Cities, regions, companies, investors and civil society organizations made headlines last year, coming forward in record numbers to commit to climate action alongside national leaders at the Paris Climate Conference. This November, the international community gathered again in Marrakesh, Morocco at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP-22), where the conversation focused on the nuts and bolts of delivering the Paris Agreement.

One hundred and fifteen countries, representing over 78 percent of global emissions, have formally joined the Paris Agreement, pledging to: keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees C and pursue a 1.5 degrees C target; lower global emissions to zero in the second half of the century; and build resilience to the impacts of climate change. Meeting these goals will require accelerating the speed and scale of mitigation and adaptation, and expanding funding and access to financing.

Cities and regions (subnational actors) along with companies, investors, and civil society organizations (non-state actors) can help generate this momentum. They are taking action at an unprecedented scale, helping national governments reach their goals and demonstrating paths towards more ambitious commitments. These actors have made over 12,500 climate action commitments, encompassing pledges from over 2,138 companies representing $36.6 trillion USD in revenue, cities representing 10.2 percent of the global population, and 16 of the world’s 20 largest banksin terms of market capitalization.

On November 16, 2016, the Yale Data-Driven Environmental Solutions Group, The Stanley Foundation and the Galvanizing the Groundswell of Climate Action Coalition, in partnership with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, convened a workshop on Tracking and Aggregating Non-State and Sub-National Climate Action Toward 2018. Researchers, analysts, and data providers gathered to discuss the key priorities and challenges in building an effective evidence base to drive climate action forward. Some of the highlights and key take-aways from this discussion follow below.  

Priorities to Guide Research and Data Collection Efforts

1) Create effective ways to aggregate different forms of climate action data.

Many networks build, support, and track climate action across peer networks of cities, companies, investors, and civil society organizations. Harmonizing data collection methods and aggregating data from different sources, while still safeguarding data providers’ operational models, will be a key first step towards creating a comprehensive picture of global climate action.

A clear sense of the scope and impact of subnational and non-state climate action will be especially important in light of several analyses planned for 2018. A Facilitative Dialogue will assess countries’ progress towards the mitigation goals of the Paris Agreement, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release a report on the impacts and potential pathways towards a global temperature rise of 1.5°C. An analysis of subnational and non-state actors’ contribution to these scenarios can complement these analyses, by demonstrating the additional contributions these actions can help achieve.   

2) Harmonize methodologies for analyzing climate action.

Researchers and analysts  employ  different strategies for assessing the impact of subnational and non-state climate action. For instance, analyses differ in approaches to determining the level of overlap across sub-national activities (i.e., between two initiatives that both focus on enhancing renewable energy) and between sub-national, non-state and national governments (i.e., between a city and a national government that may both account for the same activity). Baseline definitions or “business as usual” activities can also vary across studies. Clarifying and developing common analytical approaches and definitions would help compare and connect analysis around subnational and non-state climate action.

3) Track how goals, results and ambition evolve over time.

To date, much of the information on subnational and non-state climate action has focused on the scale of participation and pledged actions. Tracking the implementation of these climate actions, and whether goals are actually achieved, is crucial to understanding how these actors’ contributions fit within global mitigation goals.

4) Identify and understand gaps in participation, types of climate action, and reporting.

While reports of climate action in Sub-Saharan African cities have grown nearly seven-fold between 2015 and 2016, data capturing climate action in the many developing countries remains incomplete. Data on climate action focused on resilience, adaptation, and the activities of small and medium enterprises and major polluters also remains sparse. Continuing to identify gaps, and investigate their causes, is important to broadening participation in climate action.

Strategies for Leveraging Data Analysis 

1) Close the loop: report data trends and best practices back to the actors that provide this information.

Making sub-national data and analysis available can help drive a race to the top, particularly among local and regional government and companies operating within the same sector. Sharing information can also help form networks and spark the exchange of best practices between participants taking action on similar goals.

2) Bridge the funding and resource gap that currently faces many governments eager to take climate action.

For many subnational governments, a lack of funding or technical capacity can frustrate attempts to implement or scale up climate action. Demonstrating the contributions that subnational and non-state climate actions make to national goals would  help attract critical resources and funding, to help fill this gap.

Strengthening both data analysis — and its application — will help continue to drive climate action at all levels forward.   

A full synopsis of the workshop can also be found here.