Side-event at COP22 on linking state and non-state climate action

November 10, 2016 in Conferences, Publications

In Marrakesh this year, delegates are meeting at the 22nd meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the UNFCCC to discuss the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The CONNECT project is here and have presented new work during a side-event on linking state and non-state climate actions. The following post is a blog version of a briefing paper written by Daniel Engström-Stenson and Oscar Widerberg, which reports on some of our ongoing work.

Linking state, non-state and subnational climate action: The case of Sweden

Successful international climate policy depends on domestic actors’ acceptance and actions. Cities, regions, investors, companies and civil society organizations are crucial for implementing the Paris Agreement. The proliferation of non-state climate actions is therefore a positive development, symbolizing the commitments of players outside of the UNFCCC in contributing to halting dangerous global warming at well below 2 degrees Celsius.

For example, the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Actions (NAZCA), a data-platform launched during COP20 in Lima in 2014, show-cases over 11,600 commitments by over 5,200 different actors.[1] Linking, or at least aligning, climate actions by governments and non-state actors could generate various fruitful synergies. By signalling commitment and support for ambitious climate policy, non-state actors could instill confidence in governments to improve national mitigation and adaptation efforts. Governments can encourage, incentivize and reward non-state climate action by creating platforms for publicity and information exchange.

This brief takes a closer look at links between non-state actors and the government in Sweden. It presents new data on Swedish involvement in NAZCA showing that the country outperforms many of its peers in terms of commitments and discusses why this is the case. The brief is part of ongoing work carried out under Fores’ Reference Group for International Climate Policy. The group was initiated in advance of COP21 in Paris, bringing together business, academia and public representatives to discuss key issues in international climate policy. One of the issues that emerged during the dialogue was the role of non-state actors, the Lima Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), and the NAZCA-platform. In several workshops members have discussed the issue, and within the framework, Fores has launched one report and two policy briefs, of which this is the second.

Swedish non-state actors in NAZCA

The more than 11,000 commitments show-cased in NAZCA comes from non-state actors spread across nearly 140 countries.[2] An overwhelming majority of the actors – categorized into “cities”, “companies”, “CSOs”, “investors”, and “regions” –  are based in developed countries. Table 1 presents an overview of the 15 best represented countries in NAZCA in terms of number of actors with commitments. If we look at the distribution of countries, we find that the lion’s share – more than 770 – of the actors are situated in the US. Sweden comes in number seven, despite its substantially smaller size in terms of population and GDP compared to other developed countries. Among the top 15 countries, Sweden together with Belgium, Portugal and Italy fare highest in terms of actors per capita. [3]


Over 150 swedish non-state actors contributes with nearly 340 commitments, for which cities and companies each account for around 40 % of all the commitments. Among the cities, Stockholm stands out with 15 commitments and among the companies, H&M ranks first with 11 commitments. Also Jämtland (region), Nordea Bank (investor) and the Church of Sweden (CSO) rank first within their categories.

Comparing Sweden with other Western European countries shows how Swedish non-state actors are highly engaged in the climate action, or at least in contributing to NAZCA, compared both to the total number of countries involved and compared to neighbourhood countries. Figure 2 presents the number of actors with commitment across actor-types in four countries: Sweden, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. It shows how Sweden outperforms Belgium and Denmark on all five actor-types; the Netherlands on all but the ‘investors’ category, and Germany on ‘companies’ and ‘investors’.


In sum, NAZCA contains a relatively high number of climate commitments by Swedish non-state actors compared to other countries. In the next sections, we discuss why this may be the case.

Explaining Sweden’s performance in NAZCA

Based on inputs from workshops held with Fores’ Reference Group for International Climate Policy, as well as interviews made with senior Swedish government officials, we suggest three possible contributing factors to Swedish actors’ good performance in NAZCA:

  1. A generally positive view among Swedish businesses to achieving a global deal in Paris;
  2. A history of companies and mun-icipalities to join domestic climate initiatives; and,
  3. The government initiative “Fossil Free Sweden”.

