TODAY’S STUDY: The Climate Fight Gets Personal
Global Climate Action From Cities, Regions, And Businesses; Individual actors, collective initiatives and their impact on global greenhouse gas emissions Angel Hsu, Amy Weinfurter, et. al., August 2018 (Data Driven Yale, NewClimate Institute, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency)
Since the Paris Climate Agreement solidified an “all hands on deck” approach to climate change, cities, regions and businesses have become key contributors to mitigation, adaptation and finance efforts. These actors are pledging a range of actions, from directly reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions footprints, to building capacity for climate adaptation and resilience to providing private finance. They are also working together to collectively deliver systemic impacts across sectors and economies. This report aims to inform the Sept. 2018 Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco, which convenes city, region, business and civil society representatives from around the world to discuss their contributions to global climate action. The conclusions and recommendations we provide in the report are broader, however, and could also inform international discussions such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Talanoa Dialogue which, among others, seeks to include non-Party stakeholders such as regions, states, cities and business in global climate governance.
In this report, we evaluate individual climate mitigation commitments made by nearly 6,000 cities, states, and regions representing 7 percent of the global population and more than 2,000 companies with a combined revenue of over 21 trillion USD – nearly the size of the U.S. economy. This report quantifies for the first time the combined impact of these actors’ recorded and quantifiable greenhouse gas mitigation pledges on global greenhouse emissions in 2030, focusing on 9 high-emitting countries – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and the United States – and the European Union. The individual efforts of the evaluated states, cities and businesses, however, represent only a snapshot of the full picture of non-state and subnational climate action occurring globally. We also evaluate international cooperative initiatives, where regions, states, cities, businesses – frequently in partnership with national governments and civil society – collectively commit to climate goals.
Both individual commitments made by regions, states, cities, businesses and international cooperative initiatives have the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions significantly beyond what is currently expected from national policies alone, assuming their commitments and goals are fully implemented and accounting for overlap between actors. As we are not able to quantify the coordination effects between national governments and other actors, we assume additional reductions take place for each actor group (regions, cities, companies), if their aggregated reductions relative to 2015 are higher than reductions implied by national policy implementation. Also, we assume that both national governments and other actors do not change the pace of their existing climate policies and actions in response to these subnational and non-state efforts.
Collective impact of individual commitments by regions, cities and businesses
Implementation of individual city, region and business commitments would bring the world closer to a global pathway compatible with the full implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which were submitted as part of the Paris Agreement. The initial results presented in this report suggest that individual city, state, region and business commitments represent a significant step forward in bringing the world closer to meeting the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, but it is still not nearly enough to hold global temperature increase to “well below 2°C” and work “towards limiting it to 1.5° C.
Accounting for overlaps between actors’ commitments, global emissions in 2030 would be around 1.5 to 2.2 GtCO2 e/year lower than they would be with current national government policies1 alone, if the recorded and quantified commitments by regions, cities and businesses are fully implemented and if such efforts do not change the pace of action elsewhere (Figure 1). This additional impact would result in global GHG emissions of between 54.5 – 57.1 GtCO2e/year in 2030. These reductions could be higher, as some actor commitments could not be quantified, or others are not recorded and therefore not considered in this analysis. But overall reductions could also be lower even if these individual commitments are fully implemented, if the recorded actions change the pace of national government action or other actors without commitments.
Assuming that countries’ climate proposals under the Paris Agreement – their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – are also fully implemented in addition to current policies (an “NDCs plus individual actors’ commitments” scenario), global greenhouse gas emissions could be between 0.2 to 0.7 GtCO2 e/year lower in 2030 than they would be with NDCs alone (Figure 1). This added mitigation impact is smaller than compared to a current national policy scenario because the NDCs already include some of these city, region and business contributions.
Collective impact of cooperative initiatives’ goals
Numerous national, regional and local governments, businesses, and civil society partners work together, often across national boundaries, to address climate change through international cooperative initiatives (ICIs). Global emissions in 2030 would be around a one-third (15-23 GtCO2 e/ year) lower than they would be with current national government policies2 alone, accounting for overlaps between initiatives, assuming all analyzed ICIs meet their goals of increased membership and implementation of targets, and such efforts do not change the pace of action elsewhere. This impact translates to remaining global GHG emissions of between 36– 43 GtCO2 e/year in 2030.
