On November 17, the University of Maryland School of Public Policy’s Center for Global Sustainability (CGS) jointly launched Research for Climate Action (RCA), a global network of leading academic and research institutions. This initiative seeks to connect world-class research and analytical capabilities with key decision-makers to spur action on climate change.
The coalition was announced at the 22nd session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where the global community is working to develop next steps in the path to implementing the Paris Agreement and achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
“RCA will focus on three key objectives in supporting commitments,” says CGS Director Nathan Hultman, who is facilitating the initiative. “We will help organize and develop fields relevant to advancing climate goals, encourage new entrants that seek to support their own decision-makers, and we will always be looking to better link research into the policy process.”
A distinctive aspect of RCA is its commitment to being policy relevant and responsive, a focus that is both needed and timely, according to Lord Nicholas Stern, the keynote speaker at the RCA launch event. Stern, IG Patel professor of economics and government; chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment; and head of the India Observatory at the London School of Economics, noted in his closing remarks the current gap between the research and policy communities that RCA can help address. “On the whole, the policy-makers are not very good at asking the questions, and the academics are not very good at framing answers and delivering them in real time. One of the answers is to get closer, for the policy-makers to know the academics, and vice versa.”
Laurence Tubiana, a high-level climate champion, highlighted the significance of the task that lies ahead, given the need to change how our policy and investment frameworks operate. Yet the knowledge that the research community provides makes a difference in the way that people can cooperate together, Tubiana emphasized, and “networks like Research for Climate Action will play an essential role in implementing the Paris Agreement.”
With research units from leading institutions worldwide already engaged, RCA is primed to harness the analytical capabilities of these institutions in support of decision-makers, and the research community as a whole. Ajay Mathur, director general of The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, noted that implementing the Paris Agreement and related Sustainable Development Goals will require policy actions at different levels and in different sectors, and that “RCA would provide cross-country learning to these policy actions as well as a robust relationship with local development goals.” Suzanna Kahn Ribeiro, associate professor in the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering at the Federal University of Rio De Janeiro, reflected this need for connection between goals at all levels, highlighting how RCA is an opportunity to align municipal and national policies in support of effective action.
The launch of RCA follows a meeting between academics and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon at the Climate Action 2016 summit, where the research community was called upon to provide the policy and technical capacity necessary for leaders to deliver on their climate commitments. “There is unprecedented demand from decision-makers for robust technical and analytical input to guide action on climate change,” said Robert Orr, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and special advisor to the UN secretary-general on climate change. “RCA will help bridge the gap between knowledge and decision-making processes by harnessing the power of networks and information sharing among leading research institutions and global policy leaders.” The Center for Global Sustainability has been spearheading the establishment of RCA as a response to this call, drawing upon the expertise of faculty including Anand Patwardhan and Rosina Bierbaum.
Following a successful launch, the center will continue to facilitate the development of RCA and its activities, seeking to utilize the approach of consultation and collaboration that epitomizes effective climate action.
For more information, please visit www.researchforclimateaction.org