How formalizing global climate governance can help combat climate change.
The issue of climate change is challenging because it’s truly a global issue. It can’t be solved by a handful of countries acting independently—it demands a coordinated, global effort.
That’s where the United Nations (U.N.), arguably the most significant example of global governance, comes in. One of the ways the U.N. manages global governance is through global summits, where world leaders and other stakeholders gather to discuss and debate policies and goals.
The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty. Its goal is to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases globally, to avoid further environmental consequences of their effect on climate. Every country on Earth is treaty-bound to find ways to reduce greenhouse gases to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system.”
COP26 and Global Governance
An example of these environmental summits is the Conference of the Parties (COP), a series of climate negotiations that falls under the umbrella of the UNFCCC. From October 31 through November 12, 2021, COP26, was held in Glasgow, Scotland. In Paris in 2015, COP21 created the “Paris Agreement.” Also called the Paris Climate Accords, it’s a legally binding international treaty on climate change. Its goal is to keep the world’s average temperature below 1.5°C or 2°C rise over pre-industrial levels.
Despite the achievement of having 196 counties sign their commitment to do what they can to stop climate change, it also highlights some of the fundamental challenges of current global governance processes—commonly called the “governance gap.” For example, even though countries agreed to work collectively to reach specific goals, the environmental protection laws vary wildly between countries and they’re functionally unenforceable. Most countries are not on track to meet their Paris Agreement goals.
Closing the Environmental Governance Gap
At COP26, global representatives reiterated their commitment to The Paris Accords: net zero emissions and preventing temperatures from rising 1.5°C by 2030. Realistically, the vast majority of the signatories will continue to reprioritize their climate strategy and fail to meet their goals. We know what needs to be done, but we haven’t figured out how to coordinate the efforts between governments, technology, institutions, companies, countries, and people.
Global climate governance can help. Transparency and accountability are crucial for compliance and for ensuring that the agreed-upon targets are met. Global climate governance will refurbish the existing structure and fill the governance gap, presenting stronger encouragement for countries to adhere to the goals set in The Paris Accord and at COP26. It will ensure that the legal and regulatory processes are implemented to encourage accountability and compliance.
Viable technological, economic, and social solutions and policies already exist to keep the world on track to meet the critical goals set forth in Paris, but they need the global support of governments to implement those solutions at scale. Global climate governance will incentivize leaders to take substantial action that’s necessary to combat climate change. Functional governance practices on a worldwide scale will ensure we can implement those policies quickly and globally.
To help close the governance gap, and to manage the climate crisis more effectively, it’s essential to identify the most critical policies that need to be implemented on a global scale. Then, stakeholders must determine the logistics of applying and enforcing those policies through an improved governance framework at the global, regional, and national levels.
How to Improve Global Climate Governance
Lead By Example. Governments around the world must be clear about their commitment to meeting the aggressive goals set forth in Paris and Glasgow. Agreeing on long- and short-term goals, including lowering their carbon footprint, will encourage adherence. This unilateral support could influence national policy and compel countries to act decisively to combat climate change.
Transparency and Accountability. Global climate governance will increase transparency and accountability, further encouraging action to meet the goals agreed to in Paris. Enforceable international agreements will hold governments and leaders accountable and foster compliance. Consequences for non-compliance could include appropriate sanctions and penalties. And international transparency encourages domestic pro-compliance stakeholders by keeping them informed on the strategy and progress.
Information and Knowledge. A coordinated global effort to combat climate change relies on information: scientific, technical, logistical, and policy related. The collective sharing of knowledge will ensure that the actions being taken are those quickest to implement and most likely to have the biggest impact.
Tackling global climate change is not something that can be achieved by individual countries acting in a vacuum. It requires top-down commitment from global governments that they’re dedicated to meeting the agreed-upon goals. Global climate governance is necessary to slow the detrimental effects that humans are having on climate and the environment. Indeed, severe climate impacts are already occurring—ahead of predictions—and it’s clear that there’s no more time to waste.
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