Assuming that countries’ NDCs are also implemented (a “NDCs plus initiatives’ goals” scenario), global greenhouse gas emissions could be even lower. Combined, ICIs and fully-implemented NDCs would bring global emissions in 2030 into a range that is consistent with the long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.
The potential emissions reductions of these initiatives are significant yet uncertain. They critically depend on the initiatives’ full implementation and achievement of their goals, supported and adopted by all members and in some cases prospective members.
Comparing individual commitments and initiatives’ impacts
The potential mitigation from cities’, regions’ and business’ individual commitments appears small (1.5-2.2 GtCO2 e/year) compared to the impact of cooperative initiatives’ goals (15-23 GtCO2 e/year in 2030). The estimated impact of the cooperative initiatives is much larger for various reasons:
• Goals are longer-term visions about the aims that a cooperative initiative tries to accomplish, in some cases making assumptions about growth in membership, while individual city, region and company targets are analogous to national level pledges (e.g, the NDCs) that represent more concrete steps to possibly realize the longer term goals.
• Analyzed initiatives include emission reduction targets in globally significant and ambitious sectors, such as the forestry and nonCO2 greenhouse gases, which yield a combined 6-8 GtCO2 e/year in reductions alone. Recorded and quantified individual actions are primarily focused on the energy sector.
• Almost all initiatives count national governments among their members. Therefore, their impact is not exclusively attributable to non-state and subnational actors alone, but to the combined efforts and synergies across a diverse range of participants.
The large range of impact between committed individual city, region, and business emission reductions and the goals of international cooperative initiatives shows that there is an urgent need to operationalize the full scope of ambition and translate these into on the ground commitments.
The report features the impact of subnational and non-state actors and ICIs in 9 high-emitting countries and the EU, which collectively were responsible for 68 percent of global emissions in 2014 (WRI CAIT, 2018). Expected reductions from reported individual commitments are high in the US, but smaller in other analyzed countries.
• In China, the additional impact from the full implementation of recorded and quantified individual city, region, and business commitments is relatively small compared to current national policies (between 0 and 155 MtCO2 e/year in 2030). These actions play a critical role in the implementation of national goals but do not add ambition. The full implementation of the goals of selected international cooperative initiatives, in particular those focused on buildings, subnational commitments and energy efficiency, could additionally lower the emissions below current national policies (between 2,270 and 2,440 MtCO2 e/year in 2030).
• In the United States, the additional impact from the full implementation of recorded and quantified individual city, region, and business commitments is significant compared to current national policies. They could reduce emissions at least half way (670 and 810 MtCO2 e/year in 2030) to what would be needed to meet the US original target under the Paris Agreement. Selected analyzed international cooperative initiatives, particularly those focused on subnational governments and on renewable energy, could significantly lower the emissions expected from current national policies (by between 1,080 and 2,340 MtCO2 e/year in 2030).
• In the European Union, the additional impact from the full implementation of the recorded and quantified individual city, region, and business commitments is relatively small compared to current national policies (between 230 and 445 MtCO2 e/year in 2030). Selected analyzed international cooperative initiatives, particularly those focused on renewable energy, non-CO2 greenhouse gases and buildings, could lower the emissions significantly from current national policies (to between 980 and 1,970 MtCO2 e /year in 2030).
• In Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and South Africa, the additional impact from the full implementation of the recorded and quantified individual city, region, and business commitments is relatively small compared to current national policies (together, between 625-765 MtCO2 e/year in 2030). Selected analyzed international cooperative initiatives are still significant, potentially lowering the total emissions for these countries together from the current national policies by 2,220 – 3,380 MtCO2 e/year in 2030.
Implications for national governments
The level of ambition from some cities, regions and businesses as found in our analysis is encouraging and could accelerate or increase implementation of national policies and national climate proposals under the Paris Agreement, particularly in the United States. International cooperative initiatives’ climate goals are encouraging and illustrate the potential for deeper emissions cuts when national governments partner with non-state and subnational actors. Their full implementation would narrow, and perhaps even close, the gap between the world’s current emissions pathway and the emissions reductions needed to reach the longterm goals of the Paris Agreement. Delivering on this promise requires the implementation of individual actors’ commitments and the cooperative initiatives’ goals.