Monday 18th November 2019
Monday, 18th of November 2019
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Climate action by non-state actors on the rise

A new accounting of global climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions finds a broad spectrum of commitments from non-state and subnational actors with potential to support and ultimately outpace governments in their emissions reductions.

Erik Solheim

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The first COP to the Minamata Convention on Mercury will take place in September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo credit: OECD/Michael Dean

The exhaustive review from UN Environment, released on Monday, September 10, 2018 ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), highlights the crucial role of non-state actors in reducing emissions and reaching climate targets.

Ranging from city, state and regional governments to companies, investors, higher education institutions and civil society organisations, non-state actors are increasingly committing to bold climate action. As most national governments continue to come up short on their promises for better climate policy as pledged in the Paris Agreement, these efforts are increasingly recognised as a key element to achieving global emissions goals.

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In total, the report finds these pledges represent a projected reduction of between 1.5 -2.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2030.

But where the assessment finds encouraging potential for scale, it also reveals challenges related to monitoring, reporting and coordination. A lack of participation and facilitation from government further limits the overall impact of these commitments on global CO2 reduction.

The aggregated review of global commitments shows the scope and pace of climate action from subnational entities has surged to historic proportions in the three years since the Paris agreement. In all, the study examines more than 183 international cooperative initiatives and thousands of non-state actors spread across 7,000 cities, 133 countries and carried out by over 6,000 private sector companies. Through an analysis of geographic, sectoral and functional distribution, the report reveals vast potential hindered by limited implementation.

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“Cities, states, civil society and the private sector can be the resource that puts the world over the top in our fight to reduce CO2 emissions,” said head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim.

“For global governments and the policymakers who would support this momentum my message is this: The time for political rhetoric is over. The world urgently needs leaders with the political courage to act. Non-state actors are stepping up, but they need government engagement to bridge the emissions gap. The time is now to put it all together and finally address our new climate reality.”

In addition to directly reducing emissions, the study emphasises the growing role of non-state actors as incubators and accelerators for new low emissions strategies. The authors found that where the sector lacks coordinated structure, individual initiatives are increasingly seen as a proving ground for technology development and diffusion.

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Non-state actors frequently implement climate action through a range of networks that collate individual climate pledges and inventories (For example, C40 Cities for Climate Leadership), or through broader coalitions at the national or international levels. Over the past two decades, the number of these coalitions has grown significantly, often in concurrence with key international climate events such as the UN Climate Action Summit convened in 2014, and the Paris climate conference in 2015.

The most common sectors addressed by such coalitions of non-state actors correspond with the sectors identified as having high mitigation potential, including the energy, industry, forestry, transport, agriculture and building sectors.

The report authors emphasised that for non-state actors to succeed and foster credibility, their pledges and the surrounding governance need to follow good practices in climate action: the participants need the capacity to deliver the goals, leadership needs to be effective, the funding sustainable, and the goals well-defined. Finally, transparency is crucial to allow for monitoring effectiveness, efficiency, and credibility.

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