Climate change governance | By Dr Muhammad Mumtaz


Climate change governance

CLIMATE change is real and its impact will be severe. The world is facing multiple challenges related to climate change such as floods, heat waves, rise in temperature, unpredictable rainfall and storms among others.

Martin Weitzman and Gernot Wagner in their book Climate Shock indicated that “Climate change is unlike . . . any other public policy problem. It’s almost uniquely global, uniquely long-term, uniquely irreversible and uniquely uncertain—certainly unique in the combination of all four”.

Scientific evidence proves that the impact of climate change will be more devastating and disruptive by 2050 than today.

According to Germanwatch, it is estimated that about 500,000 people died and an amount of US$3.5 trillions was lost as a result of extreme weather conduction during the last 2 decades.

More floods, droughts, fires and heat waves are likely to be occurred in upcoming times. However, these conduction may vary from region to region and country to country.

These variations in impacts and uncertainties of climate change have complicated the situation and set complex challenges for global community to respond. These complexities of climate change demand proactive and long lasting sustainable governance initiatives from local to global level.

Climate change has been recognized as a global issue and efforts are being initiated to handle the devastating impacts of climate change.

Global leaders from all over the world (almost 200 countries) gather annually in conference of parties events for climate talk, to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C alive, discuss what has been achieved so far, what actions are needed to be taken and how to move forward in relation to handling the climate change.

In 2015, governments adopted the Paris Agreement (PA), agreeing to hold global average temperature rise “well below 2°C” and, if possible, 1.5°C. However, according to the United Nation Environment Programme, countries’ collective emission reduction pledges remain far from sufficient: if implemented, they would lead to a temperature increase of more than 3°C, with devastating consequences for both ecosystems and humans.

In the light of these global actions it is far to state that the world has launched a successful drive against climate change rather need to do much more. It is therefore imperative to examine the current structures and dynamics of global climate governance so as to uncover the key climate governance challenges.

At international level, the realistic scenario of international politics is unclear with respect to climate change due to diverse political and economic ambitions and it is uncertain whether all countries, especially the developed countries, that are the major emitters of global greenhouse gases will consistently hold the political will to engage in climate negotiations and climate actions.

Distorted perceptions of the climate crisis still exist at the global level and climate forums do not always attract the required levels of urgency or multi-sectoral leadership. Enormous promises and wishful decisions are made in international negotiations on climate change but normally they are not materialized as such or partially operationalized.

Most decisions made at the global level are not mandatory and the implementation relies on good faith. However, it has seen that multilateral institutions are normally slow to act, jeopardizing the fast, ambitious, and concerted actions required to address climate change.

Climate actions are taken around the world but with a slow pace and importance is given to the responses as per requirement of their own relevancy.

However, climate crisis demands aggressive, coordinated and a cross-cutting approach connecting, social, environmental, and economic efforts.

The issue of climate change is being addressed on an ad hoc basis but it must be taken on planned and permanent basis in view the challenging nature of climate change.

The issue of climate change is being tackled in short-term and only address the immediate effects of the crises.

However, the ‘wicket’ problem of climate change demands proactive and concerted efforts where climate impacts must be anticipated and relevant actions should be initiated.

It is therefore, global community has to come out of the business as usual approach and it is high time to mobilize global resources considering the cruelty of climate change and the stakes of upcoming generations in order to produce effective climate governance.

The 2009 UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen has often been described as a turning point for global climate politics that paved the way to replace top-down universal approach to global climate governance to a much more decentralized climate policy architecture.

This conference has set the ground for the ‘hybrid multilateralism’ which was institutionalized through the PA. The PA was crucial milestone in climate governance that has brought together the international community’s consensus to actively respond to climate change.

The PA recognizes the role of non-Party stakeholders in addressing climate change, including cities, other subnational authorities, civil society, the private sector and others.

The shift in climate governance from top-down to bottom-up promoting multi-level governance appears a promising way but it has also various challenges and hurdles that must be addressed. The subject of climate change has been devolved to lower level of governments in many countries such as Pakistan.

The formulation of climate change policies and action plans rest with subnational or local governments. However, these lower level of governments may not be fully in a position to devise comprehensive policies and plans due to lack of coordination and absence of experience dealing with such complex issue at subnational and local level. Climate change decision-making processes are complex and involve multiple actors.

Governments at local level also consist of multiple agencies, each with a defined portfolio of responsibilities. One department might work for managing water resources while other might provide sewerage services and others are engaged with other services.

To manage the complex challenge of climate change, these all departments and institutions have to work in coordination. However, evidences show that there is limited coordination among the local departments while dealing with climate change.

To be successful against climate drive, nations need to integrate coordination among different government levels and non-government actors must be involved.

The PA institutionalizes an intricate interplay between state and non-state, multilateral and transnational climate action.

It is assumed that power and authority are drifting from sovereign states to non-state actors at reginal and local scale, making it complex climate regime changing mechanisms where national governments have limited power and influence in decision making.

However, there is need to understand that local governments are in a better position to act against the local challenges but they need full supports from upper tiers of the governments.

It is therefore highly desirable to align non-state and intergovernmental relations especially at horizontal and vertical level to produce robust climate governance and meaningful actions.

Efforts are needed to accelerate climate actions by facilitating dialogue, knowledge exchange and cooperation among governmental institutions and state and non-state actors to shape effective climate governance.

—The writer is working as Assistant Professor at the Department of Public Administration, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.