While much attention has been paid to national governments joining the Paris Agreement and bringing it into force, action by local governments, businesses and other non-state actors is also critically important to addressing climate change. Research shows that the world can’t limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C or 1.5 degrees C in order to prevent the worst effects of climate change through the commitments countries have made so far. Cooperation between state and non-state actors and enhanced action by all is vital to ensuring a truly transformational response to climate change. 

The actions taken by businesses, local governments, energy companies and others are not only a key part of the solution – they also mutually reinforce governments’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs). In other words, when governments set targets and deliver climate action, this galvanizes other actors and sectors. When non-state actors launch cooperative climate initiatives and set individual targets, they help provide confidence that national governments will set and meet ambitious goals. To support this dynamic, the annual UN climate talks once dominated by diplomats are becoming a space for all actors to come together to construct a comprehensive approach to climate change. Sustaining this broad approach will move us toward the goals of the Paris Agreement faster.

Non-State Climate Actors Step Up to the Plate

We've seen several recent examples of non-state actors complementing action under the Paris Agreement. Recently, the aviation industry widely supported the adoption of an international agreement to offset carbon emissions from aircraft, the first carbon cap arrangement agreed upon for an entire industry and the first international agreement on climate agreed upon outside of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At Climate Week NYC in September of this year, businesses took the stage to announce new, ambitious commitments to curb their emissions, underscoring the private sector's resolve to address climate change. Apple and Bank of America, along with 71 other members, formally joined the RE100 initiative to go 100 percent renewable. In addition, 193 companies have already committed to science-based emissions reductions targets and are sending signals of their intentions to curb climate change. Just last month, the world saw the adoption of the New Urban Agenda which highlights cities’ central role in both mitigating and adapting to climate change. Meanwhile, cities such as Berlin, Stockholm, Sydney and San Francisco are making commitments to divest from fossil fuels.

Mayors from New York, Johannesburg, Seoul, Lagos, and more go in for climate action.Photo by C40 Cities/Flickr
Mayors from New York, Johannesburg, Seoul, Lagos, and more go in for climate action.Photo by C40 Cities/Flickr

Directly alongside the formal climate negotiations, non-state actors have been gaining an increased and more unified voice on climate change through the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) platform under the UNFCCC – now renamed Global Climate Action (GCA). The LPAA was a formal space created at COP20 for non-state actors to engage around thematic areas of climate action from agriculture, oceans, energy and beyond, highlighting new commitments by individual actors and cooperative initiatives. It was central to the global effort that spurred the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21. And now, as we turn towards COP22 to be held in Marrakech next month, non-state actors can continue to work hand in hand with country governments through the GCA, the new name for the supportive framework alongside the negotiations.

Marrakech: For Merchants and Mayors, Too

Here are three signs of the growing role of non-state actors and the Action Agenda alongside the climate talks:

  1. Debut of the climate champions: For the first time, the COP will be supported by two high-level climate champions, Climate Change Ambassador for France Laurence Tubiana and Minister Delegate of the Environment for Morocco Hakima El Haite. (The position of the climate champions will rotate with each incoming COP presidency, replacing one of the two champions with a new one.) These champions, whose new positions were established at COP21 in Paris, are actively engaging all sectors and actors this year to help shape events that transform the COP from a Conference of the Parties to a community of practice. Over the past few months, they have been holding a consultation process and collecting input from Party and non-Party stakeholders to provide guidance and structure for non-state actors’ enhanced engagement in Marrakech.
  2. A space for everyone: The action agendas that provide space for non-state actors are a key feature of the COP and transform the UNFCCC climate talks into a place more welcoming for non-state actors to interact with Parties and each other. COP22 will continue this trend, going beyond the call for a high-level event by holding a series of thematic events over the two weeks for all actors and sectors to showcase new efforts and highlight progress. Through constructive dialogues and showcases, non-state actors and cooperative initiatives will share experiences and show how progress is being made.
  3. Connecting the dots: The climate champions are taking bold steps to build continuity between successive COPs and strengthen the framework that connects all actors together to enhance dialogue, recognition and raise ambition. In their newly released scenario note, they outline how this framework should advance through ongoing convening, showcasing of action, tracking progress, and reporting on overall progress and opportunities. In Marrakech, for the first time, there will be dedicated sessions for dialogue between government and non-state actors to share challenges and discuss how to better work together to implement countries NDCs and accelerate action. The climate actors that travel to the COP—including CEOs, policy makers, civil society and ministers—cannot work in isolation and should take advantage of the diversity of knowledge present at the COP.

Better Together

Climate change is not a problem that countries can solve alone. We need action from all sectors and all levels of government. The UN climate meetings must be a space where government and non-state actors can mutually reinforce each other’s actions to build ambition. An annual opportunity to come together in the same place, build stronger relationships, forge new initiatives and strengthen existing ones is an important element of continuing the momentum that will get us to a zero-carbon, resilient world.