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The Climate Establishment and the Paris partnerships

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Abstract

The Paris Agreement created an institutionalized role for non-state actors through voluntary cooperation. Many international NGOs (INGOs) are particularly active in these “Paris partnerships,” often working with multinational corporations to reduce emissions and promote decarbonization. Though there is ample work on both the effectiveness of the Paris partnerships and on the role of INGOs in the global climate regime, much of this work focuses “outward” – on how INGOs contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation, or influence norms, discourse and policy. Yet, there is considerably less work that focuses “inward” – examining who INGOs work with in order to achieve their policy goals. This paper provides a descriptive analysis of key INGOs in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, as a first step in a larger research agenda to understand the incentives and opportunities that drive INGO behavior. Specifically, it uses network analysis to identify the “climate establishment” – which I define as the insider INGOs working within the multilateral process and with large corporations to influence rulemaking, soft law and firm behavior. Measures of network centrality demonstrate that two INGOs – WWF and the World Resources Institute – are by far, the most authoritative members of the climate establishment. They participate in the largest number of partnerships, and have “important” friends, as measured by eigenvector centrality. The data also indicate that the climate establishment sees carbon pricing as a key strategy, and it often cooperates with banks that are large funders of fossil fuel projects. The descriptive analysis of the climate establishment and its partners raises important questions for future research about why INGOs choose to partner with F100 companies, and how such cooperation might influence INGO behavior.

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Data availability

Network data are available upon request.

Notes

  1. As of 31 July 2023. https://climateaction.unfccc.int/Initiatives.

  2. https://rspo.org/wp-content/uploads/RSPO-Impact-Report-2022.pdf.

  3. The data is available at https://climateinitiativesplatform.org and was downloaded on October 21, 2021.

  4. Many studies simply use “off the shelf” data, such as coding from the Yearbook of International Organizations (e.g. Pacheco-Vega and Murdie 2021). But this data does not include most of the organizations in my sample. Some of the most comprehensive work on international environmental NGOs relies either on inductive coding (Allan 2019) or coding of organizational attributes (Hadden 2015). In sum, there is no simple solution to the empirical question of “what counts as an environmental NGO?” (Bloodgood et al. 2023).

  5. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/30/climate-groups-accept-millions-from-charity-linked-to-fossil-fuel-investments-quadrature-climate-foundation.

  6. https://www.ran.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/BOCC_2022_vSPREAD-1.pdf.

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Acknowledgements

I am grateful for comments and feedback from Michael Barnett, Steven Bird, Fergus Green, Tom Hale, Matt Hoffmann, Matt Huber, Paasha Mahdavi, Matto Mildenberger, Thea Riofrancos, Wendy Wong, members of the Comparative Political Economy Workshop at LSE, participants in the IR seminar at GWU, the environmental politics seminar at UCSB, and the 2021 Climate Futures Workshop. I also wish to acknowledge the outstanding research assistance by Louis Frank, Andreea Musulaan and Pietro Bonnacorsi, and the generosity of Jen Iris Allan in sharing her data with me. This research is supported by the Climate Social Science Network at Brown University.

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This research is supported by the Climate Social Science Network at Brown University.

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Correspondence to Jessica F. Green.

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Green, J.F. The Climate Establishment and the Paris partnerships. Climatic Change 177, 84 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-024-03730-5

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