Climate Change
Climate Diplomacy
Private Sector
Global Issues
Stephan Wolters, adelphi

Foreign policy has had an important role to play in supporting international climate negotiations by reaching out to partner countries bilaterally and making the case for more ambitious climate action. A global climate agreement this December will be a game changer for climate diplomacy. However, this does not mean that climate diplomats can lean back afterwards – judging by the INDCs, we will need to do more than what the agreement in Paris is likely to achieve. Diplomats will have to shift their focus, from working towards an ambitious, comprehensive, legally binding climate agreement to the needs beyond it. And there are plenty. Catalyzing the climate economy will be at the heart of it: more than ever, after COP21, it can serve as a much-needed accelerator for a climate-friendly trajectory.

For too long, we’ve discussed how to share the burden of saving the planet. But in fact, climate action presents a huge business opportunity and, therefore, the opportunity to grow the economy sustainably. That is to say: it is in every nation’s individual interest to pursue climate-compatible development pathways. The New Climate Economy report shows that up to 90% of climate actions required to stay below 2° warming are compatible with economic development and broadly shared improvements in living standards. Many of these investments are profitable even without considering their benefits for the climate. For example, the health benefits of reducing air pollution in cities by shifting from cars to buses and bicycles are huge.

The key argument, therefore, that diplomats will have to convey more strongly than ever before is: if we don’t put an adequate price on carbon, we are effectively subsidizing (and locking in) the use of fossil fuels and other carbon-intensive resources and processes – at great cost to human lives, the environment, and the economy. Comparing the costs and all benefits shows: climate action is an imperative because it makes economic sense.

Thinking about climate and economy together will also help address climate-fragility risks, both directly and indirectly, as laid out in the integrated resilience agenda put forward by the report “A New Climate for Peace”. There is a direct link, because it will catalyze investments with strong synergies for reducing risk factors such as volatile food provision, local resource competition, and insecure livelihoods. And it indirectly addresses these risks by driving climate change mitigation in the first place.

Of course, there are reasons why implementation is lagging behind. A lot of them pertain to the political economy, a finding supported by research from Lord Stern’s institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science. These include some benefits shifting between groups, or hesitations to invest without credible long-term political signals.

We will need to highlight all of these opportunities, not only in the narrow environmental and climate discourse, but much more broadly – be it in economic ministries, in line ministries e.g. for transport, energy or land use, or of course in the business community. With their cross-sectoral convening power and bilateral relations, diplomats can stimulate feeding these opportunities into these discourses. To do so, they can share examples of good practice from across the globe, and provide lessons learnt from less effective policies. And finally, they can scope and facilitate bilateral cooperative actions – such as improving the climate for green investments or promoting joint research and innovation. Intensifying these efforts will help build momentum to drive the climate economy and pave the way for increasing ambition in a periodic review mechanism of the climate agreement.


Natasha Vizcarra, Global Landscapes Forum

Now in its second decade, the ambitious African Union–led restoration initiative known as the Great Green Wall has brought close to 18 million hectares of land under restoration since 2007, according to a status report unveiled by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) at a virtual meeting on Monday, 7 September.

Adaptation & Resilience
Global Issues
Anne Hammill, IISD

Though focused on climate change, National Adaptation Plans offer important assessments of the risks a country faces and can be valuable in devising comprehensive pandemic response strategies.

Global Issues
Raquel Munayer, adelphi

As part of this year’s online World Water Week at Home, adelphi and IHE Delft convened the workshop "Water diplomacy: a tool for climate action?". The workshop reflected on the role that foreign policy can play in mitigating, solving and potentially preventing conflicts over the management of transboundary water resources, especially in a changing climate.

South America
Adriana E. Abdenur, Igarapé Institute

The Cerrado, a tropical savannah region located in Central Brazil, is nearly half as large as the Amazon and a deforestation hotspot. Yet little attention is paid to this important biome. That has to change.