Climate change is a global market failure – and a global public goods issue. Historic and current emissions produced by any country may affect the climate anywhere in the world, so climate change should both influence international relations and inform national debate.

“The impact of climate change is posing a growing challenge to peace and stability. That is why we need a new culture of international cooperation: affected states need to be involved at an early stage, and state resilience needs to become a leitmotif of foreign policy.”

Frank‑Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister, 2005 – 2009; 2013 – 2017

In December 2015 in Paris, 195 countries reached agreement on how to halt dangerous climate change, for the first time. They secured an ambitious long-term goal, universal commitments, regular review, and a raft of necessary instruments, including finance for both mitigation and adaptation. The Paris Agreement frames future economic development pathways for the least developed and most climate-vulnerable countries as an element of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is intended to increase the flow of additional public and private finance for vulnerable countries for both low-carbon and climate-resilient investments. Ambition, including the pathway towards a possible 1.5-degree limit and five-yearly reviews, will be played out through the national climate plans: the NDCs.

A top-down, bottom-up approach works

Paris was a ‘bottom-up’ based treaty: the NDCs now need to be integrated into national policies and implemented. Several of the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States acted as ‘lighthouse’ countries by presenting ambitious (I)NDCs that aim to demonstrate the economic and social benefits of implementation. Ethiopia has set a target to reduce emissions by 64% versus what its 2030 ‘business as usual’ levels would be, while the Republic of the Marshall Islands pledges to reduce emissions by 32% below 2010 levels by 2025. These are some of very few INDCs that were rated as ‘sufficient’ in making a fair contribution to staying below 2°C warming (Climate Action Tracker).

When governments gathered in Rabat, Morocco in October 2015 to review the aggregate effect of all submitted INDCs, a consensus prevailed that the INDC process has sown the seeds for greater action in the future. In the best cases, the INDC preparation process has led to a diverse set of domestic actors engaging with the climate change agenda: strengthening the institutional and political architecture around climate change; increasing the potential for cooperation to deliver action either through the market or other means of implementation; and affirming that governments can apply robust climate science to national policy-making.

Integration comes next. NDCs have – in many cases – been a powerful tool for engaging all ministries across government and all sectors of society. This had been important for building strong domestic support for climate change nationally, which in turn itself is an important foundation for international diplomatic efforts.

INDC processes set up governments for the current delivery phase. Countries took a range of approaches to preparing their INDCs. As the UNFCCC did not define a precise template for countries’ submissions, countries were free to use the methods and metrics of their choice to make climate mitigation pledges. Adaptation commitments were not required, although a large number of developing country governments chose to include these.

Once the Paris Agreement was signed and countries’ ‘intended’ contributions were expected to become ‘implemented’, the ease with which national governments have managed to move forward their commitments depends in large part on the degree of domestic buy-in they were able to cultivate before the Paris Summit. For those national governments that engaged in deeper, consultative processes in society to set national climate targets, the foundation stones for implementation can be considered to have been ‘well laid’; it is also fair to say that in some countries, the Paris Summit followed some years of domestic strategy development, public consultation and legislative process to integrate climate resilience and low-carbon approaches in development – the Paris Agreement simply gave further momentum to an ongoing process. Such was the case in Kenya, for example, whose Climate Change Act had been long deliberated and was signed into law five months after the Paris summit (see Chapter 5).

In other countries, the relatively short time granted by the UNFCCC for INDC submission meant that the process for preparing the national commitment was rushed, and perhaps included less consultation, both inside and outside government. In such cases, governments have a steeper hill to climb in terms of building constituencies of support for the NDC, after Paris.

The vagaries of domestic politics also inevitably play a role in how quickly and how deeply the NDCs pledged in Paris are acted upon: some countries faced domestic elections right after the Paris Agreement and the degree of political support for climate action cannot be guaranteed from one administration to another. Such was the case, for instance, in Peru, where elections in early 2016 led to a complete change in administration and farewell to the team in the Environment Ministry that had led COP20 and acted as ‘midwives’ to the Paris process. Strong domestic capacity amongst NGOs, think tanks and other programmes, much of it embedded through the Plan CC (Peruvian Climate Change Mitigation Plan), has enabled much of the learning, analysis and commitment to transfer into the policies and plans of the new government.

