Negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany this week to make progress on establishing a global climate agreement by 2015. But they’re not the only ones working to secure a worldwide climate action plan.

WRI along with several other organizations recently launched a new global consortium, the Agreement for Climate Transformation 2015 (ACT 2015), bringing together top researchers from around the world. Over the coming months, ACT 2015 members will analyze the various options for an agreement and consult stakeholders and governments to put forward a proposal of what an effective, global climate agreement would look like. The goal is for this proposal to inform and support countries’ engagement in the international climate negotiations—and ultimately, help the world rise to the climate change challenge before it.

The Pathway to Paris

As part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries committed to produce an international climate agreement by COP 21 in Paris in 2015. But while the deadline is set, the details surrounding the agreement are not. What the agreement should actually accomplish is still under heavy negotiation, and there are several open questions on what kinds of national commitments (known as “contributions”) countries will submit to reduce their emissions and shift to clean energy; how these endeavors will be measured, reported, and verified; how they will be supported; and whether the contributions will be equitable and ambitious enough to meet the scale of the climate change challenge.

The next 22 months—what we’re calling the “pathway to Paris”—will be all about figuring out these details. What is decided will inevitably generate global repercussions: A weak agreement will likely allow worsening climate impacts like heat waves, extreme weather, and sea level rise to occur. An ambitious agreement can move the world toward a safer, low-carbon economy.

The Role of ACT 2015

ACT 2015 is a consortium of top experts from institutions from developing and developed countries, including: The World Resources Institute, the Philippines’ Ateneo School of Government, E3G (Third Generation Environmentalism), Ecofys, Energeia, Institute for European Studies – Vrije Universiteit Brussels, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Tsinghua University, and Youba Sokona, former Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre. The group will tackle the tough questions about the functions and substance of the 2015 climate agreement. We’ll also engage in strategic conversations with governments and stakeholders through convenings held throughout several countries between now and August of 2014.

Designing an Effective International Climate Agreement

Although the impact of this agreement will be big, the number of people engaging in it is quite small. If the agreement is to be implemented in the future, there needs to be an understanding of its content and support for its implementation. That means we need to engage a broader number of people in the discussion—including government officials, business leaders, labor unions, and environmental groups.

In order to engage these non-climate negotiators, the consortium has developed three propositions for how the agreement could be structured. Each is consistent with the agreed goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 2 degrees C in order to limit the worsening impacts of climate change. We are analyzing each of the propositions for economic and environmental effectiveness, and we will test and discuss them with key stakeholders around the world over the coming months.

The three propositions are:

  1. Steady: In this proposition, each country would put forward an ambitious national commitment to reduce emissions, which would reinvigorate the carbon market. These national commitments would be embedded within a global agreement that would provide transparency and accountability for countries’ actions. It would also include new and additional public funds. These funds will especially target adaptation initiatives,

  2. Dynamic: Like the Steady proposition, countries would put forward national commitments. However, short-term emissions reductions would be lower than those under the Steady approach, so countries would agree to an “ambition mechanism” that would create a process to ratchet up emissions-reduction commitments over time. Transparency and accountability are key, and these elements would be strengthened and applied equally to all countries. Because there would be a greater risk of overshooting the 2 degree limit under this plan there would be greater emphasis on determining a “loss and damage” mechanism.

  3. Pioneer: Instead of focusing only on national mitigation measures, countries would set a firm, long-term, collective goal to phase out greenhouse gases to net zero—by 2050 or perhaps another target year. Countries would have more flexibility on how to achieve that target, with the ability to choose policies and plans that work best for them, such as the rapid phase-in of renewable energy or phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies. This would allow those countries that wish to go further faster to do so within the agreement. A new innovative finance mechanism would be created and would flow directly to developing countries for technology and capacity-building, both in the fields of mitigation and adaptation. The agreement would also catalyze alignment across financial institutions. For example, development banks would more heavily prioritize low-carbon, climate-resilient projects.

In addition to the three propositions, we will also go deeper into the key elements of the agreement. We’ll conduct research on ways the agreement can help countries effectively reduce emissions, adapt to the impacts of climate change, finance the transition to a low-carbon economy, create transparency about individual countries’ climate actions, and ensure equity.

Based on our research, analysis, and the feedback we receive from stakeholders, the ACT 2015 consortium will prepare initial recommendations for the 2015 climate agreement by autumn 2014, with legal text released in March of next year. A memo will explain why we made certain choices, as well as why the proposal put forward would have the highest probability of success in catalyzing an effective, fair, and ambitious transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

The End Result

Of course, our proposal is just that—countries will ultimately make their own decisions on what the final 2015 climate agreement will look like. The next 22 months are a critical period, as government leaders and other decision-makers tackle the key details of the agreement. ACT 2015 will be there to provide rigorous research and meaningful discussion—and hopefully, ensure that the “pathway to Paris” is a productive one.

LEARN MORE: Visit the ACT 2015 project page.