First, Swedish companies were generally positive and eager to see a deal made in Paris, reducing the uncertainty in the direction of global climate policy. Consequently, companies became receptive to the encouragement from French embassy in Sweden to join initiatives and take commitments   profiled on the NAZCA platform. Second, Swedish companies and cities have a tradition in joining domestic such as Hagainitiativet,[4]  Nätverket för Hållbart Näringsliv,[5] and Klimatkommunerna.[6]

These initiatives have provided a breeding ground for national dialogue and spread of knowledge and experience, including the awareness of international initiatives such as the LPAA. Third, the Swedish government have through its own multi-stakeholder initiative called “Fossil Free Sweden” encouraged companies, cities, regions and CSOs to join NAZCA. To date, nearly 200 companies, cities, regions and CSO engage in “Fossil Free Sweden”. So far, 39 members have reported its commitments to NAZCA, and another 29 are in the process of so doing.

Fossil Free Sweden (FFS), in particular, has a direct link to the LPAA and NAZCA. The aim of FFS is to provide a platform for Swedish actors to publicize their contributions to the government’s goal to become one of the world’s first fossil free welfare nations.[7] A special coordinator – the former director of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) Svante Axelsson – has been appointed by the government to foster links between the government and domestic actors, generate a dialogue between non-state actors, and compile data and analysis on the work of the national actors. Actors becoming members of the initiatives signs up to a declaration which message may be summarized as:

we are actors that acknowledge that the Paris Agreement requires action, and we believe that we as actors, as well as Sweden as a country, may play a role in moving ahead, and by making our commitments visible, we hope others will join.”

According to Sweden’s former chief negotiator to the UNFCCC Anders Turesson[8] – who is now the civil servant responsible for the FFS initiative – the motives behind forming the initiative Fossil Free Sweden are twofold. First, for Sweden to succeed in the government’s ambition of transforming Sweden into a fossil free welfare nation, it must be supported by a movement of non-state actors that are closest to the concrete action. Second, the FFS was set-up as something close to a national replica of the international movement formalized in the Lima Paris Action Agenda (LPAA). In both cases, the rationale is that a mobilization of non-state climate action have two purposes. For one, the commitments by companies, cities and regions will be crucial for Sweden, and other countries to fulfill their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). In addition, having the support of national stakeholders is according to Turesson crucial both to be able to strengthen national measures as well as for the instruction delegations get before international negotiations.

Under the FFS, organisations are highly encouraged to register their commitments in the NAZCA platform. Compared to NAZCA, the FFS has a less bureaucratic process for registering commitments. There is no need to submit commitments – one reason for this is for the FFS to be able to attract a larger share of the business community, including the larger emitters. In the words of Anders Turesson, there is less use of an initiative that is perceived as a business committee of the green movement, although those “spearheads” can play an important role. By having a laxer view on individual commitments, the ambition is to be able to collect a larger mass of actors, to create a mobilization behind the narrative of the possibility to achieve the so far somewhat vague ambition of becoming one of the world’s first fossil free welfare nations. In the longer run, when this target is to quantified and given a timeline, actors would probably be asked to stand behind these targets.

For the FFS as well as for the NAZCA platform, a majority of the business commitments are from companies closer to consumers, with more easy accessible emission reductions. Of the more crucial Swedish industry, the vehicle manufacturers joined the FFS early, while the steel industry are still to join, with the government hoping to initiate a dialogue leading to the steel industry joining as well.

Conclusions and further research

At this early stage, we have been able to identify a few preliminary conclusions, that in most cases also are should be subject to further research.

The effectiveness of non-state actor engagement in global climate governance needs attention. The Fossil Free Sweden initiative is a clear example of how the mode of Lima Paris Action Agenda has transformed into equivalent national actions, with the aim of collecting and mobilizing action for both direct and indirect effects on emission reductions and policy formation. The ambition to create a narrative that helps to drive climate policies forward, however seems to lay on anecdotal evidence and a “feeling” that if non-state actors are being involved, they feel an ownership and becomes part of a movement that helps policy makers on different level to make more bold decisions.

