Briefing | 12/2017

Enabling subnational climate action through multi-level governance

Why is subnational climate action necessary? Is it even necessary? In the end, states negotiate and define the international climate agenda, they define the national – and even international – conditions for climate policy and action. Wouldn’t it suffice to concentrate on well-designed national policies? Yes and no. It is by now well known, that the international commitments laid down in the NDCs are not sufficient to keep global warming below 2 degree Celsius. The subnational levels – above all cities – can contribute here, though they can’t close the gap either. That cities, regions, federal states and others are a vital force for mitigation has been shown impressively already. States can and should work more in order to facilitate subnational climate action.
The better designed national policies are, the more they take into account their lower levels. However, the subnational levels frequently lament that the national level does not consider them enough: the state is seen as too detached from local problems, does not know well enough local realities and needs, has no grasp on the difficulties of climate projects on the ground. But exactly this is needed to make climate action efficient.
No state can implement meaningful mitigation action without its cities. No city can effectively work on mitigation without a proper framework set by the state. It is a mutual dependence – one that can and should be used to multiply forces, not contradict each other. Therefore, it is vital that the subnational levels feel well integrated in national climate policies and have their say in their development. By the same token, the state has to depend on its subnational levels to fulfill their part in national mitigation efforts. When pondering how best to achieve this, states (regions, departments, cities) can learn from each other. There is no such thing as a single climate champion who has successfully achieved a fully vertically integrated climate policy.
Vertical integration is a process that never ends, that develops, matures, changes over time. Constant learning from each other on the international stage is therefore necessary – good as well as not so good lessons, in order to know what better to avoid or what to imitate. Therefore ICLEI, UN Habitat and GIZ have teamed up and wrote a working paper on lessons learnt and good examples of climate policies that unlock the potential of cities, regions and other subnational actors. These include the experiences of five countries - Colombia, Germany, South Africa, Mexico and Myanmar- in the implementation of instruments, such as federal initiatives for local action, MRV systems, financial mechanisms, and institutional arrangements with a climate governance focus.

Further publications related to the International Climate Initiative and its projects can be found in the publications section of our website.