COP21: Results and Implications for Pathways and Policies for Low Emissions European Societies

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Sebastian Oberthür
Gauri Khandekar
Tomas Wyns

Much mitigation-related governance activity is evident in a range of sectoral systems, and regarding particular governance functions. However, there is a tendency for this activity to relate to the easiest functions to address, such as ‘learning and knowledge building’, or to take place in somewhat limited ‘niches’. Across all sectoral systems examined, the gap between identified governance needs and what is currently supplied is most serious in terms of the critical function of setting rules to facilitate collective action. A lack of ‘guidance and signal’ is also evident, particularly in the finance, extractive industries, energy-intensive industries, and buildings sectoral systems.

Of the sectoral systems examined, the power sector appears the most advanced in covering the main international governance functions required of it. Nevertheless, it still falls short in achieving critical governance functions necessary for sufficient decarbonisation. Significantly, while the signal is strong and clear for the phase-in of renewable energy, it is either vague or absent when it comes to the phase-out of fossil fuel-generated electricity. The same lack of signal that certain high-carbon activities need actively to be phased out is also evident in financial, fossil-fuel extractive industry and transport-related sectors.

More effective mitigation action will need greater co-ordination or orchestration effort, sometimes led by the UNFCCC, but also from the bodies such as the G20, as well as existing (or potentially new) sector-level institutions. The EU needs to re-consider what it means to provide climate leadership in an increasingly ‘polycentric’ governance landscape.

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