Boosting international action on climate change: over 130 options as a start
Despite the urgency of the climate challenge, emissions are still on the rise, and countries’ pledges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions still fall short, in aggregate, of what science suggests is necessary.
So what more can we do to bridge this ambition gap?
Ahead of COP17 in Durban, WRI and UNEP, with the support of the Government of Ireland, released an analysis that seeks to answer this question. The paper reviews proposals from governments, academics, and NGOs on the design of the “climate regime” – the set of institutions at the international, national, and sub-national level involved in addressing climate change. While we did not endorse or rank proposals, we reviewed them based on the criteria of adequacy, equity, and implementation.
WRI and UNEP hosted two initial events in Dublin and Washington D.C. to discuss how to turn some of these ideas into action.
A recurring theme among the panelists’ presentations was that despite important advances, pledges put forward by Parties to the UNFCCC to date remain insufficient to ensure the worst effects of climate change are avoided.
Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, Community, and Local Government for the government of Ireland, reaffirmed that there is no real alternative to the UNFCCC process, but that Parties have thus far failed to invest the ambition that is required in their pledges under the Convention. Nick Nuttall, spokesperson for UNEP, argued that the time has come for an “all hands on deck” approach, and that the paper provides an excellent overview of the rich landscape of ideas inside and outside of the UNFCCC that can provide pathways to boost such ambition globally. Professor John Sweeney from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, highlighted the importance of the paper in outlining alternative trajectories and complementary pathways that can be leveraged to encourage international climate mitigation.
In Washington, D.C., Amy Fraenkel, Director, UNEP Regional Office for North America, spoke of the need for countries to consider all options available, and drew particular attention to the advances that can be made sub-nationally at the city or state level, where well-planned climate policies can benefit the economy, citizen livelihood, and public well-being. Jennifer Morgan, the Director of WRI’s Climate and Energy Program noted that two visions of the climate regime were in opposition and that the decisions in Durban would likely determine the future of the regime and lead us either towards a top-down or a bottom-up system. Maria del Socorro Flores Liera (from the Government of Mexico but speaking in her personal capacity) drew upon her extensive experience with the UNFCCC process to address the harsh political realities that go hand-in-hand with the negotiations. She pointed out that climate change is more than an environmental problem, and requires the cooperation of a diverse range of actors across economic interests. Despite difficult political realities, she noted that there appears to be change happening on the ground and that countries were developing and implementing concrete actions.
During the discussion, participants discussed ways to catalyze the action that is happening on the ground, for example by helping people and governments realize that the costs of inaction outweigh those of immediate and ambitious climate policy implementation.
In sum, many institutions and actors can play a part in the broader climate regime. The proposals reviewed in the paper show that we can take an all-hands-on-deck approach in which the UNFCCC and other actors work in tandem based on their respective strengths. We need to move the conversation from ‘we are not doing enough’ to ‘how can we do more collectively’. These options take us one step closer, and negotiators in Durban can begin to consider and act upon them.