Exploring links between national climate strategies and non-state and subnational climate action in nationally determined contributions (NDCs)

Hsu, Angel / John Brandt / Oscar Widerberg / Sander Chan / Amy Weinfurter
External Publications (2019)

in: Climate Policy, 1-15 (online first)

DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2019.1624252
Information

Non-state and sub-national actors (e.g. companies, civil society, cities and regions, collectively referred to as ‘NSAs’) could bridge the ambition gap left by insufficiently ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Increasing effective non-state and sub-national contributions could both support NDCs’ implementation and spur ambitious updates to these national climate action plans. The impact of NSAs depends partly on whether and how national climate strategies recognize them. Yet, systematic knowledge about the extent to which national governments envisage a role for non-state and sub-national climate action is scarce. How do governments refer to NSAs in their NDCs; and what capacities, functions, and in which sectors do they envisage non-state contributions? We apply structural topic modelling (STM), an efficient quantitative text analysis technique seldom used in global climate governance research, to 147 NDCs to explore whether and how national governments incorporate non-state and subnational contributions into their international climate commitments. Using this method, we identify key topics for non-state and subnational engagement in NDCs, including vulnerability and adaptation, monitoring, general and sector-specific collaboration, and policy support. We find that developing countries overwhelmingly reference NSAs more frequently than developed countries. We also find predominantly negative trade-offs in how countries link to NSAs, suggesting countries tend to mention NSAs’ contributions in specific roles rather than across multiple sectors. Our findings suggest there is scope for countries to broaden their linkage to NSAs in their updated NDCs to further catalyze engagement. 
Key policy insights
Linkages to NSA initiatives (including cities, regions, businesses or civil society) in NDCs under the Paris Agreement are mostly made by developing countries. 
Developing countries describe NSAs primarily in the context of vulnerability and adaptation policy implementation, while developed countries mainly describe these actors’ role as collaborators across a range of functions. 
Closer coordination between NSAs and national governments, to fully leverage NSA contributions to NDCs, can be achieved by explicitly outlining NSAs’ contributions in future updates of NDCs.

About the author

Chan, Sander

Enviroment Policy

Chan

Further experts

Aleksandrova, Mariya

Climate risk governance 

Bauer, Steffen

Political scientist 

Baumann, Max-Otto

Political Science 

Brandi, Clara

Economy and Political Science 

Breuer, Anita

Political Scientist 

Dick, Eva

Sociologist and Spatial Planner 

Dippel, Beatrice

Comparatist 

El-Haddad, Amirah

Economy 

Fuhrmann, Hanna

Economy 

Haldenwang, Christian von

Political Scientist 

Houdret, Annabelle

Political Scientist 

Hägele, Ramona

Political Scientist 

Iacobuta, Gabriela

Environmental Researcher 

Kuhn, Sascha

Social Psychology 

Kunz, Yvonne

Geography 

Lehmann, Ina

Political Scientist 

Leininger, Julia

Political Scientist 

Malerba, Daniele

Economy 

Mathis, Okka Lou

Political Scientist 

Mehl, Regine

Political Science 

Müngersdorff, Maximilian

Social Scientist 

Never, Babette

Political Scientist 

Nowack, Daniel

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Pegels, Anna

Economist 

Rodríguez de Francisco, Jean Carlo

Ecological Economist 

Roll, Michael

Sociologist 

Srigiri, Srinivasa Reddy

Agricultural Economist 

Stoffel, Tim

Political Scientist