Now is the time to step up together on climate change

How can countries step up climate action to meet the goals they set for themselves in Paris? A big part of the answer lays in building stronger links to local governments, the private sector, and civil society.

Climate march in London in 2014.
Climate march in London in 2014. Source: Garry Knight, Flickr.

In 2018, an international effort to increase climate action and raise ambition has been launched to bring us closer to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. This process includes the Talanoa Dialogue and the Global Climate Action Summit this year, extends in 2019 to the UN Secretary General’s climate summit, and continues through to the next milestone for enhancing ambition at COP26 in 2020.

Cities, states and regions, businesses, investors, and civil society groups play a critical role in increasing climate action by delivering real progress on the ground. But they also play a role in generating new opportunities for national governments to step up ambition.  Galvanising the Groundswell of Climate Actions has developed a memo to highlight ways in which this mutual reinforcement can be implemented in 2018 and looking forward to 2020.

Stepping up together

Climate action by cities, regions, businesses, investors and others helps support national climate action and ambition by:

  • Directly reducing emissions, adapting to climate change and building resilience
  • Driving change in economic systems and technology
  • Supporting higher ambition among decision-makers

Delivering action

All kinds of stakeholders are already delivering climate action. Several initiatives, such as the Science Based Targets Initiative for companies and the C40’s Deadline 2020 for megacities, seek specifically to deliver action in line with the Paris Agreement. Stakeholders from New York City to Cape Town, Wal-mart to Mahindra Corporation in India, are in practical terms aligning with the Paris Agreement.

Increasingly the achievements of stakeholders are being brought together and reported, which helps boost the confidence of national governments to set more ambitious targets in future. In 2018 we can expect a wave of commitments, raising estimates about how many tonnes of emissions local governments and the private sector have already reduced, what they are on track to deliver, and what potential for scaling up exists.

Driving changes in technological and economic systems

The massive scale and diversity of climate action create a rich laboratory for experimentation and learning. Sharing the lessons is critical so that national governments, and other stakeholders, can possess state-of-the art knowledge when considering next steps. Initiatives such as the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships already promote enhanced dialogue and collaboration.  Many initiatives also strive to achieve changes in the financial system. These include the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition and the Investor Agenda.

Championing ambitious policies

National governments have multiple options to increase efforts but other stakeholders have an important role in identifying priorities and delivering results. Initiatives such as the Friends of Ecosystem-based Adaptation and the Planners for Climate action provide specific materials to help inform and guide policy planning. Through engagement with activities such as the Talanoa Dialogue, the Marrakech Partnership and national platforms, the whole range of stakeholders can engage with national governments to enhance policies.

How can we step up together?

As we build an upward spiral of ambition and action, numerous channels exist to mutually reinforce climate action. In 2018, these include the Talanoa Dialogue, the Global Climate Action Summit in California, the Technical Examination Process of the UNFCCC and national and regional platforms and processes. Making these various channels work is the critical task before us now. Countries and other stakeholders can still deliver the Paris goals — if they step up together.

Thomas Hale is Associate Professor of Public Policy (Global Public Policy) at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. 

Ann Gardiner is a consultant with a focus on climate issues. 

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