Non-state actors in climate cooperation

Icke statliga aktörer

Companies are included in steering groups that calculate how carbon credits will be distributed. Indigenous peoples organizations contribute with new perspectives when emission reductions are concretized. Like many other organizations, they organize seminars in conjunction with the UN Climate Summits. The world’s states are indeed the official actors in the climate negotiations, but non-state actors also play an important role. This research program focuses on how and with what results.

 Two contradictory tendencies have characterized international climate cooperation in recent years. On the one hand, the UN climate negotiations are increasingly more questioned and a number of climate initiatives are taken outside of these negotiations by states, individual companies and organizations. On the other hand, the UN climate summits continue to gather historically large numbers of participants especially from non-governmental organizations. Also, the importance of more non-state actors for future agreements is emphasized within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Meanwhile, the negotiations have repeatedly been kept closed for these groups.

The research program investigates interfaces and interactions within climate diplomacy between governmental representatives and non-state business groups, environmental organizations, local decision makers and indigenous people. It consists of two interconnected projects. The first one focuses on non-state actors in the United Nations-operated climate cooperation. The second project investigates non-governmental climate work at the transnational level, that is between several countries but not necessarily all UN countries.

The program is divided into three sub-studies. The first one identifies steering functions that are delegated to non-state actors in the intergovernmental UN cooperation. The second study analyzes the relationship between governmental and non-governmental climate governance in several case studies. One example is the Clean Development Mechanism where companies are involved in the steering groups that determine what is calculated and what is not, when emission reductions are valued. Another example is REDD plus, an extended system to prevent deforestation where indigenous peoples organizations contribute with perspectives on how deforestation can be prevented without affecting indigenous people in the areas affected. The third study analyzes the consequences of intergovernmental climate diplomacy and the development of transnational steering functions, and its impact on democracy and governance.

One outcome of the research program is that the UN leadership has upgraded non-state actors’ role in disseminating knowledge and building competence. These actors have had stricter requirements on how to make knowledge accessible also outside the seminars in which it is presented. In line with recommendations from one of the project’s publications, there is now a recommendation on the UNFCCC website that the presentations ought to be available through the UN websites.

Several methods are used in the research program: a survey for the participants in the intergovernmental negotiations and the Climate Summit side events, interviews with key persons as well as document studies and observation of negotiations. Results are interpreted in light of theories of transnational governance and non-state actors’ role in decision-making. The projects provide increased knowledge of non-governmental organizations’ significance for authority, transparency, legitimacy, efficiency, and the symbolic value of international cooperation. Also, the study further develops an internationally unique database of questionnaires gathered annually at the UN climate negotiations.

Project title: Non-State Actors in the New Landscape of International Climate Cooperation Projektets finansiär: Vetenskapsrådet och Formas

Project leader

Researchers in the project