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Climate Ambition and Sustainable Development for a New Decade: A Catalytic Framework

Chan, S., Boran, I., van Asselt, H., Ellinger, P., Garcia, M., Hale, T., Hermwille, L., Liti Mbeva, K., Mert, A., Roger, C.B., Weinfurter, A., Widerberg, O., Bynoe, P., Chengo, V., Cherkaoui, A., Edwards, T., Gütschow, M., Hsu, A., Hultman, N., Levaï, D., Mihnar, S., Posa, S., Roelfsema, M., Rudyk, B., Scobie, M. and Shrivastava, M.K. (2021), Climate Ambition and Sustainable Development for a New Decade: A Catalytic Framework. Glob Policy.


This paper examines the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) and discusses options to improve sub‐ and non‐state involvement in post‐2020 climate governance. A framework that stimulates sub‐ and non‐state action is a necessary complement to national governmental action, as the latter falls short of achieving low‐carbon and climate‐resilient development as envisaged in the Paris Agreement. Applying design principles for an ideal‐type orchestration framework, we review literature and gather expert judgements to assess whether the GCAA has been collaborative, comprehensive, evaluative and catalytic. Results show that there has been greater coordination among orchestrators, for instance in the organization of events. However, mobilization efforts remain event‐driven and too little effort is invested in understanding the progress of sub‐ and non‐state action. Data collection has improved, although more sophisticated indicators are needed to evaluate climate and sustainable development impacts. Finally, the GCAA has recorded more action, but relatively little by actors in developing countries. As the world seeks to recover from the COVID‐19 crisis and enters a new decade of climate action, the GCAA could make a vital contribution in challenging times by helping governments keep and enhance climate commitments; strengthening capacity for sub‐ and non‐state action; enabling accountability; and realizing sustainable development.

Policy Implications

  • A post‐2020 action space within the UNFCCC process remains crucial and might even be more important than before.
  • A post‐2020 Global Climate Action Agenda could exemplify a new avenue of cooperation, featuring effective international cooperation not only between governments, but also with, and between, sub‐ and non‐state actors that provide solutions in a highly interconnected and globalized world.
  • The transition from the pre‐2020 climate action agenda to a post‐2020 agenda provides a political opportunity to recalibrate the design of a catalytic framework that effectively responds to the need for successful international cooperation and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.
  • A post‐2020 agenda should help accelerate implementation at the national level, amplify ambition of subsequent NDC cycles, and inform ambitious ‘long term strategies’.
  • Through collaboration with regional and national processes action, the Global Climate Action Agenda could more effectively encourage the engagement of sub‐ and non‐state climate action at lower levels of governance.
  • Collaboration between multiple platforms that orchestrate climate and sustainable development action could improve reflexivity and deliberativeness of governance practices. Such could also help generate outcomes that are considered more just when trade‐offs occur between different aspects of sustainable development.
  • By seizing opportunities and expanding the post‐2020 Global Climate Action Agenda according to the design principles of a collaborative, comprehensive, evaluative and catalytic framework, it would not only improve upon previous engagement activities in the context of the UNFCCC, but also make a vital contribution to climate action in challenging times.


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