Keeping the world on track to meet climate goals to support global prosperity – through the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals -- requires more than just action by national governments.  All actors have a role to play and are beginning to work more in sync, but further alignment is needed. At the most recent climate negotiations at COP22 in Marrakech, non-state and subnational actors took the stage alongside government leaders through Global Climate Action, the UNFCCC platform to highlight action by non-state actors and cooperative initiatives. This featured two weeks of showcase events in nine key areas. These were the first tangible steps to strengthen much-needed dialogue between state and non-state actors working on climate change. Global Climate Action is still evolving and will require hard work to achieve its full potential.

Leading the orchestration of Global Climate Action, the two climate champions released the Marrakech Partnership which outlines a framework for taking Global Climate Action forward.  To build a global approach that works alongside existing efforts, the Partnership calls for a year-long process to be repeated annually and strengthened over time with participation from all actors. Realizing the Marrakech Partnership will require concerted efforts from all actors, across all sectors and levels of government, and new initiatives like the NDC Partnership could help play a role to advance climate action on all fronts, by all actors.

All Hands on Deck

Implementing countries’ national climate plans (Nationally Determined Contributions, known as NDCs) and advancing Global Climate Action go hand in hand. The progress seen at COP22 and over the past year on various fronts including transport, agriculture, buildings, energy and resilience, as well as among the business community, can provide an essential complement to national government efforts toward achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The transport sector – formerly almost invisible at COP – got a lot of attention with many high level events including a ministerial and business roundtable and a whole Transport Day hosted by SloCat. The Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC) with its current 18 initiatives showed good progress towards implementation. Lots of attention – in particular from the business community - triggered the launch of a new report outlining a roadmap towards zero carbon transportation by 2050.

Cities reaffirmed their commitments and merged the Compact of Mayors  and the Covenant of Mayors into the new Global Covenant of Mayors which now includes more than 7100 cities from six continents and 119 countries.  These cities commit to achieving or surpassing relevant national commitments; commit to adopting a comprehensive action plan; engage in regional initiatives, and agree to regular reporting, which is needed to enable cities to compare their success with others worldwide.

Forests, agriculture and adaptation were key themes at COP22. Over 100 countries include forests in their NDCs, and strengthened conservation and restoration efforts such as the Moroccan forestry initiatives in the Mediterranean Region and Sahel (AFMS), the Africa Palm Oil initiative, and the growing number of pledges to the Bonn Challenge will help play a major role in meeting the Paris goals. Also this year, we saw the launch of the Initiative for the Adaptation of African Agriculture to Climate Change and the Global Framework for Water Scarcity. These initiatives aim to enhance adaptation of agriculture and support the integration of climate change and sustainable use of water into agricultural sector policies to support countries that included these sectors in their NDCs.

Some other noteworthy accomplishments and announcements:

  • For the first time, oceans were given a spotlight and the Blue Belt Initiative was launched to build the resilience of coastal ecosystems.
  • The small island developing states’ Lighthouses Initiative in the energy sector has advanced, with two island states -- Antigua and Barbuda, and Cabo Verde -- selected to receive funding from the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility and other co-financiers for a total of $45 million. In addition, the United Arab Emirates pledged $50 million for renewable energy projects for Lighthouses partners in the Caribbean.
  • RE100 – the 83 corporations who have committed to purchasing 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources -- announced they are collectively halfway towards meeting their renewable electricity goals.
  • One hundred ninety-six companies have committed to adopt science-based targets and 26 companies already have science-based targets in place that have been reviewed and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative’s technical experts representing a wide variety of industries and sectors.

The type of concerted effort we saw in 2016 will need to be even further enhanced and emboldened in the coming years.

Steps We Need to Take Together

So how do we advance action and drive up ambition toward achieving our global climate and sustainable development goals? There are six things to consider in order to put this global community of practice into operation:

  • Unity – We need to establish a common thread between all international activities related to climate and embed the voice of the climate community into other areas. Also, climate and development actors need to enhance efficiency in implementation under mutual aims.
  • Information – We need to collect data and information from non-state actors in order to understand where we are, track progress and build a strong narrative that stimulates further action.  We need to be able to understand what is working, where there are gaps and where there are opportunities for scaling up implementation.
  • Coordination – We need to balance the processes of UNFCCC which have successfully driven the adoption of strong global goals for climate, and the dynamic efforts of wider stakeholders to advance action.
  • Quick wins – We need to celebrate and showcase the positive, transformational efforts being taken now to ensure the process sustains momentum.
  • Enable countries to benefit – We need to create dialogue in each country to ensure non-state actors are involved in NDC development and implementation, and initiatives like the NDC Partnership and ICAT could help facilitate this. National governments are ultimately responsible for setting the ambition for their country, and this can be supported and supplemented by non-state and subnational action.
  • Make Global Climate Action truly global – We need to refresh and revitalize Global Climate Action on a truly global scale. This could mean involving other ministries such as energy, forestry, transport and finance as well as more business leaders in climate activities at COP, and bringing in new participants, particularly from developing countries.

Looking ahead, 2017 needs to be a year for more quick wins and bursts of climate action, and further enhanced coordination and integration of state and non-state actions so that in 2018, when countries take stock of progress, there is a common understanding of the full extent of progress by all actors.  This will be necessary to support countries in revising their national climate plans, and finalize the rules and guidelines for the operation of the Paris Agreement in order to accelerate the implementation of existing targets.