Launched in 2014 by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) is the world’s most comprehensive platform for non-state (e.g., businesses and investors) and sub-national (e.g., cities and states) climate actions. A quick scan of the platform’s homepage reveals the impressive breadth of engagement: the website displays more than 11,600 commitments by thousands of cities, regions, companies, investors and civil society organizations. It is not clear, however, how these pledges translate to global or sectoral action. Tracking and monitoring commitment implementation proves to be difficult, and, given that these pledges are voluntary, many have yet to get off the ground.  NAZCA is continuously expanding its roster of climate actions, and as the portal grows, data aggregation and interpretation become more complicated.

Yale’s Data-Driven Environmental Solutions Group, in partnership with the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management (ADEME), has released a new report, Understanding NAZCA: Challenges and Future of the World’s Largest Voluntary Climate Action Platform, which clarifies the picture that NAZCA paints. The analysis breaks down which categories of climate actions and actors represented on NAZCA; synthesizes central themes reflected in the data; describes the platform’s weakness and main challenges; and provides recommendations for NAZCA’s future direction.  

Generalized flow diagram representing the relationship between many of the reporting actors (nation-states, sub-national networks, and non-state networks), the seven NAZCA data providers, and NAZCA. Source: Hsu et al., 2016.

Generalized flow diagram representing the relationship between many of the reporting actors (nation-states, sub-national networks, and non-state networks), the seven NAZCA data providers, and NAZCA. Source: Hsu et al., 2016.

Key Findings

NAZCA is a first step to understanding non-state and sub-national climate actions, but it has sizable data gaps. Most of the municipal and private sector climate actions captured by NAZCA are in developed countries. Seventy-four percent of all of NAZCA’s city climate actions are based in Europe. Large companies representing 30 percent of the Forbes 2000 have pledged climate action captured by NAZCA, yet some heavily-emitting sectors, including fossil fuel companies, are under-represented. Most of NAZCA’s climate actions are categorized as “emissions reduction” commitments, reflecting a UNFCCC norm that focuses primarily on climate mitigation efforts, as opposed to adaptation and other measures, such as capacity-building.

Inconsistent metrics, reporting criteria, and boundary definitions create another overarching challenge for NAZCA. Seven data providers currently feed data to NAZCA, all with varying approaches to data collection and commitment tracking and verification. Creating the capacity to aggregate the climate impact from different actors and sectors through mega-registries like NAZCA can help highlight leaders and laggards, and identify climate action priorities.  The lack of harmonization of heterogeneous data currently makes this kind of apples-to-apples comparisons difficult.

Core Recommendations

We highlight a few core recommendations for how NAZCA can evolve:

  • To fill geographic and sectoral gaps, NAZCA must expand its data providers to engage the Global South. NAZCA’s directors should work to connect information-gathering groups, share knowledge to help guide the creation of new platforms, and expand existing frameworks to cover more areas of the globe.
  • To improve transparency and comparability between climate actions, NAZCA should help foster the alignment of reporting requirements. If reporting were harmonized, it would be easier to compare and sum the impact of distinct commitments. Assessing an actor’s commitment by benchmarking it  against its own baseline or a sector’s overall performance would also become possible.
  • NAZCA should shift from showcasing climate pledges to tracking the performance of climate actions. To make this shift, NAZCA and its data providers need to include performance data that determines which climate strategies are working and which are not. Phasing in the development and application of performance metrics would encourage participation and rachet up climate actions’ quality over time.

Download the full report here – Understanding NAZCA: Challenges and Future of the World’s Largest Voluntary Climate Action Platform.