Self-interest drives countries’ national climate ambitions

For the more progressive and ambitious developing countries, INDCs arguably provided an important vehicle for showcasing their plans for low-carbon and climate-resilient growth – for demonstrating leadership on the global stage. However, climate ambition at national level is often a result of national self-interest rather than because of any global concerns or pressure. The actions China is taking to tackle the impacts of climate change are driven purely by national interest: tackling chronic pollution on the one hand, developing new markets in renewables, for instance, on the other. The actions taken, however, have a positive global impact and strengthen China’s negotiating position.

In Mexico, climate change advocates in government exploited the global attention they received in 2010 (through hosting COP16) to pursue ambitious national climate targets. Peru used the same opportunity in 2014 (COP20) to stimulate national debate. Ethiopia, an energy-deficient country, is ambitious in its plans to be carbon neutral by 2025 and is using climate change as a trigger to leverage international attention and finance. This two-way approach pays dividends.

What it will take for NDC implementation: capacity, finance, data

When it comes to implementing the bottom-up pledges of the Paris Agreement, the initial signs for G20 economies are positive. PwC’s Low Carbon Economy Index found in late 2016 that major economies are decarbonising at 2.8% per year – the highest rate since 2000, more than double the business-as-usual average.

For developing countries, including the least developed, the progress on initiating, implementing and mainstreaming the Paris Agreement pledges in national economic development is less clear. Where CDKN works, we have observed that significant enablers for NDC implementation are capacity building, data and finance.

Many countries lack enough staff, or enough skills training, across both public and private sector to make the necessary changes. Data gaps and data availability hampered developing countries’ INDC preparations and could now stymie accelerated progress toward meeting adaptation and mitigation goals, too.

Few NDCs can be regarded as investment-ready yet. The current pipeline of finance-ready projects is often a result of earlier development work and not necessarily transformational enough to achieve a real paradigm shift in infrastructure investments towards low-emission and climate-resilient options. For developing countries, transformative NDC implementation will only materialise when the requisite financial and capacity support is in place. Securing this support from donors and other investors over the long term is the priority ahead.

Capacity remains an issue, however, especially for developing countries. Going forward, these countries will require substantial international support to implement their contributions in the form of finance, technology transfer and capacity building. It is widely accepted that the climate finance target agreed by Parties to the UNFCCC in 2009 – to deliver US$100 bn. per year by 2020 – is a drop in the ocean compared to the financing that will be required to deliver the energy transformation needed to put us on a 2°C pathway. Innovative and alternative sources of climate finance will be required to meet this investment gap.

The initial NDCs are just the beginning of a cycle of increasing ambition

The Paris summit provided limited clarity and guidance on the preparation of emissions reductions pledges beyond what the INDCs (with their variable levels of national ambition, quality of analysis and data, and political and economic realism) in the future or on the accounting and reporting mechanisms. Countries agreed in Paris to review targets and ‘ratchet’ them up to higher levels of ambition every five years.

Most of the NDCs to date have set out the ‘low-hanging fruit’ – the easier to achieve emissions reductions opportunities. A large agenda is in front of the UNFCCC and the negotiators to gain greater clarity on data requirements, accounting, format and time frames for future rounds of INDC pledges that may help to unlock greater action.

In subsequent five-year cycles towards 2030, ramping up ambition effectively will be a really challenging process. Steps to establish mid-century or long-term pathways to decarbonisation are being taken amongst larger emitters and industrialised economies such as France.

Technical and financial support will not only be needed to assist developing countries to implement low-carbon and climate-resilient investments and enable the enhanced ambition. Knowledge and financial transfer may also be needed (not just North–South but also South–South) to assist developing country governments to roll back polluting policies such as fossil fuel subsidies. As Kiran Sura highlights in her article on the aggregate effect of INDCs , phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies (what the IMF calls the “$5.3 trillion energy subsidy problem”) would contribute greatly to closing the ‘emissions gap’.

