The last five years have seen both broad and deep advancements in national policies to mitigate future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The next five years will be instrumental in ensuring that these policies are implemented effectively, creating sustained change that will achieve gigatonne-scale GHG reductions, and laying the foundation for countries to move ahead with ever more ambitious approaches to reduce GHG emissions and limit the dangers and costs of a changing climate.
In order to support effective development and implementation of climate policies, a suite of policy tracking tools and initiatives is evolving, with a variety of characteristics tuned to address different questions and audiences. Underlying these efforts is the observation of metrics related to climate policy development, adoption, implementation, and/or effect. These initiatives seek to complement the measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) processes under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), promoting accountability for governments to set and meet ambitious yet feasible goals and targets, identifying barriers and facilitating course corrections when necessary, and ultimately supporting overall policy progress and effectiveness.
Government and intergovernmental organizations are the key actors who adopt and implement policies and actions; however, independent analysts, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector play a vital role from the early stage development of climate, energy, and land use policies on through to adoption and into implementation, in order to ultimately achieve the desired GHG reductions. In this context, the field of climate policy tracking can serve to:
- Build and maintain political momentum, and offer technical analysis and design principles.
- Provide independent estimates of likely policy effects as well as risks, strengths, and uncertainty.
- Spread shared learning and best practices between countries or sectors to improve efficacy.
- Juxtapose policy portfolios with reduction pledges, abatement potential, and climate needs.
In order to succeed in this role, a complete climate policy tracking landscape needs to fulfill a range of functions, which may then be tailored to particular needs and questions. Successful efforts will have many things in common. Ongoing and continuous monitoring of policy progress should be coupled with evaluations of policy effectiveness and appraisals of likely and expected outcomes of policy trajectories. A combination of quantitative and qualitative inputs and outputs are necessary both to measure expected outcomes and progress toward milestones, but also to recognize the non-linear and imprecise nature of policy development and implementation.
This paper represents an initial effort by our institutions to broaden our collective lens and learn more from each other and our peers in the climate policy tracking community. We will supplement this analysis in the future, and aim to convene practitioners on a regular basis. Given our current understanding of the climate policy tracking landscape, we offer the following observations:
- The climate policy tracking community has developed a diverse portfolio of methodologies and frameworks to address a range of policy tracking needs.
- Nevertheless, information about climate policies remains patchy. In particular, there is little coordinated monitoring of policy implementation (in contrast to policy adoption) or of policies currently under development. Geographies are unevenly covered and quantifications and projections are often inconsistent.
- Many climate policy tracking efforts are conducted by international organizations and target the needs of an international audience, though some good examples exist at the country level.
- Technical abatement potential serves as a useful goalpost but lacks political and policy context.
Drawing from this body of work, we offer the following recommendations for other practitioners, funders, and governments:
- Deepen monitoring and evaluation of policy implementation and policies under development, drawing on existing methodologies and frameworks.
- Strengthen climate policy tracking at the country level—in partnership with national organizations—while maintaining internationally focused efforts.
- Enhance coordination and collaboration among climate policy tracking practitioners, including with regard to ongoing refinement of methodologies, coordinating deployment of methodologies to answer priority questions, and communicating results.
- Continue to scope out emerging issues, including country- and sector-specific tracking efforts, the intersection of independent tracking with biennial reports and biennial update reports under the UNFCCC, and the need to develop a more nuanced understanding of abatement potential to inform ambitious yet feasible goals against which to track progress.