Managing climate change: Challenges related to uncertainty, distributional impacts, technology transfer and transnational governance

Daniel Puig

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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The Paris Agreement, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, lays out the international community’s blueprint for curbing global warming. It is a blueprint articulated around the individual contributions that each party to the Convention is prepared to make, in light of its capabilities and the so-called principle of common-but-differentiated responsibilities. This thesis explores how national governments are responding to the challenges associated with determining the nature and scope of those contributions, and implementing them. The thesis focuses on four challenges that are common to most, if not all, governments: integrating uncertainty into national-level policies and plans; reducing regressive distributional impacts associated with measures to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change; increasing low income-country access to the technologies needed to curb climate change; and governing climate change
transnationally. Each challenge is explored through two articles, thus allowing for a more nuanced analysis.

Limited or no performance requirements for certain aspects of the policy-making process is at the heart of some of the challenges faced by governments. Two examples serve to illustrate this point. First, national-level policy planning relies on projections of greenhouse-gas emissions. For the most, these projections fail to reflect current knowledge with regard to uncertainty management. Minimum quality standards could help reverse this trend, thus increasing the robustness of national policy plans and, indirectly, strengthening the international climate change regime. Second, because climate change governance increasingly involves actors other than national governments – from businesses, to subnational and supranational governmental entities, to non-governmental organisations –, the need to introduce performance requirements extends beyond national governments. Specifically, the Paris Agreement, and subsequent decisions by the parties to the Convention, effectively suggest that non-state actors will help deliver on the goals of the Convention, making up for potentially insufficient delivery by state actors. Irrespective of the ability of non-state actors to live up to these xpectations, in most cases their actions are not subject to basic accountability mechanisms. Such lack of transparency, which performance requirements could counter, risks undermining the otherwise sensible goal of harnessing non-state actor ingenuity and resources, to complement state actor action.

In areas where evaluative evidence is available, such as technology transfer or distributional impacts, limited uptake of that evidence in the policy-making process represents a second type of challenge faced by governments. The thesis studies a number of cases in these two areas, and notes avoidable programme-design shortcomings. Reasons for the prevalence of these shortcomings are likely to be structural: policy evaluations struggle to determine counterfactuals and establish attribution, and governance arrangements and regulatory frameworks often need revision.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages264
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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