The system of INDC pledges and revisions will evolve. The first round of INDCs will be a confidence-building exercise, keeping everyone on board and with time, I imagine in subsequent periods parties will exert peer pressure on each other [to revise their contributions upwards]. While this is not sufficient, it definitely sets us in the right direction.

The regime we are building is in many ways an incentive, it’s a bottom-up process. It’s a representation of countries’ own contributions, fully taking into account their political realities. That’s already an incentive for parties to implement [them].

Giza Gaspar Martins, former Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group of Negotiators, UNFCCC, September 2015

Domestic legislation and an enhanced role for legislators are key

There is a correlation between strong domestic climate change legislation and international ambition at the UNFCCC. Although the factors that determine a country’s negotiating position are complex, domestic climate change legislation has a positive influence.

National climate change legislation is not just something that should underpin an international agreement, rather it helps create the political space for a deal.

Climate legislation is spreading: the GLOBE Climate Legislation Study charts legislation in 66 countries in its 2014 edition, double the number in the previous year’s edition. CDKN argues that governments should:

  • support international processes for engaging legislators, to help inform the development of climate change legislation, promote good practice and develop peer groups;
  • routinely engage with legislators before, during and after the annual UNFCCC meetings (as a minimum) to exchange views and build common understanding; and
  • encourage the creation of cross-party parliamentary groups on climate change, supported with policy and analytical capacity.

The INDCs are going through different domestic processes of national level endorsement but have provided a significant boost to parliamentary engagement in climate legislation. The current ratification process in each country is an opportunity to engage a wide cross section of policy-makers, public opinion and legislators around climate goals. Kenya’s Climate Change Bill was approved in May 2016, paving the way for new institutional arrangements to manage climate change, and other countries including Peru are taking legislation forward.

Domestic legislation on climate is the absolutely critical, essential linchpin between action at the national level and international agreements.

Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, speaking at the 1st GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit, London, 14 January 2013

Moral leaders have made the ethical case for action

Calls for ambitious global action came from somewhat unexpected sources during the run-up to the Paris Summit, as leaders of the Catholic Church and the world’s Muslim communities articulated the moral case for action on climate change. The adoption of climate action as a mainstream concern by religious leaders signals an important shift for global public opinion, which supports implementation efforts in the wake of the Paris Agreement.

In his Papal encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis warned of “serious consequences for all of us” if humanity fails to act on climate change and pointed to the “very consistent scientific consensus” that human behaviour is contributing to dangerous levels of warming.

He also took aim at the weakness of collective political responses to date, saying: “It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”

He cast the entire challenge as one of global justice, where the ‘common home’ of the world’s people has been degraded to a ‘pile of filth’ and the world’s rich have created an immense ‘social debt’ to the world’s poor.

These outspoken words have deep implications for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholic faithful, most of whom live in developing countries. The papal guidance “plays an important role in society and in generating public opinion particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean where most of the population is considered Catholic, to a greater or lesser degree. Brazil, for example, is the country with the largest number of Catholics (139.5 million people),” said Maria Jose Pacha, CDKN’s knowledge management coordinator in the region. It is more likely, now, she said, that “priests and bishops of the Catholic Church may also be agents of change to the faithful, aware that our common home care is everyone’s responsibility.”

An Islamic Declaration on Climate Change could cause an equivalent change among the world’s Muslim communities, according to CDKN’s senior advisor for Indonesia, Mochamad Indrawan. The declaration, signed in Istanbul in August 2015, encourages political leaders throughout the Muslim world to take a more proactive stance in tackling the challenges of climate change and even goes so far as to propose that oil-producing countries should curb fossil fuel extraction by 2050.

