International cooperation on climate action has grown since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to yield modest progress, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but stronger collaborations are needed to overcome barriers in countries with limited capacity.
“While international cooperation is contributing to global mitigation efforts, its effects are far from uniform,” the IPCC writes in yesterday’s climate mitigation report, in an assessment of how effectively governments work across boundaries towards climate targets.
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“It remains to be seen whether it can achieve the kind of transformational changes needed to achieve the Paris agreement’s long-term global goals.”
Though “positive and measurable results” have followed international negotiations in Paris and Kyoto—like improved national capacity for greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting and a proliferation of GHG markets and low-carbon technologies—the full potential of those results depends on strengthening cooperation, especially between developed and developing countries.
Developing countries may be unable to act alone to employ effective technological solutions for climate challenges that often cross national borders and have wide-ranging impacts, writes the IPCC in a segment on technology development and transfer. “Science, technology, and innovation are essential for the design of effective measures to address climate change and, more generally, for economic and social development, but some countries may be held back by barriers like limited resources and knowledge. The report says international cooperation, aligned with domestic measures, can support advances in developing countries, citing the innovation that resulted in the rapid global uptake of wind technology.
“The sharing of knowledge and experiences between developed and developing countries can contribute to addressing global climate and sustainable development goals,” the IPCC adds, but the effectiveness of those arrangements depends “on the way they are developed and implemented.”
But various threats remain that can undermine the benefits of international cooperation, despite the collaboration cultivated by the two foundational climate agreements, the IPCC finds. For instance, there remain gaps in the Paris climate agreement that make it difficult to mobilize investments in developing countries, and as a general rule “market forces do not provide sufficient incentives for investment in development or diffusion of technologies.” And though evidence is mixed, some literature suggests intellectual property rights can act as an obstacle to innovation for countries with low institutional capacity that may struggle to navigate the related legal requirements.
This leaves a large role for public policy to create conditions for sustained collaboration between the developed and developing worlds. Access to better and more comprehensive data on innovation—including efforts to fill gaps in data relevant to developing countries—can inform policy design by providing policy-makers with “timely insights,” the report says.