Harnessing International Climate Governance to Drive Green Post-Pandemic Recovery


While the COVID-19 pandemic has cast normal policy making including global climate policy into disarray, it also demonstrates that governments are able to take far-reaching action on short notice. How the global response to the Corona crisis is shaped will be a key determinant for the future of climate policy. This paper discusses how the UNFCCC process may help align economic recovery packages with the climate agenda. For this purpose, the paper draws on the concept of governance functions which international institutions may perform: International institutions may send guidance and signals, they may establish rules and standards, they may provide transparency and accountability, they may organise the provision of means of implementation, and they may promote collective learning. Reflecting on these functions, the paper finds that the UNFCCC process could promote green recovery in several ways. The paper proposes the following specific lines of action.

Key policy insights: 

  • Timing is a challenge as recovery packages are being developed now. To overcome this challenge, the UK presidency and other Parties should put green recovery onto the agenda of the Glasgow conference early and urge Parties to bring not only better NDCs, but also transformative green stimulus packages. This could incentivise governments to design recovery packages that are Paris-consistent as they would be on notice to deliver something respectable in Glasgow. It would also enable utilization of the preparatory process for the Glasgow conference for the promotion of green recovery. Interested Parties could also bring up the topic in other interconnected fora such as the G20.
  • The UNFCCC as a whole or a coalition of individual Parties could also lay out specific principles and criteria for green recovery. 
  • COP26 or another international institutions should also establish a process to review recovery packages and their implementation to support robustness and promote policy learning. 
  • Developed countries should confirm and renew their collective and individual climate finance commitments and commit to working toward an increased long-term finance objective in the context of greening recovery packages. The Glasgow conference could also give guidance to the GEF and GCF and other international institutions.