OPINION: Islamic Climate Declaration could energise Muslim communities for shared cause
OPINION: Islamic Climate Declaration could energise Muslim communities for shared cause

Writing in partnership with Fachruddin Majeri Mangunjaya, vice chairman of the Centre for Islamic Studies, Universitas Nasional, Indonesia, Indrawan says that this kind of religious guidance may be the tonic that is required to shift unsustainable behaviour at the grassroots level – where government regulation alone could not reach. “For instance, the predominantly Muslim Riau province is continuously threatened by forest fire and smoke that spreads to other provinces and even to neighbouring countries,” they write. “Extraordinary advocacy, including from the ulemas or Muslim scholars, will be needed to stem this kind of unsustainable practice; for instance, from the Indonesian Council of Ulemas and targeted towards governments at national and local levels. In this context, the Declaration may be used as an effective campaign tool.”

Non-state actors play a critical role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement

As noted above, non-state actors have a fundamental role to play in creating the political momentum for global, collective ambition on climate change. Coalitions of civil society organisations – backed by tens of millions of individuals – mobilised in the run-up to the ultimately disappointing COP19 in Copenhagen in 2009. That the upswell of citizen demand for climate action ultimately failed to deliver a meaningful deal in Copenhagen is perhaps a sign that civil society mobilisation alone (although necessary) is not sufficient for ambitious outcomes.

When the Copenhagen meeting failed to deliver a ‘FAB’ (fair, ambitious, binding) global deal to succeed the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, international climate activism took a back seat in global media headlines (although anyone who has subscribed to the massive online movements 38 Degrees and will know that the citizen movement kept its vitality during these years and was simmering in the background). A gathering of international climate diplomats, policy advisors to climate negotiators and opinion leaders met in late 2012 to debate what it would take to deliver an ambitious global deal in Paris in 2015. Several speakers concluded that civil society pressure had tailed off, perhaps as a side effect of the global financial crisis; a constant refrain in the room was: “Why is civil society so quiet and muted since Copenhagen?” However, as the watershed year 2015 approached and unfolded, the drumbeat of civil society demand for global climate ambition gradually got louder. Two weeks before COP21, a popular concert and rally, ‘24 hours of reality and live earth’, were staged across multiple continents and time zones; it highlighted the millions of petition signatures calling for political leadership on climate change and the millions of citizen actions taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It was a statement, once more, from NGOs and individuals to politicians and negotiators: we want global ambition.

EVENT: Join in the dialogue on whether global climate consensus can save the planet via our webcast
EVENT: Join in the dialogue on whether global climate consensus can save the planet via our webcast

Just as non-state actors were critical to achievement of the Paris outcome, their role will be critical in the achievement of the Paris temperature goals. Non-state actors, mayors, business leaders and ordinary citizens did much to convince political leaders to agree in Paris and to drive the subsequent rapid ratification. Now that the agreement is in place they can do much to sustain the momentum and they are already mobilising at city and sub-national levels to prevent backsliding on the agreement as the global political environment shifts. Coalitions such as Under2 led from the State of California and now including 167 sub-national governments and encompassing (including 1 billion people), and business alliances such as ‘We Mean Business’ (including 680 companies and investors with combined revenue of US$8.1 trillion) are leading the way in pushing for implementation.

Even if we consider the emissions gap that must be closed between countries’ climate mitigation pledges and the further cuts needed to limit warming to 2 degrees – let alone the aspiration of limiting to 1.5 degrees of warming – ambitious leadership and action is needed by non-state actors. “Non-state actors (the private sector, cities, regions and other subnational actors like citizen groups) can cut several gigatonnes off the gap by 2030 in areas such as agriculture and transport, provided the many initiatives meet their goals and do not replace other action,” said the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the launch of its Emissions Gap Report 2016.

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate has also highlighted how international partnerships and cooperation could help to catalyse emissions reductions while simultaneously delivering economic growth – ‘better growth’.

Some of the Global Commission’s report’s recommendations around cities, infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, and clean and efficient energy have been captured in submitted NDCs. But official governmental pledges may not have captured all the potential action from non-state actors or from multi-stakeholder partnerships among government and non-governmental actors such as the business and investor communities. National government pledges also tend to omit the emissions reduction potential in the maritime or aviation sectors, which have until now been very difficult to attribute to territories.