The relationship between the design of institutional rules and level of enthusiasm for participati-on needs exploration. The degree of formalisation and review of commitments is an issue for the NAZCA as well as FFS. It seem to be that policy makers understands that there is a point where requirements for formal commitments becomes an obstacle for actors joining, which must be balanced against the risk of greenwashing. However, where exactly this balancing point is, remains unclear. It likely depends on the purpose of the platform – the need for formalisation and review are probably higher in a platform aiming for direct emission reductions than in a platform which main target is to help creating a narrative around an inevitable transformation to a low carbon society. Moreover, some argue that the LPAA and NAZCA needs to be formalised also in the coming UNFCCC-texts, thereby getting a more of official status.

The support mechanisms and management of non-state actor platforms are important for moving forward from the initiation phase. It is easier to initiate than to run platforms such as NAZCA and FFS. After the initial buzz, when a lot of actors join, members as well as outside actors start having expectations. If the organizers are not able to live up to, or manage, these expectations, the initial enthusiasm of members may fade out. This require resources, and what at first seemed to be a rather easy way of getting attention and show-casing ambition, may evolve into a coordination of multiple actors with different needs and wishes.

[1] Data collected from NAZCA, September 2016. Small discrepancies (< 5 % ) between the NAZCA homepage and the data presented in this brief may occur.

[2] The remained of this brief works with an adjusted data-set which removes double entries from cities participating in the “Covenant of Mayors”, a cooperative initiative for urban climate action. The adjusted total number of commitments is 9,908, the total numbers of actors or countries represented remain unchanged.

[3] The large share of actors in Italy is primarily the result of the ‘’Covenant of Mayors”, a European cooperative initiative for urban climate action, accounting for over 90 % of all the italian entries in NAZCA. For Sweden, this same number is about 30 %.





[8] Interview held 25 October 2016.

Updated report on Mapping the institutional architecture on global climate change governance

June 1, 2016 in Publications

We are really happy and proud to announce an updated version of last years technical report on Mapping the Institutional Architecture of Global Climate Change Governance.

Some of the highlights include:

  • 89 international and transnational institutions
  • Overview statistics for all institutions and their thematic focus, functions, year of initiation, and type
  • Description of 12,604 members to the institutions, in total, 10,750 unique entries
  • Easily accessible graphs and visualizations
  • Full explanations of how the data-collection has been carried out

You can download the report here or go to our ‘publications’ page.

Should you have any questions, comments or critique, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

New article on cooperative initatives for decarbonization

May 23, 2016 in News, Publications

We’re happy to share the news that a new paper by CONNECT core member Oscar Widerberg and Johannes Stripple at Lund University called ‘The expanding field of cooperative initiatives for decarbonization: a review of five databases’ has been published in WIRE’s Climate Change.

The article provides an overview of the data-availability for evaluating the performance of cooperative initiatives for decarbonization. The authors argue that “currently lack information to assess how existing initiatives perform in relation to the socio‐technical systems they are intended to intervene in, or how initiatives align, scale‐up, and form low‐carbon pathways. Given the increasingly important role and legitimacy attributed to cooperative initiatives in addressing climate change, we argue that focusing more on gathering ex post data, improving exchange between academic and policy‐oriented work, and developing assessment methods accommodating diversity in terms of function, goal, and output, are needed to understand the performance of climate governance beyond the UNFCCC.

You can access the article here.

Few places left for summer school on governing climate change

May 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

There are still a few places open for those interesting in applying for the Amsterdam Summer School on governing climate change. The course examines different approaches for coping with climate change, from international agreements to market-based solutions and private activities. Theory is mixed with practice through lectures, discussions, games and excursions to provide concrete examples of how the issue is being addressed at various levels and by various actors. Along the way students will meet scientists, policymakers and lobbyists all working on climate change.

For more information and how to apply, following the link:


Are cities coming to the rescue on climate change?

April 4, 2016 in Publications

We’re proud to present a new paper just published by International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economic on cities and climate change. In the paper – co-authored by Jennifer Bansard, Philipp Pattberg and Oscar Widerberg – 13 transnational city networks are scrunitized looking at how they connect, what they promise and what theire ambition levels are.

The journal is available through Open Access here.

