Skip to content

Realizing low-carbon and resilient development – the contribution of Non-state and subnational climate actions

Most experts and observers agree on the great potential of actions by non-state and subnational actors, such as civil society organizations, businesses, investors, cities and regions, to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Little is known however, about the actual performance of such actions. In a recent publication in Climate Policy, 52 climate actions, announced at the 2014 UN Climate Summit, are assessed on their output performance – to understand whether they are likely to deliver desired social and environmental impacts. The authors also systematically analyze to which extent climate actions are implemented across developing and developed countries.

The good news is that climate actions are starting to deliver. The authors assessed whether climate actions produced outputs that are consistent with their main functions (‘function-output-fit’) to determine output performance. One year after their launch, climate actions have started to deliver and their performance is higher than one might expect from previous experiences with similar actions. However, significant differences exist between action areas: most resilience actions have yet to produce specific outputs, whereas energy and industry actions perform above average (see figure).


In terms of geographic balance, gaps between developing and developed countries remain great. The study compared where climate actions initially planned to implement (reported implementation), with where outputs were actually produced (actual implementation). This comparison revealed a significant implementation gap; while many actions target low-income and lower-middle-income economies, actual implementation overwhelmingly takes place in high-income countries (see figure).


Based on their analysis, the authors argue for a post-Paris action agenda which specifically addresses the large implementation gap of climate actions in developing countries, as well as greater data transparency to allow a better understanding of determinants of effectiveness and non-state and subnational contributions over time.

Sander Chan, Robert Falkner, Matthew Goldberg & Harro van Asselt (2016): Effective and geographically balanced? An output-based assessment of non-state climate actions, Climate Policy, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2016.1248343

The publication is available online (open access)

More articles

2024 ESG Forum on 'Re-imagining Earth System Governance in an Era of Polycrisis'
2024 ForumAnnual Conference
2024 ESG Forum on ‘Re-imagining Earth System Governance in an Era of Polycrisis’

The 2024 Forum on Earth System Governance takes place from 14-18 October 2024. The events of…

2024 Beskydy Workshop: Call for Papers
2024 Beskydy Workshop: Call for Papers

The 2024 Beskydy Workshop on the theme of “Nature-Based Governance: Coevolutionary and transformative perspectives on the…

Letter from the Co-Chairs of the Scientific Steering Committee
Letter from the Co-Chairs of the Scientific Steering Committee

Dear Network of the Earth System Governance Project, As the year draws to a close, we…