Least developed countries’ voices must be continue to be heard

Throughout much of this period, many developing countries have been doubly disadvantaged – suffering some of the worst effects of climate change, they have also had the least capacity to negotiate effectively to secure a sustainable solution. Typically arriving in small numbers for UN meetings, they were unable to prepare as effectively as their more developed counterparts and their voice was rarely influential.

Over the past decade, various donor agencies and private foundations and funders have provided assistance to these countries to try to redress this imbalance. These negotiation-support projects have ranged from providing financial support to enable delegations to attend negotiations, to building their technical capacity to help them develop negotiating strategies and influence final agreements.

In 2011, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) responded by appointing CDKN to manage the Climate Advocacy Fund, which aims to enhance the capability of negotiators from the least developed, small island and African nations. Since then, CDKN has supported the wider climate diplomacy efforts of these groups and countries providing training provision, strategy development, research, and media advice – and matched up sub-contracted innovators, researchers, lawyers and facilitators working with the developing country negotiators. In Paris and the preceding UNFCCC negotiations, backed by effective teams and clear strategies, the Least Developed Countries, the Small Island Developing States and the African Group of Negotiators emerged strongly. Previous LDC Chairs Giza Martins (from Angola) and Pa Ousman Jarju (from Gambia) and Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, played key roles in shaping the text, bridging differences between Parties and informing the media. Minister de Brum in particular stood out in his role as a leader of the High Ambition Coalition that emerged in Paris and led to the game-changing result of keeping the pathway towards a 1.5 degree limit with ratcheting five-yearly reviews.

CDKN’s first tranche of support for climate negotiators focused on strengthening delegations, primarily by providing financial support to enable delegates to attend negotiations. More recent support has placed a greater emphasis on building capacity through three drivers of influence:

  1. strengthening delegations;
  2. developing negotiation strategies; and
  3. sharing in and shaping international negotiations

This is formally done through support programmes to the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), LDC Group and the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) from CDKN and other donors, and also through a variety of NGOs and their networks, including the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Climate Action Network.

CDKN has supported these negotiation efforts by enabling specific areas of support, including climate finance advice and an award-winning legal advice resource, the ‘Legal Response Initiative’ (LRI), which utilises 150 pro-bono lawyers specialising in international law. It was awarded ‘Best education or campaign initiative’ at the UK Climate Week Awards in 2014.

Engaging the media is also vital for effective climate diplomacy. Climate diplomats require appropriate communication skills to engage effectively with the media. Another area of support, therefore, lies in enabling developing countries to build the case for action at national, regional and international levels.

One of my goals upon becoming Secretary of State was to take diplomacy out of capitals, out of government offices, into the media, into the streets of countries.

Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State; Democratic Presidential candidate, 2015

Developing countries have used this wide range of support offered by CDKN and others to raise their collective voice and demand climate justice.

Progressive political alliances can drive higher global ambition

A report by Louise van Schaik used international relations theory to analyse the EU’s alliance with groups of developing countries in December 2011. This alliance facilitated an agreement on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which commits UNFCCC Parties to agreeing an inclusive global climate deal by 2015.

The Durban Platform was negotiated during all-night discussions at the end of the meeting, which prevented the climate negotiations from falling apart. The roadmap was agreed largely because the EU was able to form an alliance with AOSIS and the LDC groups, as well as other members of the Cartagena Dialogue (a gathering of 45 nations committed to progressive outcomes in the negotiations). The strength of this alliance made it more difficult for China and India, among others, to dissent.

Effective support to climate negotiators from least developed countries addresses multiple drivers of change

Negotiation support projects target three broad areas to enhance the participation and influence of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in multilateral climate negotiations:

  • Projects strengthen delegations by providing financial assistance to enable the poorest and most vulnerable countries to send representatives to negotiations, and by supporting activities that enhance their negotiating and technical skills.
  • They help these countries to develop strategies, including clear national positions, to enable them to articulate their interests in negotiations.
  • They help the poorest and most vulnerable countries to shape international negotiations by identifying opportunities for collective action where there is common ground, and equipping negotiators with the skills to set and influence agendas in negotiations.