And here’s the abstract:

Cities to the rescue? Assessing the performance of transnational municipal networks in global climate governance

Despite the proliferation and promise of subnational climate initiatives, the institutional architecture of transnational municipal networks (TMNs) is not well understood. With a view to close this research gap, the article empirically assesses the assumption that TMNs are a viable substitute for ambitious international action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It addresses the aggregate phenomenon in terms of geographical distribution, central players, mitigation ambition and monitoring provisions. Examining thirteen networks, it finds that membership in TMNs is skewed toward Europe and North America while countries from the Global South are underrepresented; that only a minority of networks commit to quantified emission reductions and that these are not more ambitious than Parties to the UNFCCC; and finally that the monitoring provisions are fairly limited. In sum, the article shows that transnational municipal networks are not (yet) the representative, ambitious and transparent player they are thought to be.

For further questions, contact the authors of the paper.

Harnessing company climate action beyond Paris

February 17, 2016 in News, Publications

We’re very happy to finally publish our new report: Harnessing company climate action beyond Paris, written for the Swedish think-tank Fores. It looks at companies’ engagement in climate change and in particular in the context of the UNFCCC. We use data from the CONNECT project and the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) to explore networks and committments of companies to address climate change.

“The inability of governments to steer the global community towards a safe de-carbonization pathway has left an ‘ambition gap’ between projected emissions levels and the goal of limiting global warming to 2° Celsius. In the run-up to COP21 in Paris, the private sector and its potential to help bridge this gap have drawn considerable attention. For instance, the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) and the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) have boosted attention, legitimacy, and research into non-state climate action by recording thousands of commitments made by cooperative initiatives comprised of hundreds of companies and investors. This report explores companies’ climate actions by surveying past studies and new data on 2,111 companies spread across 101 cooperative initiatives in the NAZCA database and the CONNECT project. Starting from the premise that non-state action should be additional to government action in order to close the ambition gap, we focus on the discrepancies between potential and actual cooperative initiative participant performance. This study illustrates how companies collaborate with one another – in addition to working with the government and civil society – which results in an intricate web of global climate governance.

We find that companies researched here is heavily skewed towards the Global North and from sectors with relatively small emissions. Key companies have a patchy track-record in achieving net GHG reductions, and information on the actual performance of companies in cooperative initiatives is scarce. In fact, available ex-post data on emissions reductions paints a somber picture in which actual mitigation levels remain far below estimated potential mitigation levels. Moreover, the impact of overlaps in participation between cooperative initiatives and the national accounts remains largely unknown. Available estimations diverge considerably. To harness the massive potential of companies taking climate action, both in terms of direct GHG emissions reductions and through indirect actions like information exchange and influencing future country pledges, our study recommends five actions:

  1. Develop common performance criteria for cooperative initiatives that accommodate the diversity of initiatives and actions, while simultaneously safeguarding the ability to tangibly assess the success/failure of reaching stated goals. Direct cuts in GHG emissions should be a criteria, however, since many cooperative initiatives do not aim to cut emissions, using a number of other output-based variables could prove interesting. To the utmost extent possible, performance criteria should be streamlined with available data registries in order to simplify and improve potential reporting procedures.
  2. Make progress reporting using common criteria compulsory for cooperative initiatives featured on homepages and publications of international organizations (e.g., NAZCA). Compulsory reporting with common criteria should be put in place in return for the substantial good-will and positive exposure provided for those companies that engage in climate change action.
  3. Carry out regular reviews of cooperative initiatives based on progress reporting and other previously developed performance criteria. This could be carried out by civil society actors, technical experts, and international organizations to assess progress towards commitments, as well as identifying leaders and laggards. Identifying success factors and challenges also enables learning and adaptation within the initiatives, possibly improving their performance.
  4. Support key players by raising awareness about front-runners and champions. A ranking of key players in cooperative initiatives – according to a number of criteria like actual progress against concrete targets and scope of engagement – could induce a race-to-the-top situation where companies would compete to be climate action champions.
  5. Provide encouragement and support for companies in developing countries to join cooperative initiatives so as to increase the involvement and ownership of companies in developing countries and their supporting governments. For this to succeed, information about cooperative initiatives and company involvement needs to become more accessible for UNFCCC member states. The LPAA could play a major role in this respect.

