The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, naturally focuses on the actions of the signatory nations – in the form of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Within the Paris Agreement though, there was a decision that noted that actions taken by all actors are recognised. The Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) was launched at Peru Conference of Parties (COP) in 2014, with a view to establishing it as a global platform for collating the climate change commitments made by non-state actors. This includes commitments to action from companies, cities, subnational regions, investors and civil society organizations. To date, over 200 sub-national regions have registered commitments in NAZCA.
Related to the recording of commitments in NAZCA, the Under 2 coalition is a public commitment, that is a memorandum of understanding, to take action on climate change consistent with a 2°C increase in temperature by 2100. This effectively means setting and emissions reduction trajectory that results in over 85%-90% reduction in emissions by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. Interim (2030) targets must also be set. 176 jurisdictions, in 36 countries have signed the MOU.
In recent months, with political (in)action occurring in some nations, sub-national regions have started to take matters into their own hands and define medium and long-term commitments for emissions reductions. Of note are actions being taken in the US and in Australia in lieu of action taken at a Federal level.
On 12 July 2017, Michael Bloomberg and Governor Jerry Brown launched “America’s Pledge on Climate Change”. This initiative pulls together and quantifies the commitments made by states, cities and businesses in the US. These commitments have been made publically since the US President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement (which will actually take 4 years to achieve due to the withdrawal clauses in the text of the agreement). The “We Are Still In” statement in the US is an open letter the international community from a large number of cities, states, universities and businesses in the US that reaffirms commitment to the Paris Agreement. The signatories recognise that it is actually local and state government, in addition to US businesses, that are responsible for GHG emissions in the country and that action by these actors in line with the Paris Agreement will help ensure that the US maintains a role as a leader in climate change action.
America’s Pledge on Climate Change now has the task of quantifying these commitments, with a view to publishing the results at COP23 in Bonn in November 2017. The results of this analysis on the overall emissions trajectory of the US will be of great interest at this conference.
In Australia, a similar thing is happening with commitments being made by the states, separate to legislation being developed at a Federal level. Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have a long term (in some cases aspirational) target of net zero emissions by 2050. Policies are under development to support these targets. Of particular interest is the recently announced Queensland Climate Transition Strategy. Of all the states that have long term carbon neutrality targets, Queensland has a strong resources sector with significant emissions from mining operations and LNG production. Significant emissions abatement in these sectors is on the higher end of the cost curve which suggests that a policy mechanism to drive low cost abatement, or allow low cost abatement to offset emissions from a large emitting facility will need to be considered. Opportunities for trading of certificates, such as the energy efficiency certificates that are generated under the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Scheme could also be a consideration.
It is clear that, in the absence of strong national policy in some countries, sub-national actors are taking steps to assist with meeting the overall Paris Agreement aims. What remains to be seen is whether these commitments are enough to meet NDC targets, let alone the increased ambition that is expected in future revisions of NDCs. The results of the analysis underway as part of America’s Pledge on Climate Change will be very interesting to explore come November 2017.