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  • Einat Elazari

Climate Governance: A Blueprint for the Nation-State

[Originally published on "Global Risk Insights" on January 24th, 2022. Click here to see the original publication]

National Governments’ enormous power should be translated into effective actions in climate governance. That includes both maximizing its own capabilities to mitigate climate change, and playing a central role in collaboration with other actors in the ecosystem of climate mitigation action.

The nation-state is still the most powerful political sovereign entity in the world and owns unprecedented power: military power, political power, economic power, enforcement, legislation, and more. It is also the most powerful actor in terms of population mobilization into action, including in crisis times.

When it comes to climate change mitigation, nation-states are far from transforming their different tools into fully effective climate change mitigation actions. I look to review the nation-states’ different resources and how they should collaborate with other authorities, to effectively join hands in this effort.

Translating state power into effective climate mitigation actions

There are two major actions the state should focus on to boost the efforts on climate change: regulatory actions and mobilization actions.

Regulations: The state should be responsible for a comprehensive set of rules, norms, standards, orders, and policies, as it is the sole player that owns legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of government. These should provide clear and structured guidelines regarding the sustainability goals of the state, and the ways to reach them. They should also provide clear guidelines regarding the necessary enforcement tools needed in each case.

Mobilization: The state should act to incentivize different players to be part of the climate change mitigation efforts. This should be done through the creation of an incentives system where public money attracts private investors to support and fund different solutions or current efforts. It should also boost public state investments in research and development.

The mobilization of non-state actors is a complex and difficult task to perform by the state alone. Only through effective collaboration with public and private actors can the state push through climate action’s biggest challenges.

Within the concept of an ecosystem of action, there is an emphasis on the ways nation-states should collaborate with local authorities (municipalities mainly), and international organisations: in this reciprocal dynamic, data sharing is a key factor between all three as a tool to monitor a correct process of progress in climate goals. Another key factor is guidelines provision: the state’s different legislative tools (regulations, rules, investments, etc.) should be instrumentalized by local authorities as general guidelines to achieve climate goals. The state must also collaborate with different international organizations to gain from their professional, research-driven recommendations through joining their different forums, conventions and treaties.

Green Economy as a guiding concept

The concept of a green economy highlights the role of investments, allocation of capital and infrastructure, employment, skills, and positive social outcomes in climate governance. It also suggests that only through large-scale mobilization of economic, financial, infrastructure, and regulative elements, is a successful implementation of a green economy possible. According to the UN, the state has a pivotal role in the implementation of a green economy as these investments are driven by or supported by, national policy reforms and the development of international policy and market infrastructure. Therefore, it is an effective tool by the hand of the state that promises to strive for both economic growth and a higher level of social inclusivity.

Examples from the past show that it is acute for states to show political will, set realistic objectives, and adopt policy reforms, coupled with regulations and relevant financial incentives. Only then, will they be able to achieve notable results both in terms of sustainability goals in the country, and socio-economic improved conditions in the shape of jobs creation, more affordable resources for all, reduction of poverty, and more.

Yet, the role of the state in creating a green economy does not end with the mobilization of large-scale investments, regulations, and funding – it must strive to strengthen its collaboration with the international community. According to the US Green New Deal Plan, one of the most comprehensive and ambitious plans from a nation-state to mitigate climate change, the administration must work with the international community to accomplish the plan’s goals.

Lacking Collaboration: the Risk

Nations states own many resources that they can use in the effort to mitigate climate change more effectively. However, nation-states alone can not have an optimal impact without collaborating with other actors. Addressing the ways the state should work with other governing authorities in climate governance is crucial. Without effective communication, data sharing, feedback, and guidelines provisions, states will face serious obstacles in achieving their climate goals, whatever they may be. Without effective collaboration with cities and local authorities, states won’t have a realistic full picture on the execution of their policies, and without working closely with international organizations, they will miss various vital guidelines, information, and research opportunities from international treaties, conventions, and forums.

Among their many tasks in addressing the climate change crisis, states should look into strengthening their existing relationships with local authorities and international organisations, making sure they are optimising their communications and data sharing options with both. They should be working to set realistic yet ambitious climate goals, accompanied with adequate regulative tools to boost the progress of achieving them. Failing to do so is simply too risky to happen.

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