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Will ‘bottom-up’ climate action live up to its promise?

As national pledges towards the Paris climate agreement fall short of 2°C-level ambition, hopes have built that innovative actions by governments, businesses and civil society will fill the gap. Can they deliver?

Harro van Asselt / Published on 9 August 2015
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks on the first day of Climate Week NYC 2014

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks on the first day of Climate Week NYC 2014, last September. Photo: The Climate Group / Flickr.

In the lead-up to the Paris Climate Change Conference, the French government and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), have pursued a two-pronged strategy.

First, they have pushed national governments to be as ambitious as they can in their “intended nationally determined contributions” – even while recognising that the national climate plans (known as INDCs in UN jargon) would likely fall far short of an internationally agreed 2°C warming limit, given known economic and political constraints.

So at the same time, they have worked to rally businesses, local governments and civil society to tackle climate challenges, building on growing momentum around the world.

Achieving international climate goals clearly requires action by nation states. Encouragingly, new policies and measures have emerged at an increasing speed. Globe International’s database shows that around 30 new climate policies are being adopted each year, particularly in developing countries. New policies are not limited to mitigation; the total number of new national adaptation strategies has also grown spectacularly in the last decade.

Such developments have assumed even greater importance knowing that each state will volunteer its own policy commitment rather than having it prescribed in a top-down international agreement. Politicians are also expected to reinforce the need for non-state actors to share the mantle of leadership and help close the mitigation gap.

The good news is that non-state actors are rising to this challenge.

Source: RTCC, UK

Written by

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Harro van Asselt

SEI Affiliated Researcher


Topics and subtopics
Climate : Adaptation, Climate policy, Mitigation
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