Accelerating the sustainable future we need

Rethinking Global Climate Action beyond 2020

Boran, Idil / Sander Chan
The Current Column (2019)

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), (The Current Column of 24 June 2019)

Bonn, 24  June  2019. After  a  brief  celebratory  moment following   the   Paris   Agreement   on   climate   change, governmental   ambitions   have   not   been   anywhere close  to  avoid  dangerous  climate  change.  To  the  contrary,  greenhouse  gas  emissions  are  at  record  levels. The  most recent  Special  Reportby  the  Intergovern-mental  Panel  on  Climate  Change  (IPCC)  demonstrates how  a  2°C  temperature  increase  compared  to  1.5°C would  greatly  exacerbate  extreme  weather,  rising  sea levels,  loss  of  ecosystems,  arctic  melting  and  other impacts.  Even  if  governments  were  to  fully  implement their  pledges,  the  world  would  face  a  catastrophic  rise in  mean  temperatures  of  2.4  to  3.8°C  by  2100.  Therefore, action by non-state,   local   and regional actors is a vital complement to governmental action.

Non-state and local action buffer political backlash
With governmental ambitions falling short, the <link https: climate-action marrakech-partnership-for-global-climate-action>Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action (MPGCA) was established under the leadership of <link https: climate-action marrakech-partnership actors meet-the-champions>High-Level Champions for Climate Action, creating a rare interface between policy makers and non-state actors. The aim was to enhance and stimulate ambition with multiple non-state, local and regional actors. Moreover, the <link https:>Global Climate Action Portal (NAZCA) was set up, which currently records over 13,000 individual and cooperative climate initiatives.

Non-state, regional and local climate actions have, to some extent, been a <link briefing-paper article with-or-without-you-how-the-g20-could-advance-global-action-towards-climate-friendly-sustainable-development>buffer against the negative effects of political backlashes, particularly in the United States. In challenging political contexts, non-state, local and regional actors can be drivers of action. Yet MPGCA is coming to an end in 2020. Now is a good moment to <link en events details global-climate-action-beyond-2020>rethink how a post-2020 climate action agenda should look like.

A post-2020 action agenda will need to strengthen productive linkages between governments and non-state actions and <link https: political-theory-and-global-climate-action-recasting-the-public-sphere boran p book>link visionary leadership outside of governments and the UNFCCC to much higher ambition and accelerated implementation. Effective non-state and local actions should inspire governments and give them confidence to adopt more ambitious targets under the Paris Agreement. Following existing regional and national examples, governments can devise outreach processes to understand and encourage the contribution of non-state and local actors within their jurisdictions. Although implementation will take place at the national level, the action space within the UNFCCC remains crucial. As the main multilateral climate process, the UNFCCC wields convening power that attracts the attention of a multiplicity of actors.

Strengthen actors in places where action is needed
With regards to transparency and tracking, strides have been made in recent years. More data is available, conferring a better understanding of the potential and actual contributions by a host of actors. However, important gaps remain. Actions are geographically imbalanced with most taking place in Europe and North America. This may not be a true picture, as many actions in developing countries remain under the radar. Moreover, some actions are not labelled as climate action, but contribute in very real terms to <link en research description details strengthening-non-state-climate-action-in-the-global-south-climatesouth>achieving climate goals. Recognising such actions is not only a matter of technically closing the mitigation gap, but about addressing other climate aspects as well. For instance, adaptation actions will be vital in implementation, with over 80 percent of ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs) referring to them. Better data could help indicate where more action is needed, and where non-state and local capacities fall short.
However, the underrepresentation of actions in the Global South should not lead to a rush into balancing out numerically, through recording more actions or hastily establishing such actions. Rather, it calls for a close consideration of opportunities and capacities to strengthen actors in places where action is needed.

Transformation is not a painless process
Finally, a post-2020 global climate action agenda could maximise synergies with other aspects of <link en others-publications article promises-and-risks-of-nonstate-action-in-climate-and-sustainability-governance>sustainable development. All these actions need to be complementary and should at the very least avoid cancelling out each other’s benefits. While the MPGCA and its predecessors have emphasised synergies and ‘win-win’ constellations, trade-offs will be inevitable both in developed and developing countries. Transformation cannot be expected to be a painless process. A post-2020 action agenda should therefore aim to achieve just transition worldwide, by also bringing into dialogue people and sectors that may stand to lose.
Beyond the context of the UNFCCC, climate action is rapidly expanding through fast growing citizens and youth movements. While a future agenda may not fully  answer to a growing popular demand for radical action, a strengthened post-2020 agenda could well demonstrate a credible and decisive break with the fuel combustion-based economy. In this regard, a post-2020 agenda is not about incrementalism. It is about bringing a myriad of actors to the brink of a new global economy.

Idil Boran is Associate Professor at York University and Associate Researcher at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).
Sander Chan is Senior Researcher in the Research Programme "Environmental Governance and Transformation to Sustainability at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).

Autors Idil Boran and Sander Chan also do explain <link https: external-link-new-window internal link in current>the urgency for non-governmental climate action for our YouTube channel.

About the authors

Boran, Idil

Political Scientist


Chan, Sander

Transnational and international environmental politics and governance


Further experts

Aleksandrova, Mariya

Climate risk governance 

Brandi, Clara

Economy and Political Science 

Dippel, Beatrice


Donnelly, Aiveen

Politcal Science 

Ekoh, Susan S.

Environmental Research 

Goedeking, Nicholas

Comparative Political Economy 

Lehmann, Ina

Political Science 

Mathis, Okka Lou

Political Scientist 

Never, Babette

Political Scientist 

Pegels, Anna


Srigiri, Srinivasa Reddy

Agricultural Economist