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Climate-forward government

Seven important lessons for effective climate action

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its sixth assessment report on climate change in August 2021, calling the current climate crisis a code red for humanity—an unequivocal warning for governments, businesses, and society at large to take urgent action against spiraling global warming and its irrevocable consequences for humanity and the global economy.

The urgency of the climate problem is compelling government agencies to seek out fresh perspectives on how to address what is becoming one of the defining crises of our time. But governments should not try to address climate change in a vacuum. With efforts around the world having met with varying levels of success, countries need to look to lessons learned.

Climate-forward government outlines seven key considerations for agencies attempting to address climate change:

  1. Link climate goals with the mission: Align and advance governments’ mission objectives in line with climate action goals.
  2. Integrate climate governance actions inside and out: Introduce new governance models and integrate agency efforts across government in line with the problem’s scale and complexity.
  3. Take a more innovative approach to innovation: Bolster groundbreaking technological innovations in clean energy and low-carbon technologies that will succeed in the marketplace.
  4. Don’t just identify climate risks; manage and reduce them: Implement new and promising tools and techniques to mitigate or avoid climate-related risks.
  5. Overturn orthodoxies to enhance operational sustainability: Revisit or remove traditional emission-heavy practices like regular work commutes to meet climate commitments.
  6. Focus on equity as a principle, not a byproduct: Protect vulnerable populations which are unequally impacted by climate change through economic and geographic diversification strategies.
  7. Find partners to fix the ecosystem: Engage multiple agencies and private sectors to coordinate and complement each other in delivering broader community support.

Historically, government leaders have looked at climate change in terms of mitigation and adaptation. While these are important fundamental concepts, they aren’t necessarily effective prompts for action. To address the challenge of climate change, leaders across all parts of government must consider and embrace new approaches.