To summarize, we are cautiously optimistic about the increased integration of companies into the global climate change regime. Increased engagement by companies may, in the long run, help countries to over achieve or surpass their pledges, thus stimulating more ambitious pledges. Companies are key in reducing emissions. Still, one should exercise caution when expecting companies’ voluntary initiatives to close the ambition gap.”

The report has been published within the context of Fores’ Climate and Environmental Policies program and the Fores Reference Group for International Climate Policy. The reference group gathers policy makers, companies, NGOs, negotiators, and academics together to discuss the international COP climate summits, their outcomes and their relevance for the industry, policy makers and society as a whole.

Access the full report here.

Book launch: Environmental Politics and Governance in the Anthropocene

February 4, 2016 in News, Publications

If it is true that we have entered a new geological epoch called ‘the Anthropocene’ where humans are the dominating force of nature, what does that mean for global environmental governance? This is the central question for a new book edited by Philipp Pattberg and Fariborz Zelli. It consists of 12 contributions trying to make sense of the Anthropocene, explore its implications for institutional design, and core questions on accountability and legitimacy. During the book launch we will present and reflect on each questions together with chapter authors and distinguished scholars in the field. A sandwich lunch and tea/coffee will be provided, and there will be much room for questions and discussion from the audience.

The book launch takes place in Amsterdam and be hosted by Philipp Pattberg and Fariborz Zelli. Other invited speakers are Prof. Dr. Frank Biermann at Utrecht University, Aysem Mert and James Patterson, both at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Date:     Friday, February 19, 2016

Time:    09:45 – 13:00

Place:    C541/C543 Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at the Faculty for Earth and Life Sciences (FALW), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. De Boelelaan 1085. 1081HV, Amsterdam

For more info on the launch, check out the flyer here.


Inaugural lecture Philipp Pattberg on February 19th

January 20, 2016 in News

To officially start his appointment as chair of Transnational Environmental Governance and Policy at the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Philipp Pattberg will give his inaugural lecture, titled ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE IN THE ANTHROPOCENE: COMPLEXITY, FRAGMENTATION AND THE ROLE OF TRANSNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, on 19 February at 15:45 hrs, VU Aula.

Download the flyer here.

More information (in Dutch) is available here.

New paper: Reinvigorating International Climate Policy: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Nonstate Action

November 26, 2015 in Publications

We’re proud and happy to have been part of an outstanding team of researchers that produced a new paper published in Global Policy called Reinvigorating International Climate Policy: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Nonstate Action. Under the excellent leadership of Sander Chan (DIE), Harro van Asselt (SEI-Oxford) and Thomas Hale (Oxford University), parts of the CONNECT team, Philipp Pattberg and Oscar Widerberg, have contributed to developing a  “comprehensive framework for sub- and nonstate climate actions”.

As countries negotiate a new climate agreement for the United Nations climate conference in December 2015, a groundswell of climate actions is emerging as cities, regions, businesses and civil society groups act on mitigation and adaptation, independently, with each other and with national governments and international organizations. The Paris conference provides a historic opportunity to establish a framework to catalyse, support, and steer these initiatives. Without such a framework, ‘bottom-up’ climate governance runs the risk of failing to deliver meaningful results. Social science research highlights the need for a comprehensive approach that promotes ambition, experimentation and accountability, and avoids unnecessary overlaps. This article specifies functions and design principles for a new, comprehensive framework for sub- and nonstate climate actions that could provide effective coordination.

The full paper is currently accessible via Open Access on the Global Policy homepage.

Philipp Pattberg publishes Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Governance and Politics

November 26, 2015 in Publications

Providing its readers with a unique point of reference, as well as stimulus for further research, the Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Governance and Politics is an indispensable tool for anyone interested in the governance and politics of the environment, particularly students, researchers and practitioners. This comprehensive reference work, written by some of the most eminent academics in the field, contains entries on numerous aspects of global environmental governance and politics, including concepts and definitions; theories and methods; actors; institutions; issue-areas; cross-cutting questions; and overlaps with non-environmental fields. The book is co-edited with Fariborz Zelli from Lund University, Sweden.

Read more on how to get a copy here