Elwin: The Potential of Non-State Actors
The potential of non-state actors
From attending the events I mentioned in my previous post, I got the sense that I needed to look beyond national-level action. Therefore, I spent the rest of my time at COP24 attending events and talking to people to learn about non-state climate action. In this post, I will share some examples at different levels of what non-state climate leadership could look like.
I will begin with Prof Hsu’s research, which quantitatively illuminates just how much potential there is for non-state climate action. At the side event titled “Making climate action more transparent and ambitious: lessons learned from NDCs”, Prof Hsu presented how on the whole, countries are not sufficiently leveraging on the potential for non-state actors. In their NDCs, most Annex I countries did not mention non-state actors at all, while developing countries tended to only mention non-state actors in their NDCs when it came to adaptation (implying that they did not see non-state actors as having a potential to contribute to mitigation efforts). Her research also highlights in particular the potential of International Cooperative Initiatives (ICIs) in non-state climate action. ICIs are subnational actors that “adhere to rules and practices that seek to steer behaviour towards shared, public goals across borders”. In addition to directly contribution to reducing emissions, ICIs contribute to mitigation by piloting innovations, spurring technological development and diffusion, and generate momentum for other actors.
International network at the city level
While talking to one of the WWF staff members at a “We Are Still In” press reception, I learned about C40 – a city-based initiative/ organization that targets two kinds of cities, megacities and innovator cities. Its purpose is to drive city-level action and data-driven goals through technical assistance, research and peer-to-peer exchange. C40 seems to have been successful thus far – 70% of C40 cities have accelerated climate action as a result of the C40 network. C40 captures part of what I was initially looking for in my original conception of “climate leadership” – taking the successes of one group as a catalyst for further action.
One of the speakers at a side-event titled “Just Transition for all” brought up New York Renews (NY Renews) as a prime example of subnational climate action leadership. NY Renews is a coalition of over 150 grassroots, state and national organizations, all working together with the aim of making New York State a leader in climate action via a full transition of New York’s power supply to renewable sources by 2050. To achieve this, NY Renews has been working to push through the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act. However, despite having achieved bipartisan majority support, they were unable to pass the legislation in senate because it has been blocked by Senate Leader John Flanagan. Nevertheless, it gives me a lot of hope to learn about the successes NY Renews has had in rallying wide political support from a diverse range of stakeholders in pushing for a Just Transition.
I also saw some promising examples of community-level climate action at COP24. For instance, at a side-event titled “Building ecological and community climate resilience: a working example from Atlantic Canada”, I was introduced to ACAP Saint John. ACAP Saint John is the name of the NGO involved in the first ground-up community watershed management initiative based in Saint John, Canada. It aims to build resilience through employing participatory processes with community, businesses, and social groups, with the NGO acting as the catalyst that convenes this process and builds capacity. I believe that there is a lot of potential for more of such participatory ecosystem management initiatives, because of how it creates buy-in from groups and brings together community over ecosystem protection.
One interesting facet about the ACAP Saint John project is that they are also working to build a set of resilience indicators to track their progress in ecosystem management. This is because in dealing with the wicked problem of climate change, it can sometimes be difficult to know when you’ve made progress. The larger goal in this effort is to create a framework that can be applied to other ecosystems to find site-relevant indicators for resilience. It also speaks towards the challenge Prof Hsu identified: only about 22% of ICIs have quantitative goals.
 Hsu, A.; Widerberg, O.; Weinfurter, A.; Chan, S.; Roelfsema, M.; Lütkehermöller, K. and Bakhtiari, F. (2018). Bridging the emissions gap – The role of non- state and subnational actors. In The Emissions Gap Report 2018. A UN Environment Synthesis Report. United Nations Environment Programme. Nairobi.
 Hsu et al. (2018). Bridging the emissions gap – The role of non- state and subnational actors.