The Paris Agreement elevated capacity building and education to new heights as important avenues toward climate action. The agreement creates an opportunity to foster enhanced, strategic and sustained approaches supporting transformational change and enabling all Parties and stakeholders to build the capacities needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change – indeed, the Paris Agreement’s premise is the participation of all, and capacity building is a fundamental precondition for this goal.

The post-2020 international climate regime will require all countries to significantly scale up emissions-reduction efforts while simultaneously increasing resilience to climate change impacts. Despite this common challenge, however, countries are at different stages of development, with different levels of capabilities. This reality must be considered when building a low-carbon and climate-resilient world in an equitable way. For the new international climate agreement to be universal, effective capacity building must enable developing countries to contribute to global efforts reducing emissions and adapting to climate change.

Here are three reasons why capacity has become such an important foundation of the newly adopted Paris agreement:

1) Many developing countries still lack the necessary capacity to undertake climate action.

The new paper “How to Strengthen the Institutional Architecture for Capacity Building to Support the Post-2020 Climate Regime,” points out that despite the wide range of multilateral and bilateral efforts, most developing countries continue to face significant capacity challenges undermining their ability to effectively or fully carry out the climate actions they intend to pursue. These challenges include:

  • A lack of public awareness and support for climate action within countries
  • Fragmentation of information, experts and research institutions, and lack of training in assessment approaches and methodologies
  • A lack of international support directed at building and retaining skills and organizational or institutional capacity
  • A lack of established or strong policies, systems, and processes new or existing bodies or entities would use to efficiently and effectively plan, manage and coordinate capacity building activities together with the enabling environments necessary to meet national climate change goals – including education

These challenges have largely persisted because of the ad hoc, short-term project-based approach to capacity building created by the fragmentation of international institutions aimed at supporting capacity building.

2) Capacity building efforts need greater coordination, coherence, monitoring, review and reporting.

While capacity building is a crosscutting issue for many countries, no centralized institution or process currently exists to ensure coherence and coordination among the relevant bodies, initiatives, and funding entities working toward this goal.

In addition, no regular monitoring and review process is in place to provide the guidance necessary to shift capacity-building efforts toward sustained and long-term capacity results being built at the institutional and systemic levels.

Accordingly, “How to Strengthen the Institutional Architecture for Capacity Building to Support the Post-2020 Climate Regime” suggests ways to improve institutional architecture by increasing coordination and coherence between the thematic bodies and entities under the UNFCCC while improving monitoring, analysis, and review of capacity-building activities and fostering cooperation at international, national, subnational, and regional levels.

The paper recognizes that improving capacity building on the ground through enhanced national institutional, governance, and administrative systems with sustained resource provisions is critical to success. This theme is highlighted by lessons from UNFCCC operating entities, relevant implementing agencies, and other multilateral agreements (e.g. the Montreal Protocol).

3) The Paris Agreement sets a road map on capacity building.

In order to support the Paris Agreement’s implementation, countries agreed during COP21 to enhance capacity building activities together with the associated institutional arrangements by establishing the Paris Committee in Capacity Building (PCCB).

This committee is mandated to oversee a comprehensive work program over the next four years including:

  • Identify capacity gaps and needs
  • Foster international, regional, national, and subnational cooperation 
  • Assess how to increase synergies, coordination, collaboration, and coherence among existing bodies and activities within and outside the UNFCCC
  • Promote the development and dissemination of relevant tools and methodologies.
  • Collect best practices and lessons learned, with a goal of enhancing ownership and retention of capacity at national, regional, and subnational levels

Based on the PCCB program’s outcomes and recommendations, countries will choose the initial institutional arrangements for capacity building under the Paris Agreement. In addition, all nations agreed to cooperate to enhance capacity building activities and committed to take measures enhancing climate change education, public awareness, participation, and access to information. Developed countries agreed to enhance support in developing country Parties with less capacity.

Increasing the coordination and monitoring of existing activities is particularly important to success since the Paris Agreement references strengthening capacity building activities in various articles: e.g. a Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency was established during COP21 while countries called for strengthening capacity to prepare their INDCs and to meet their requirements on adaptation as well as access to finance and technology transfer.