The role of sub-state and non-state actors in international climate processes

Following the failure of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in Copenhagen in 2009, there was a step change in the sophistication and unity of civil society engagement on climate policy. This ensured that, subsequently, civil society was more effective in exercising multiple channels of influence around the negotiations for the Paris Agreement in 2015. Civil society proved to be particularly effective at harnessing the twin narratives of climate science and economics, and at leveraging an emerging multi-level governance architecture, to create political space for climate leadership. Given today’s challenging geopolitical conditions and the evolving nature of the international climate regime since Paris, civil society must now once again recalibrate its strategies to ensure continued and increasing relevance. In particular, the shift to a more ‘nationally grounded’ implementation regime focusing on individual states’ climate commitments will require civil society to become more effective at influencing domestic politics. At the same time, civil society will need to continue to seek strategic synergies at the international level. Civil society has a central role to play in ensuring that the first key test of the Paris ‘ratchet’ mechanism – revising countries’ pledged climate actions, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), by 2020 – is robust, science-informed and strongly rooted in domestic politics.

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