Abstract

This briefing paper proposes a Global Framework for Climate Action (GFCA), a comprehensive and collaborative programme to build advantageous linkages between the multilateral climate regime and non-state and subnational climate initiatives.

An in-depth academic discussion paper on this proposal for a Global Framework for Climate Action (GFCA) is available here.

Global climate governance features a great diversity of institutions, state and non-state stakeholders, and their plethora of actions aimed at mitigation and adaptation. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol remain the most important elements of the multilateral climate regime. However, these state-centred regimes and their ongoing negotiations have been criticised for being cumbersome and insufficiently effective. The multilateral regime leaves governance deficits regarding implementation (of adaptation and emission-reduction policies), regulation (new international agreements, norms and standards) and legitimacy (effective output, as well as engagement by underrepresented stakeholders). These deficits could partially be addressed through a growing number of non-state and sub-national initiatives. For instance, cities have adopted emission-reduction targets and cooperate on adaptation, and industries are setting their own targets to reduce emissions. These kinds of initiatives have the potential to make concrete and solution-oriented contributions towards realising a climate-resilient and low-carbon future and also improve the effectiveness of the UNFCCC process. The groundswell of initiatives has, however, not reached its full potential as – until now – it has been uncoordinated and not well documented.

The proposed GFCA aims to catalyse non-state and subnational initiatives, grant recognition to initiatives that make substantial contributions, and inspire governments to raise mitigation and adaptation ambitions by scaling-up innovative solutions and successful methods. To achieve this, a layered design is proposed that allows for the recording of a wide array of initiatives while ensuring measurability of progress in terms of output (visible activities and products), outcome (behavioural change) and impact (changes in environmental indicators). Periodic overall assessments of participating initiatives will strategically inform where initiatives could complement the multilateral process and where links could be built.

We envisage a GFCA as a collaborative programme, operated and administered by a network of experts, think tanks as well as public and private organisations. Such a network yields the strengths of existing efforts and pools resources from multiple organisations while retaining legitimacy through a partnership with an international body, such as the UNFCCC secretariat or the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

The proposed GFCA could become an important element in the future global climate governance architecture. It would strengthen coordination capacity within the UNFCCC to steer non-state and subnational actions towards greater ambition and the implementation of international targets and agreements on the ground. It would also give recognition to initiatives that substantially contribute to low-carbon and climate-resilient development, and it would motivate reputation-conscious non-state stakeholders to develop such initiatives.