SDG Knowledge Weekly: Climate Action by State and Non-State Actors
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Journal articles and blogs released around the Global Climate Action Summit call for “inclusive multilateralism,” and highlight the opportunity to re-energize constituencies and “bring climate change to the forefront of policy conversations”.

Working papers and analyses of the UNFCCC Bangkok Climate Change Conference present findings on implementation guidelines, call for “just and in-time climate policy” to enable rapid decarbonization, and examine the issues facing climate negotiators.

As previewed by the SDG Knowledge Hub’s Monthly Forecast for September, climate change features prominently on the global community’s agenda for the month. This week’s ‘Knowledge Weekly’ reviews events and papers from State- and non-state actors, highlighting those launched around this week’s Global Climate Action Summit and the just-concluded Bangkok Climate Change Conference.

The Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) is being convened by California Governor Jerry Brown from 12-14 September, in San Francisco, California, US, on the theme, ‘Take Ambition to the Next Level.’ The Summit will serve as a platform for non-state actors such as local governments, businesses and civil society to showcase action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. It further seeks to inspire national governments to increase the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, this December. Hundreds of affiliated events are taking place in the margins of the official programme.

A journal article in Climate Policy by Vicki Arroyo, Georgetown University, highlights the “critical opportunity” that the Summit represents to re-energize constituencies and “bring climate change to the forefront of policy conversations.” She notes that the rollback of federal environmental policies in the US creates a significant gap that will be difficult for subnational actors to fill, citing an analysis released in June by the Rhodium Group that demonstrates the implications of the vacuum of strong national-level policies. Arroyo offers examples of promising state- and local-level policies, including cap-and-trade programs, power plant emissions reductions and clean energy targets.

In advance of the GCAS, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Mayor of Paris and C40 Cities Chair Anne Hidalgo authored an op-ed that calls for “inclusive multilateralism” involving the participation of all stakeholders. As IISD’s Leila Mead notes, Espinosa and Hidalgo emphasize that “more than 700 companies with a total market capitalization of more than US$16 trillion have made climate commitments,” and stress that global society must peak its carbon emissions by 2020 in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The SDG Knowledge Hub has covered recent launches of climate-relevant platforms and reports led by non-State actors, including an Online Platform for Voluntary Cancellation of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), which includes a new climate footprint calculator to estimate household emissions. The state of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment scales down models to fill information gaps and support decisions at the local, regional and state levels, highlights new science on the impacts of climate change, and provides various planning tools to support responses.

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate launched its 2018 New Climate Economy report. Titled, ‘Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century: Accelerating climate action in urgent times,’ the report finds that the economic and market opportunity of a shift towards sustainability can yield up to US$26 trillion in benefits by 2030. The statistic complements the 2017 finding from the Business and Sustainable Development Commission that SDG implementation and sustainable business models can “unlock at least” US$12 trillion. A SDG Knowledge Hub write-up on the New Climate Economy report is forthcoming.

Led by the UNFCCC, the Bangkok Climate Change Conference 2018 convened from 4-9 September, in Thailand. The meeting featured sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA). Daily coverage by IISD Reporting Services is available here, an interim SDG Knowledge Hub post by Leila Mead is available here, and a summary story is forthcoming.

A German advisory group outlines “just and in-time” policies to enable rapid decarbonization.

From a launch held prior to the conference comes a working paper from World Resources Institute (WRI) as part of its Project for Advancing Climate Transparency (PACT). Titled, ‘Setting the Paris Agreement in Motion: Key Requirements for the Implementing Guidelines,’ the paper provides context for why the Implementing Guidelines matter, noting that parties set the upcoming UNFCCC COP 24 in Poland as a deadline for adoption. The authors present recommendations for parties, clustered into three climate action cycle phases—plan, implement and review—identifying the relevant elements of the Paris Agreement and the article of Agreement text to which they correspond. Elements include common timeframes, NDC mitigation aspects, adaptation communications, and enhanced transparency frameworks on reporting and review.

Also ahead of the Conference, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the UNFCCC agreed to form a partnership to enhance regional climate action, in part by identifying joint projects that strengthen leadership, build capacity and promote collaboration of public and private sectors to implement country-driven mitigation and adaptation activities. An example of joint ESCAP-UNFCCC action is public awareness raising through the annual Asia-Pacific Climate Week.

In Europe, a policy paper by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) calls for “just and in-time” climate policy to enable rapid decarbonization. WBGU defines such policy as taking “into account all people affected,” empowering them, holding those responsible for climate change accountable, and creating prospects for the future. The paper outlines four examples of just and in-time policy, calling on the government of Germany to focus on: the people affected by a structural change towards climate compatibility (e.g. in coal-mining regions); the legal rights of people harmed by climate change; the dignified migration of people who lose their native countries due to climate change; and the creation of financing instruments for a just and in-time transformation process.

A range of other articles and op-eds were also published around the Conference, including:

  • An International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) blog by Achala Abeysinghe calls on governments to shape the final Paris rulebook. IIED previously published ‘A Pocket Guide to NDCs under the UNFCCC,’ in June.
  • A second IIED blog, by Tshewang Dorji of Bhutan, lead transparency negotiator for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Group, identifies key transparency questions for the Bangkok Conference.
  • Three posts by Kelli Rogers for Devex track the negotiations. The first looks at challenges to securing a “balanced” Paris rulebook, outlining hot-button issues and divisions, particularly around finance and balancing mitigation and adaptation. A mid-Conference post laments that “proposed text from the United States, Japan, and Australia could water down climate finance guidelines.” The third looks at the theme of loss and damage vis-à-vis the private sector. It summarizes lessons from a report launched by Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America titled, ‘Not a silver bullet: Why the focus on insurance to address loss and damage is a distraction from real solutions.’
  • An article by The Guardian’s Ben Doherty notes geopolitical implications of Australia’s actions to “water down” language in a climate agreement for the Asia-Pacific region, arguing that the country’s authority in the Pacific “is being eroded by refusal to address climate change.”

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.


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