Subnationals around the world stepping up to combat climate change


Panel discusses city climate change initiatives at COP22 side event

While only sovereign countries can be parties to the Paris Agreement, that fact has not prevented cities, states, and regions from stepping up to take their own climate actions. Several subnational entities have joined groups like the C40 and Under 2 MOU, which create voluntary agreements to reduce emissions and develop more sustainable municipalities. Under the NDCs submitted so far, the parties to the Paris Agreement have not been stringent enough to meet the 2˚C (much less the 1.5˚C) goal. As a result of this and increasing urbanization, subnational actions will be crucial to protecting the earth from the devastating effects of climate change.

Subnationals have taken several approaches to becoming more sustainable. For example, the City of Edmonton, Canada, has focused on providing citizens with accurate climate change science information while stomping out climate change myths. Kaoshiung, Taiwan, on the other hand, created a month-long “Ecomobility World Festival” where citizens were not allowed to drive vehicles down particular roads; these roads were only for pedestrians and bicyclers. Kaoshiung used this event to help change residents’ behavior, which is an essential, but difficult piece of climate change policy. It will hold another “Ecomobility World Festival,” this time only a week long from Oct. 1-5, 2017. Individual states have also voluntarily committed to climate action. For example, the State of California has committed to various goals, including reducing its emissions by 40% by 2030. Vermont has also set a goal to obtain its energy from 90% renewable sources by 2050. Regardless of the United States’ national stance on climate change in the coming years, these individual states (and others) are committed to achieving environmental objectives.

In addition to coming up with unique ideas to address climate change, subnationals also frequently exchange ideas with one another to help other cities, states, and regions follow suit. Despite their lack of ability to make formal commitments under the Paris Agreement, subnatonals will play an important role in the future of the global environment.

Will Cities Join the Climate Club?

Yesterday I attended a side event at COP20 called Taking climate cooperation to a new level: Incentives and alliances for transformative action. The premise of the panel discussion was to showcase opportunities to achieve transformative change in the climate sphere by identifying institutions and incentives that can catalyze action through low-carbon climate clubs.

I had not heard the term “climate club” before yesterday, and was interested to learn more from panel member, Mr. David Waskow, Director of the World Resources Institute Climate Initiative, who described developing support for a new kind of international cooperation among smaller groups of countries or subnational regional organizations that are willing to lead on the transformation to a low-carbon economy. These, he described as climate clubs.

Through this dGlobal protocolialogue, Mr. Waskow revealed the launch of a WRI and C40 carbon initiative of the First Global Standard to Measure Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Cities. Cities are a big deal. World-wide, cities account for more than 70 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, and may certainly represent a leading opportunity for tackling climate change. The first step for cities is to identify and measure where their emissions come from.

This new GHG Protocol is working to give cities a standardized set of criteria and tools to measure emissions, build reduction strategies, set measurable and more ambitious emission reduction goals, and to track their progress more accurately and comprehensively.

The full protocol can be found here.