Climate change

Successfully addressing the climate change challenge will only be achieved, and sustained, through involvement and commitment at all levels of decision-making. In particular, sub-national authorities (regions, provinces, states or municipalities) have a key role to play in actively incorporating climate change considerations in day-to-day business and in introducing climate-friendly policies, regulations and investment decisions at their level, as a direct outreach to the public

United Nations Development Programme

What is the challenge ahead of us? - One commong goal, lots of global actors and actions - nrg4SD action and partnerships - nrg4SD Position and Advocacy Papers - nrg4SD Technical Papers - Events - What's coming up?

What is the challenge ahead of us?

Climate change is one of the main challenges humankind is facing. The changes that our planet has undergone throughout its history are a result of natural factors like tiny changes in the Earth's path around the sun, volcanic activity and fluctuations within the climate system. However, humans are having an increasing influence on our climate by burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests and farming livestock.

Rising sea levels, increasing precipitations and floods, desertification and droughts are some of the consequences of climate change currently experienced across the planet. Depletion of natural resources, permanent modification of habitats, climate induced migration, food security issues and increased poverty gaps particularly are some of key issues related to climate change.

According to scientists, a temperature increase of more than 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature in the next decades will have a serious and irreversible impact on the world economy and societies. That is just 1.2°C above today's level.

To stay within this ceiling, our societies have to halt the rising trend in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions before 2020 - at least halve global emissions by the middle of this century and continue cutting them thereafter

One common goal, lots of global actors and actions

Most countries have joined an international treaty - the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was adopted at the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit - to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. In 1997, a number of nations approved an addition to the treaty: the Kyoto Protocol, which provides more powerful (and legally binding) measures, targets and mechanisms aiming to commit States, in their capacity of signatory parties, to reduce their GHG emissions.

The global action to tackle climate change is twofold: on the one hand, mitigation policies are implemented to cut GHG emissions generated by human activities and to prevent further temperature increase; on the other hand, territories should be prepared to the impacts of climate change through adaptation policies, such as risk reduction and prevention strategies as well as resilience strengthening activities.

The European Union (EU) is one of the leading actors in tackling climate change. The Kyoto Protocol requires the 15 countries that were EU members at the time ('EU-15') to reduce their collective emissions in the 2008-2012 period to 8% below 1990 levels. Emissions monitoring and projections show that the EU-15 is well on track to meet this target. The EU’s commitment to reduce GHG emissions is addressed by the 2020 targets and the recently released ‘Roadmap towards a low-carbon economy in 2050’, which illustrate its effort to cut emissions by 20% in 2020 and by 80% in 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This GHG emissions reduction will be possible in a first stage through an increase of renewable energies up to 20% of the EU overall energy consumption and a 20% growth in terms energy efficiency by 2020. The EU has also offered to increase its emissions reduction to 30% by 2020, on condition that other major emitting countries in the developed and developing worlds commit to do their fair share under a future global climate agreement. The EU advocates that this agreement should take effect at the start of 2013 when the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period will have expired.

The Cancun Agreements – adopted at the 16th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 16) that took place in Mexico in December 2010 - represent an important step on the road to building a comprehensive and legally binding framework for climate action for the period after 2012.

Subnational governments are particularly well placed for identifying the needs and the strengths of their societies in their climate action, and they are often responsible for the elaboration and implementation of policy, legislation, fiscal mechanisms and public investments plans in several areas - such as transport, energy, the environment, agriculture, forestry, industry, spatial planning, resource management, technology development and transfer, civil protection or development cooperation - that directly influence GHG emissions levels and deal with the impacts of climate change.  

Subnational governments from all over the world have demonstrated in a number of ways that their contribution and leadership is essential to help achieve the ultimate objectives of the UNFCCC since, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 50% to 80% of adaptation and mitigation actions necessary to tackle climate change are or will be implemented at the subnational or local level of governance.

Subnational governments are determined to address the issues of climate change and the economic difficulties many of them are facing by turning these challenges into an opportunity to move towards greener, smarter and more inclusive societies.

In the last years, subnational governments have concretely shown that they take their climate change responsibilities very seriously. In fact, their accomplishments in this area have grown tremendously in sophistication, effectiveness and importance. The important lessons being learned at the subnational level can often feed into and improve national policy and shape more ambitious and innovative responses to climate change.

nrg4SD action and partnerships on behalf of its members

Thanks to its direct work with the UNFCCC and the EU, nrg4SD represents its member subnational governments directly at international negotiations by:

  • Tirelessly advocating for a better recognition of the crucial contribution of subnational governments to climate change action;
  • Consistently working with the UNFCCC Secretariat and working groups on technical issues;
  • Regularly bringing into the debate delegations and grass roots initiatives from the subnational level, and
  • Getting involved in the Local Government and Municipal Authorities Major Group of stakeholders recognised by UNFCCC, and 
  • Building upon the strength of having some of its member subnational governments taking part in their respective national delegations, nrg4SD establishes direct links with the Parties to the Convention.

nrg4SD's partnerships on behalf of its members

Through the years nrg4SD has likewise established privileged partnerships with other organisations representing local governments, such as ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and United Cities and Local Government UCLG, as well as the private sector, such as The °Cimate Group. nrg4SD collaborates regularly with its partners to maximise the recognition and visibility of subnational initiatives on climate change.

Another key partnership over the past years has taken nrg4SD and several of its members to work directly with a series of United Nations agencies in the Territorial Approach to Climate Change TACC programme. Through TACC several developed subnational governments are assisting subnational governments from developping countries on:

  • Accessing and using up-to-date climate change science, information, tools and good practices;
  • Putting in place a partnership and governance framework to address the cross-sectoral nature of climate change, and
  • Developing a climate profile and draft a climate change strategy and action plan to ensure a programmatic approach to climate change.


See the short film about the TACC project developed in Fatick, with other nrg4SD members as Rhône Alpes, Catalonia and Wallonia, all in coordination with the UNDP


nrg4SD Working Groups

nrg4SD keeps a permanent Advocacy Task Force on International Climate Change Negotiations and launched in 2011 a Technical Working Group on Financing Climate Action. The latter seeks to create capacity on carbon finance mechanisms among its member in order to enable them to set their own plans and tools, and shapes nrg4SD’s advocacy work towards the territorial dimension of international carbon finance mechanisms. More information about nrg4SD's Financing Climate Action Working Group >

nrg4SD at UNFCCC COP negotiations

nrg4SD at UNFCCC COP20, Lima, Peru, 2014 click here for more information >

nrg4SD at UNFCCC COP19, Warsaw, Poland, 2013 - click here for more information >

nrg4SD at UNFCCC COP18, Doha, Qatar, 2012 - click here for more information >

nrg4SD at UNFCCC COP17, Durban, South Africa, 2011 - click here for more information >

nrg4SD at UNFCCC COP16, Cancun, Mexico, 2010 - click here for more information >

Position, Advocacy, Reports and other Papers









Technical Papers

General papers

Documents relevant to UNFCCC COPs

Documents relevant to the Territorial Approach to Climate Change (TACC)



More past events available here >

What’s coming up?

2013 Calendar of events available here >


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