The core message of New Climate Economy (NCE) – that economic growth and climate action can and must go together to spur 21st century development – has started to bring real change in at least four countries on three continents.
Taking the concept of intertwined economic growth and climate action from discourse to policy action is critical to shifting to a lower-carbon, more prosperous world. That requires changing the thinking of finance ministers and other economic decision-makers about environmentally sustainable opportunities.
Through a major report and almost 30 research and country study releases since late 2014, and by participating in over 170 events in 40 countries, including face-to-face discussions with eight heads of state and more than 45 government ministers, NCE has begun to deliver change in China, Colombia, Ethiopia and India, among other countries.
To shift public discourse and unlock political opportunity, NCE deploys high-level spokespeople, in particular members of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, to deliver its message to target audiences in key countries and the media. By drawing on the varied strengths of its institutional partners – such as WRI for cities and land use, ODI on development or Tsinghua University in China and EDRI in Ethiopia – NCE can develop and spread the evidence base and messages in specific areas and countries. Strong communication and engagement, aligned with targeted research, drives NCE’s rising visibility.
As managing partner for the multi-institute partnership that has developed NCE’s work, WRI’s NCE team helps to deliver relevant analyses, management oversight and communications through the global office in Washington and country-targeted support for high-level engagement through international offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Turkey.
In China, NCE partner research on the energy security and air pollution benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions provided evidence that supported China’s plan to peak coal consumption by 2020 and emissions by 2030. In Colombia, after a discussion with President Felipe Calderón, the Chair of the Global Commission, President Juan Manuel Santos instructed his ministers to integrate climate across the country’s five-year economic development plan. Ethiopia is reflecting the NCE approach to urban planning in its next national Growth and Transformation Plan. In India, NCE partners are working on a renewable energy feasibility and financing program with the Ministry of Railways (the largest energy user in India by some counts) following discussions with President Calderón and other Global Commissioners and partners.
In the lead-up to the December 2015 Paris climate conference, more than 180 countries that account for more than 90% of global greenhouse gas emissions put forward post-2020 climate plans known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). WRI experts provided INDC guidance for use by all countries and worked with several governments to strengthen their plans. WRI also separately conducted an analysis that found that the ambitious U.S. climate target is achievable.
The INDCs have the potential to put the world on a path toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future. To be effective, these pledges should be ambitious and equitable, so that each country does its fair share to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The pledges should also be transparent in order to build trust and accountability and to make the collective impact of the commitments clear.
Key countries – some of which became catalysts in international negotiations culminating in the Paris climate conference – used WRI’s guidance, developed with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and technical support in developing their INDCs. WRI offered training about the guidance to three-quarters of the countries participating in the climate talks. WRI supplemented this guidance with an “Open Book” list of information countries should provide in their INDCs, focused on enhancing transparency, prepared in consultation with government representatives. Finally, WRI conducted an analysis that concluded that the emissions reduction target in the U.S. INDC – 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 – is challenging but achievable using existing legal authority. (WRI did not contribute to the creation of the U.S. INDC.)
WRI helped inform well-designed INDCs, allowing countries to signal to the world they are doing their part to combat climate change. Use of the Open Book list has enhanced the transparency and quality of information provided in INDCs, which will lead to greater accountability and help enable an understanding of whether country commitments are collectively ambitious enough to keep warming to below 2 degrees Celsius or to what extent additional action is needed.
WRI’s analysis of the U.S. target – the only independent, economy-wide detailed analysis of emissions reduction potential under existing authority – helped the world to view the U.S. target as credible and achievable, which contributed to momentum toward a strong climate deal in Paris.
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