Re-invigorating the UN Climate Regime in the Wider Landscape of Climate Action

Parties will complete the first global stocktake (GST) under the Paris Agreement in 2023, presenting an important opportunity to reflect more widely on the UN climate regime (the regime). The world is a very different place from when the Paris Agreement was negotiated. This moment invites consideration of whether there is room for improvement to ensure that the agreement is fit for an evolving purpose and responsive to a dynamic and challenging geopolitical context.

This report first examines whether the logic of the regime, and the Paris Agreement in particular, is effective. The Paris Agreement is having a positive impact: if nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are fully implemented, projected global temperature rise would be around 1 degree C less than it would have been had the agreement not been adopted. Yet the pace of action is not enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement—the world is on track to overshoot 1.5 degrees C, and even staying within 2 degrees C of warming is far from certain. Clearly, incremental improvements in climate ambition and implementation are not enough. A transformational shift is essential.

The report then examines how the regime’s “norm-setting” function can be strengthened to make it fit for an evolving purpose, remain functionally relevant, and deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement. More specifically, recommendations are made in the following areas:

  • enhancing ambition and fairness by increasing peer pressure that encourages and inspires ambition in light of different national circumstances and fair shares
  • accelerating implementation and strengthening accountability across sectors and within nations with improved systems and processes to understand and follow up on the progress made
  • strengthening cooperative action on adaptation and loss & damage (L&D) in the context of urgent needs and overshoot pathways
  • expanding coverage to prepare for the future demands that will require agreement on a range of issues that are currently not addressed by the regime well or at all
  • streamlining and fine-tuning processes to enhance responsiveness to an evolving purpose.

Finally, this report reviews the regime’s catalytic role in the wider landscape of climate action. The wider landscape includes relevant international organizations and agreements, international cooperative initiatives (ICIs), multilateral development banks (MDBs), international financial institutions (IFIs), and voluntary commitments by non-Party stakeholders (NPS). There is considerable potential in leveraging the actors in this landscape to narrow remaining ambition and implementation gaps in relation to mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation, as well as fulfilling governance functions in ways that complement and reinforce the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process.

At the same time, there remain core challenges related to transparency, accountability, and the thematic and geographical balance of the wider landscape. To ensure that this wider landscape effectively contributes to and strengthens the catalytic role of the climate regime, this report highlights key findings and makes the following broad recommendations:

  • Parties should harness existing agenda items under the UN climate regime, or establish a targeted mechanism or process, to foster substantive exchanges with other international organizations and treaties, including IFIs, and to recognize, consider, and promote alignment of their goals and actions with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
  • Parties should enhance the role of, and engagement with, all types of ICIs, in the context of an upgraded Global Climate Action Portal, including by strengthening their transparency and accountability as well as their thematic and geographical balance.

Parties, the UNFCCC Secretariat, the High-Level Climate Champions/Marrakech Partnership, the UN Secretary-General, and/or the Conference of Parties (COP) Presidencies could advance and implement these recommendations variously, including through leveraging the GST process.