All three drivers interact against a set of external factors that can be unpredictable and difficult to influence. These include the countries’ relative economic and geopolitical power and the degree of national support for addressing the issues under negotiation.

A CDKN study, Supporting international climate negotiators, assessed the different forms of support to LDC negotiators and found that those deemed ‘successful’ by recipients of assistance, had in common the following features:

  • The projects addressed a combination of the drivers of influence, confirming that negotiations support has moved beyond just assisting delegates to attend the negotiations.
  • Recent projects place greater emphasis on developing national positions on priority technical issues, and on increasing power and influence through building alliances with other nations. Comparatively fewer case studies focused on shaping the agenda of negotiations.
Read more

One critical element of least developed and climate vulnerable countries’ concerns is that of climate-related loss and damage: which pertains to damages suffered as a result of climate change impacts, which cannot be avoided by climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

The surge in political attention to loss and damage led to the agreement at COP19 (2013) of the ‘Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change impacts’. The controversial nature of the topic is indicative of the significant implications in global climate change negotiations. It is evident, therefore, that a better understanding of approaches to address loss and damage is required. Policy-makers will need to explore, develop and implement comprehensive frameworks that address risk reduction, risk transfer such as insurance, and risk retention such as contingency funds and social safety nets.

The evidence base on climate-related loss and damage is growing

CDKN has been working with research teams from Bangladesh and elsewhere to provide better knowledge about the nature of loss and damage and to develop assessment methodologies. An example is the district of Satkhira in coastal Bangladesh, which is vulnerable to both sea level rise and cyclones. Both can increase salinisation, which has significant implications for rice cultivation, the mainstay of the local economy and staple of the local diet. Residents of four villages in Satkhira reported rising salinity levels on the land they farm in the last two decades. To adapt to salinisation, many of the farmers planted new saline-tolerant rice varieties, which was successful until the arrival of cyclone Aila in 2009. The cyclone caused a further and dramatic increase in soil salinity; as a consequence, the value of national rice production loss between 2009 and 2011 was US$1.9 million. More case studies and reports are available on

Climate diplomacy is a potent mix of climate and foreign policy

Climate diplomacy has the potential to advance multilateral action on climate change, inside and outside of the UNFCCC process. Successful climate diplomacy starts by gaining support from key national stakeholders – states are recognising how climate action serves their own and other countries’ core interests and are using that insight to underpin diplomatic engagement.

Governments that see this diplomacy as a way of securing national-level benefits are also more likely to promote progressive outcomes in the UNFCCC itself. Least developed and most climate-vulnerable nations, such as the Marshall Islands (which has placed climate change at the heart of its foreign policy) are now using climate diplomacy on the international stage.

COP21 was the culmination of years of diplomatic engagement on climate change, taken up by France, Peru as the president of COP20 and various other actors. The Cartagena Dialogue and various multi-stakeholder fora contributed to facilitate climate diplomacy. At COP21 the High Ambition Coalition appeared and played a key role in retaining the ambition for a 1.5-degree limit in warming. The Agreement followed almost 20 years of complex and at times acrimonious negotiations. As Simon Maxwell wrote at the time:

“In the end, the diplomatic process has fulfilled its principal function, bringing all countries together in shared recognition that ‘something must be done’
… [The] process has created a platform and incentivised change in the real world. That is a real success.”

Special Climate Envoy of the Gambia, Minister Pa Ousman Jarju spent the last few years engaging with diplomatic partners around the world and has argued that the success of any agreement reached in Paris would be judged on its response to the needs of the most vulnerable. He believes that the Paris Agreement has enshrined three issues of great importance to the world’s least developed countries (LDCs).

First, nations will pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Scientists indicate that an average global temperature rise that exceeds this limit will drastically impact the lives and livelihoods of the nearly 1 billion people living in the LDCs, as well as those living in small island developing states. Agreeing to a 1.5 degrees threshold sets the parameters for a world that gives the LDCs the best possible chance at a sustainable future.

