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Effective and geographically balanced? An output-based assessment of non-state climate actions

Sander Chan, Robert Falkner, Matthew Goldberg and Harro van Asselt

Climate Policy, 2018, vol. 18, issue 1, 24-35

Abstract: 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.Policy relevanceClimate actions by non-state and subnational actors are an important complement to the multilateral climate regime and the associated contributions made by national governments. Although such actions hold much potential, we still know very little about how they could deliver in practice. This article addresses this knowledge gap, by showing how 52 climate actions announced at the UN Climate Summit in 2014 have performed thus far. Based on our analysis, we argue that the post-Paris action agenda for non-state and subnational climate action should (1) find more effective ways to incentivize private sector actors to engage in transnational climate governance through actions that seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate resilience in a tangible manner; (2) identify factors underlying effectiveness, to take appropriate measures to support underperforming climate actions; and (3) address the large implementation gap of climate actions in developing countries.

Date: 2018
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