Fixing Climate Governance Series

About the series

Climate scientists agree that human activity has been changing our planet’s climate over the long term. Without serious policy changes, scientists expect devastating consequences in many regions: inundation of coastal cities; greater risks to food production and, hence, malnutrition; unprecedented heat waves; greater risk of high-intensity cyclones; many climate refugees; and irreversible loss of biodiversity. Some international relations scholars expect increased risk of violent conflicts over scarce resources and due to state breakdown.

Environmentalists have been campaigning for effective policy changes for more than two decades. The world’s governments have been negotiating since 1995 as parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Their 2015 Paris Agreement created a new regime for joint action; among other things, it is the first UN climate agreement to oblige all parties to make some contribution. Each party made a pledge pertaining to the period 2020 to 2025 or 2030. But it is widely agreed that, if they are all implemented, together these 2015 pledges will still fall far short of what is needed to meet the collective goals and avoid widespread catastrophes. Important details of the Paris Agreement itself also remain to be negotiated. Nor is the UNFCCC the whole of international climate governance. Many initiatives have also been launched by smaller sets of countries, national governments, provinces, cities, civil society, and private investors and companies.  

This project is designed to generate improved ideas for both the UNFCCC process and other possible sites of climate governance. A series of policy briefs and papers were published in 2015. The ideas in two 2015 publications appeared in Paris during COP21. Several offered original recommendations for more effective action outside the UNFCCC. A new series of publications will appear during 2016-2017.  

In the Series

Article 13 of the Paris Agreement establishes a transparency mechanism to enhance the parties’ trust in the UN climate regime. But many states at present lack the institutional capacity to fully carry out their obligations. The authors examine how parties might encourage non-party stakeholders to supplement state efforts toward transparency and accountability and make their participation a more formal and legitimate part of the new transparency mechanism.
Climate engineering — also called geoengineering — can, if appropriately governed, reduce climate change risks beyond what mitigation and adaptation can do alone, and may be essential to achieve the Paris Agreement temperature targets. However, geoengineering also poses significant risks and major governance challenges. International dialogue on climate engineering governance, with broad participation, is urgently needed, but existing institutions are not well equipped to support it. A promising first step would be to establish a world commission on climate engineering.
The key barrier to climate technology diffusion across Africa is, arguably, not the lack of technology inflow but instead the perennial inability of African states to absorb and assimilate transferred technology. This paper discusses how African countries can do much more to address the continent’s current technology gaps by removing local, institutional, regulatory and bureaucratic barriers to the smooth assimilation and deployment of climate technologies.
This paper identifies the governance challenges, and choices available, in operationalizing article 6 of the Paris Agreement, based on the lessons learned from the international carbon market serving the Kyoto Protocol. It focuses the discussion on the level of centralization, independence of the regulator, how to determine the compliance value of units transferred internationally, conditions for robust accounting and experience from other markets.
US states have implemented measures to reduce carbon pollution in their jurisdictions, and the Obama administration has taken substantial new federal steps using current law. But even if all these steps to reduce greenhouse gases are implemented, they are not enough. The 2017 US administration and Congress should work urgently to build bipartisan support for a carbon fee and dividend law — an effective remedy with the best chance of passing Congress and benefits for most US economic sectors and occupations.
This paper describes three obstacles that have impeded climate-friendly technologies, namely, lack of appropriate financing, intellectual property restrictions and insufficient or underutilized capacity and outlines proposals for two new partnerships that could be designed to target these challenges and be more effective than previous efforts: a partnership on energy access and a partnership on energy storage and grid balancing.
With halting progress in climate negotiations, there are growing calls for partnerships among self-selected pools of countries, in the expectation that they would facilitate consensus (among both developed and developing countries) and result in faster decision making. In critically examining such a claim, this paper asks: what kinds of partnerships could facilitate coordinated climate-related action across several countries?
China’s coal consumption fell marginally in 2014, the first such drop this century, in large part as a result of its policies to address its severe air pollution, develop renewable and alternative energy, and transition its economy away from heavy industry. China should take advantage of its current circumstances to adopt an aggressive national coal consumption cap target and policy to peak its coal consumption as soon as possible, no later than its next Five Year Plan (2016–2020), so that it can peak its CO2 emissions by 2025. It can achieve this target by building upon its existing achievements in developing clean energy such as wind and solar power, and by prioritizing renewable energy development over coal in its western expansion. China can help lead a transition to clean energy that will contribute greatly to global efforts to keep warming to no more than 2°C, and can serve as a model for other developing countries.
Central banks, when purchasing financial assets, should consider selecting assets that will promote sustainability, including climate change mitigation and adaptation. Central banks not yet ready to factor social objectives into their decisions should at least incentivize bankers and asset managers to invest in climate mitigation activities and low-emission growth, as well as support a financial transaction tax to fund a new or established global fund for climate mitigation.