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


The corporate sector has traditionally engaged governments at national rather than international level in lobbying for action related to climate change. Where it has engaged at an international level, this has often been to restrain regulation and ambition, such as in air transport. Over time, many businesses have increasingly understood that there is more commercial opportunity in a strong, consistent approach to tackling climate mitigation and adaptation, and an increasing number are willing to speak up on the issue. The Paris Climate Conference in 2015 demonstrated this positive engagement. Businesses are more powerful when engaging directly with national governments on detailed policies – by demonstrating what is possible and indirectly influencing national governments’ international pledges. Traditional trade/industry sector associations and groups have tended to suffer from the ‘lowest common denominator’ effect of their least progressive members. Progressive business groups coalescing around climate ambition can help to counter this. Unlike at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, the business community provided a positive, supportive backdrop to the 2015 Paris talks, mindful of the public relations opportunities in taking a progressive stance and of the benefits of targets that reflected the science. The carbon market was a particular focus for corporates, which succeeded in getting emissions trading options and market mechanisms included in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Given the challenging political contexts since 2015, the corporate sector will have a key role to play in persuading national governments how technologies and expertise have moved on since the pledges were made. With increasing awareness of resource scarcity, businesses are pursuing ever more creative solutions. Wide recognition that the avoidance of future emissions is increasingly dependent on developing and emerging economies means that business voices from these countries will potentially be more influential in the next few years.

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