Second, the Paris Agreement also commits the world to averting, minimising and addressing the permanent losses and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

Third, nations have recognised the specific needs and special situations of the LDCs. The preamble of the Paris Agreement acknowledges the specific funding and technology transfer needs of the LDCs, and its Articles, specifically those relating to capacity building and transparency, further elaborate them.

OPINION: A diplomatic approach to raising climate ambition – Pa Ousman Jarju
OPINION: A diplomatic approach to raising climate ambition – Pa Ousman Jarju

CDKN works with this interface between national interest and international cooperation. Kiran Sura and Nadia Schweimler have put forward a three-point plan for making the most of climate diplomacy’s potential to maximise national and international responses to climate change – especially for LDCs:

  • Raise awareness on the home front of how climate action serves the national interest – how deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by large emitting nations, and efforts to build resilience by the poorest, are critical for citizens’ wellbeing and survival.
  • Understand how foreign governments can see action on climate change as being in the national interest and develop ways to deploy these arguments in a diplomatic context.
  • Train the diplomatic corps of LDCs on key climate issues and educate climate experts to communicate in accessible ways.
POLICY BRIEF: Revealing the potential of climate diplomacy to boost poor countries’ interests

The world is ready for a new climate change narrative

2015 was about ambition and setting a pathway, and from 2016 on, it is about the hard reality of integrating climate change into national priorities of economic growth, employment, and poverty reduction by working across sectors and different levels of government while addressing the many challenges of political economy. Much is underway and building blocks are being put in place in many countries as they normalise climate change into the business of government and private enterprise. However, there is much yet to do to deliver transformative change at the scale and speed that is required or even as stated within the NDCs.

Patricia Espinosa, the new Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, at Marrakech conference, Nov 2016
Patricia Espinosa, the new Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, at Marrakech conference, Nov 2016

Two narratives that have been dominant in the past are now out of date. Pa Ousman Jarju, the Minister of Environment of the Gambia and the first LDC climate envoy (see above), has said categorically, “There are better stories to tell. The first, out of date narrative focused heavily on the LDCs’ extreme vulnerability rather than the actions they undertake to confront climate change. That all changed in 2011 when we adopted a new strategy: ‘victims becoming heroes’.” According to the former chair of the LDC Group, Giza Gaspar Martins of Angola, it is no longer ‘after you’, but ‘follow us’. The LDCs take climate action seriously. They are willing to contribute their share to move others forward, provided this does not undermine their efforts towards poverty eradication and sustainable development. Together, the LDCs and AOSIS, along with vulnerable African countries, have a strong moral voice which is adding momentum to the global response to climate change.

The second old narrative says that action to address climate change is too expensive. The 2014 and 2015 reports of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate demonstrate that the economic benefits of acting on climate change will outweigh the costs, even in the short and medium terms. On one side investment in renewable energy and green bonds is at record levels, and on the other side businesses are increasingly taking into account the cost of building resilience to climate change, as the G20 Task Force in Climate Related Financial Disclosures is demonstrating.

Sustainable economic development that provides jobs, growth and trade in the context of a globalised economy will inevitably have to take into account climate change. As CDKN’s Simon Maxwell writes, action on the scale required to tackle climate change requires a new industrial revolution, touching all countries. This is the new narrative in which economies are greened and climate change is integrated into the mainstream, both public and private. Businesses are already taking climate action and the SDGs seriously as they assess the risks and realise opportunities.

New technologies, investments, financial instruments and industry initiatives are multiplying, often alongside governments who are providing support, policy and legal frameworks. But there are likely to be losers as well as winners in society from the disruption and innovation associated with climate action. For all these reasons, public policy shaped and connected nationally and internationally with strong multi-stakeholder processes can help deliver sustainable results. By working together at national, regional and global levels we will all reap the benefits.

“What was once unthinkable has become unstoppable.”

Ban-ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, referring to climate change action in a press conference before the United Nations climate conference in Morocco, November 2016.
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