Subnational actors show significant potential to close emissions gap

The role of states, regions, cities and businesses in global climate action has become more important than ever.

This year’s Global Climate Action from Cities, Regions and Businesses Report1 is the second global analysis of non-state climate action and builds on the previous report released prior to the Global Climate Action Summit in September 2018.

This 2019 assessment aims to inform the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit and Climate Week NYC, which calls on leaders from government, business, civil society and elsewhere to strengthen their commitments in line with a 1.5°C target.

The Under2 Coalition has again been named as one of the international partnerships with the highest potential for emissions reduction, with the ambition of members amounting to an emissions reduction potential of 4.6 to 5.0 GtCO2e/year by 2030 – more than the current annual emissions of the European Union.

The report also outlines that initiatives by industry and businesses have shown ambitious goals, such as adopting science-based targets in line with the Paris Agreement or supplying 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. The RE100 initiative – led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP – has been recognized as having an emissions reduction potential in 2030 of 1.9 to 4.0 GtCO2e/year through its work with influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity.

The 17 high-performing international partnerships, including the Under2 Coalition and RE100, led by The Climate Group, analysed in the report could reduce emissions by 18-21 GtCO2e per year by 2030 beyond current government efforts.

These reductions equate to nearly one-third of global greenhouse gases and could keep the global temperature rise within 2°C, rather than the 3°C or more that national pledges under the Paris Agreement are on track to reach.

Tim Ash Vie, Director of the Under2 Coalition, commented:

“This year’s report is a timely reminder ahead of the UNSG Climate Action Summit and Climate Week NYC, that states, regions and businesses are giving national leaders more confidence to ramp up their efforts to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.”

“The report highlights the vital role of international initiatives like the Under2 Coalition in keeping the world on track to deliver the Paris Agreement, however meeting the full emissions reduction potential requires substantial work.”

“To support state and regional governments in the Under2 Coalition to reach their targets and fulfil the potential emissions reduction, The Climate Group will continue to work with state and regional governments on capacity-building projects that focus on the development of decarbonization pathways, the strengthening of greenhouse gas accounting capacities and the implementation of ambitious climate policies.”

The report outlines that subnational climate action is largely complementary to national policies and that these actors show significant global potential for scaled-up emissions reductions to close the emissions gap. For example, in the US, the report finds that the impact of region, city and company commitments could lower US emissions 25 to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

There is also increasing attention on synergies and trade-offs between climate action and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, where the role of subnational actors is crucial.

“Subnational and non-state climate action is not an alternative to action by national governments; indeed, the literature suggests that subnational and non-state climate action is largely complementary to national policies.

“Understanding the potential of subnational and non-state climate action alongside national governments is critical because of the enormous mitigation potential of cities, regions, and business.” – Global Climate Action from Cities, Regions and Businesses Report.

This 2019 report confirms the significant emissions reductions quantified in the 2018 report that subnational and non-state actors could potentially deliver globally by 2030.

1 NewClimate Institute, Data-Driven Lab, PBL, German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. Global climate action from cities, regions and businesses: Impact of individual actors and cooperative initiatives on global and national emissions. 2019 edition.

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