
Optimistic arguments about non-state engagement,
however, may not be matched in practice due to governance risks. The current
emphasis focus on quantifiable impacts may lead to the under-appreciation of
social, economic, and environmental impacts that are less easy to measure.
Claims that everybody stands to benefit may easily be contradicted by outcomes
that are not in line with priorities and needs of developing countries. Despite
the broad acceptance of the role of non-state actors in implementation, their
actions may still lead to controversial outcomes. Finally, non-state climate
action may not be self-reinforcing, but heavily depend on policies by
international organizations and governments. Governments and international
organizations should consider governance risk-reduction strategies to maximize
the potential contributions of non-state actors in sustainable and
climate-resilient development. First, they should create enabling environment
that provide incentives to engage, for instance through improving access to
knowledge, high-level recognition, material and immaterial support, and by
conveying that climate and sustainability action is possible and doable.
Second, non-state action needs to be grounded in national and regional
contexts; particular attention should be given to strengthening capabilities
of, and fostering participation by, developing country-based actors. Third,
far-reaching transformations cannot be achieved without critical masses of
engagement, therefore the challenge is to stimulate action beyond ‘champions’
and frontrunners. Especially governments need to bring to focus the
ramifications of the sustainable and climate-resilient futures they have
committed to and give non-state actors a fair chance to adapt.
How the relation between non-state action and more
traditional governance will evolve remains to be seen. This relation may
develop differently across sustainable development and climate governance.
However, maximizing non-state potential will take supportive environments which
reduce risks and bolster momentum for transformative actions.
International UNFCCC mobilization of nonstateClimateAction has inspired similar initiatives across LatinAmerica, Europe & Asia. How can regional/local ‘orchestrators’ help build a climate just 1.5°C world? Read about it in our new publication (open access). To read, follow this link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10784-018-9384-2
At COP21 in Paris, governments reiterated the importance of ‘non-Party’ contributions, placing big bets that the efforts of cities, regions, investors, companies, and other social groups will help keep average global warming limited to well under 2°C. However, there is little systematic knowledge concerning the performance of non-state and subnational efforts. We established a database of 52 climate actions launched at the 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York to assess output performance – that is, the production of relevant outputs – to understand whether they are likely to deliver social and environmental impacts. Moreover, we assess to which extent climate actions are implemented across developed and developing countries. We find that climate actions are starting to deliver, and output performance after one year is higher than one might expect from previous experiences with similar actions. However, differences exist between action areas: resilience actions have yet to produce specific outputs, whereas energy and industry actions perform above average. Furthermore, imbalances between developing and developed countries persist. While many actions target low-income and lower-middle-income economies, the implementation gap in these countries remains greater. More efforts are necessary to mobilize and implement actions that benefit the world’s most vulnerable people.
Climate change is no longer a matter of governments alone, as local authorities, investors, businesses and other social groups increasingly act on, and to adapt to climate change. Transnational actions could further narrow the emissions gap, demonstrate to governments what is possible, and – in so doing – they create pressure for higher ambitions. However, to become effective complements to the international climate regime, climate actions also need to be taken on a global scale. This raises the question about the geographic distribution of transnational action – and more broadly whether the transnational dimension of the post-Paris climate governance architecture will deliver in an equitable manner. In contrast to ‘traditional’ international climate politics, the gap between developing and developed countries is much less questioned when it comes to the transnational dimension of global climate change. This is remarkable, given the great potential of transnational climate actions questions such as ‘where will the benefits of these actions accrue’ and ‘who are the beneficiaries’ should loom large. Imbalances in the transnational governance realm may soon undermine the legitimacy of transnational engagement in the UNFCCC process. This would not only be a political problem; it would possibly lead to a less effective global climate regime.
High-Level Climate Action Champions Minister Hakima El Haité and Ambassador Laurence Tubiana, in their recently released reflection note, emphasize the importance of Global Climate Action by businesses, investors, cities and regions, and other stakeholders, to simultaneously deliver on the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The note further points out the important role the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General plays in mobilizing the UN system, convening all sectors of society, while ensuring linkages with the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development.
Although not explicitly mentioned, the strong emphasis on sustainable development is good news for developing countries. The Champions intend to broaden Global Climate Action beyond initiatives with high mitigation potential, but also initiatives that deliver climate resilience and sustainable development. In a next step, more details should be given on how the Global Climate Action Agenda would support and encourage action in developing countries.
For priorities to ensure effective and inclusive Global Climate Action, see previous post: