SPECIAL COP23: Non-state actors at COP23

There has been a growing wave of support from non-state actors to address climate change and their role is becoming increasingly relevant as evidenced in the lead up to COP 23. In setting out his vision for Fiji’s Presidency of COP23 at the UN climate change conference in May, Fijian Prime Minister Bainimarama underlined the importance of the non-states actors in the process of implementing the Paris Agreement: “pursuing an inclusive process that ultimately involves every global citizen is the best way – the only way – to move our collective agenda forward.”

When discussing his country hosting the meeting, Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary at the German Federal Environment Ministry noted, “We are pleased to have this opportunity to present the new and innovative concept for a global conference – one conference, two zones.  With this concept we are highlighting the importance of climate action by having multiple non-state actors complement the formal negotiations.”

The prime example of a non-state actor at the ongoing COP23 is America’s Pledge on Climate Change. While the role of the United States as a country participating in the current COP23 negotiations is a bit uncertain, America’s Pledge is intended to help fill the void left behind by President Trump’s decision to withdrawal the US from the Paris Agreement. Special Advisor for States and Regions at COP23, California Governor and co-chair of America’s Pledge, Jerry Brown, has declared, “Today we’re sending a clear message to the world that America’s states, cities and businesses are moving forward with our country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement – with or without Washington.”

Launched by Jerry Brown and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, America’s Pledge on Climate Change aggregates actions taken by US states, cities, business, colleges and universities that have decided to proceed with their own decarbonization plans and actions in the absence of a federal coordinating role. The ultimate goal is to drive down emissions and provide a roadmap for increased climate ambition, demonstrating how non-party actors can help the US deliver on its pledge under the Paris Agreement. According to the United States’ INDC submitted at COP21, the country has committed to an economy-wide target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 level by 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce emissions by 28 percent.

On November 11 at the UN Campus in Bonn, there will be a special event to present the commitments made under America’s Pledge. At this occasion, Brown and Bloomberg will explain the America’s Pledge program and goals, provide a plan for expanding their efforts, and demonstrate strategies to further reduce emissions. A new report, “America’s Pledge Phase 1: States, Cities, and Businesses in the United States Are Stepping Up on Climate Action,” will also be released and presented to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.

Moreover, on November 13 in Bonn, Jerry Brown will be a speaker at the Sub-National Strategies in North America for Meeting Paris Commitments meeting, where sub-national leaders will discuss a wide variety of approaches, including how to harmonize policies with other jurisdictions.

America’s Pledge follows a wave of sub-national entities and businesses demonstrating their readiness to take on climate leadership. It is supported substantially by collaborations created to reaffirm support for the Paris Agreement, including the US Climate Alliance, Climate Mayors coalition of cities and the We Are Still In initiative. It currently includes 227 cities and counties, nine states and about 1,650 businesses and investors that are moving together to support the United States’ commitments made under the Paris deal. The initiative’s goal is to present a plan for raising the bar and expanding the map when it comes to non-party actors driving down US emissions, providing a set of options to serve as a playbook for enhanced ambition among US climate leaders.

The role of non-states actors was acknowledged as being fundamental to address climate change with the launch of the UNFCCC NAZCA platform in 2014 and is increasingly gaining attention for their potential role in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement (as highlighted in the recently published UN Environment’s Emissions Gap report). The Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) was first launched in Lima at COP20 in 2014 with the aim to individuate the commitments to climate action by companies, cities, subnational regions, investors and civil society organizations and to accelerate cooperative climate action between states and non-states actors. At the moment NAZCA is composed of 2,508 cities, 209 regions, 2,138 companies, 479 investors, and 238 CSOs for a total of 12,549 commitments.

Furthermore, the Under2 Coalition was created in 2015 as an international pact among cities, states and countries committed to limiting the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius by either reducing their greenhouse gas emissions from 80 percent to 95 percent below 1990 levels or holding emissions to less than 2 annual metric tons per capita by 2050. Signatories represent 16 percent of the global population and 39 percent of the global economy. At COP23 in Bonn the Under2 Coalition will have an important consideration as Fiji was the latest government to enter the coalition in June 2017. Fijian Prime Minister Bainimarama has already expressed his intention to work closely with this group of states and regions in the global effort to advance climate action at every level of society.


(Image: Uniting for Climate Action at COP23, November 5. Photo credit: Connect4Climate on flickr)