The Under2 Coalition is a group at the subnational level, which represents states, provinces, regions and cities from six continents with a joint commitment to an ambitious climate protection policy. Since its inception, the Under2 Coalition has acquired more and more members. The number of states and regions that have signed the Under2 Memorandum of Understanding (Under2 MOU) exceeds now 260. The Under2 Coalition thus represents more than 1.75 billion people from more than 40 countries on six continents and about 50 percent of the global economy.
This article provides an overview of the objectives and contents of the Under2 Coalition, the background and the development of the alliance, the role of Baden-Württemberg and of the different projects of the coalition.
Purpose and intent
The basis of the Under2 Coalition is a signed memorandum of understanding (Under2 MOU) drawn up by California and Baden-Württemberg in advance of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21) in 2015. It contains the central targets of the coalition and represents the fundament for further cooperation of the members. It builds on existing international agreements of the subnational level such the Montreal Declaration (2005), the Cancún Statement (2010) and the Lyon Declaration (2011) as well as the Rio Declaration (1992) and the Paris Agreement (2015).
In the course of 2021, the Under2 MOU was revised by the members of the Steering Group and aligned with the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Agreement, taking into account the latest scientific findings. It will now be successively signed by the members in the new version.
The following fold-out box provides an insight into the Under2 MOU. You can also find out where the name “Under2” stems from:
Objectives: The central objective of the Under2 MOU is to limit the rise of the global average temperature to less than 2 °Celsius or “under 2 °Celsius”. This is one reason how the names “Under2 MOU” and “Under2 Coalition” were derived. Due to the negotiations in Paris, an amendment was made to reflect the new goal of 1.5 °Celsius. The signatories of the Under2 MOU commit themselves to reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Another aim is to limit annual greenhouse gas emissions to less than two metric tons per capita by this date. This is the other reason for the name “Under2”.
Measures: The signatories individually define their measures and strategies for complying with these limits. This takes account of the fact that they have differing responsibilities and fiscal means when it comes to shaping climate protection policy and can place different emphases to achieve these goals.
Fields of cooperation: The signatories share information about their activities relating to climate policy. Topics include energy efficiency, traffic & transport, protection of natural resources, waste reduction, science & technology and short-lived climate pollutants. Moreover, the theme of measuring, monitoring, reporting and verifying of greenhouse gas emissions and respective measures to reduce emissions is included to improve transparency. Thus, the members also collect data on greenhouse gas emissions and publish it in their disclosure report. They learn from one another through the network and share their experiences.
Further contents: The signatories also intend to push the issues of adaptation and climate resilience. Furthermore, means of implementation play a role, such as the promotion of effective financing mechanisms and the sharing of technology and expertise.
Background and Development of the Under2 Coalition
In the past, the United Nations Climate Change Conferences were dominated exclusively by nation states as Parties to the convention or signatory states. Jurisdictions at the subnational level did not play an active role. However, a growing number of states, regions and cities were unsatisfied with this status and looked for ways to take an active part in international climate protection.
States and regions are in many cases responsible for the development and implementation of policies that have the largest impact on the climate. They have authority over fields such as air quality, transportation, energy, the built environment, or research and technology. According to the United Nations Development Programme, regional and local governments can influence 50 to 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
As a signatory of the Under2 MOU, Baden-Württemberg joined other regions in sending out a clear message to the public at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015 and subsequent climate conferences. Baden-Württemberg and California successfully drew attention to the role of subnational governments in climate protection.
Now participation at the subnational level is seen as critically import to the success of the Paris Climate Agreement. However, many efforts were required for this to come about:
The World Climate Conference COP27 took place from 6 to 20 November 2022 in Sharm-el Sheikh in Egypt. In the final declaration, it was decided to set up a joint fund to compensate for climate damage in poorer countries. The participants reaffirmed their earlier decision to phase out coal. However, there is no mention of a farewell to oil and gas. The climate damage fund is intended to compensate the unavoidable consequences of global warming. The discussion about the fund was the biggest point of contention during the conference. It was discussed until the very end whether the demand for the expansion of renewable energies would be included for the first time. Now, only a "clean energy mix" is demanded, which should include energy production with low greenhouse gas emissions as well as renewable energies. An action programme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was also adopted. In order to close the gap to the 1.5 degree path, the states are to improve their national targets for 2030 accordingly by the next climate conference in November 2023.
Baden-Württemberg has initiated and founded the Under2 Coalition together with California. Thus, the State of Baden-Württemberg has a special responsibility for the coalition. Baden-Württemberg is part of the Under2 Steering Group and served as European Co-Chair in personal capacities of Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann until Scotland took over in September 2020.
Baden-Württemberg provides a liaison office for the Secretariat of the Under2 Coalition at the Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the European Union in Brussels to coordinate the activities of the Under2 Coalition in Europe. In addition, Baden-Württemberg is involved in the further development of the coalition and participates in respective discussions to define the strategic direction as well as being involved in the project work of the Under2 Coalition.
Activities of the Under2 Coalition
The Under2 Coalition has not only set itself ambitious targets, it also implements climate action. For this purpose, three workstreams have been defined:
- 2050 Pathways: Members support each other in drafting long-term decarbonisation strategies with a time horizon until 2050.
- Policy Action: By sharing experiences and implementing concrete projects, the Under2 Coalition spreads best practices, innovative solutions and lessons learned around the globe.
- Transparency: Regional governments are supported to accurately and adequately record and report their greenhouse gas emissions. This way, they can review and improve their climate mitigation and adaptation measures.
The following fold-out box includes further information on the different workstreams and the project work. It also contains information on the Future Fund of the Under2 Coalition.
Ambition Tracker: The members of the Under2 Coalition yearly disclose their annual greenhouse gas emissions, climate measures and strategies as part of the Ambition Tracker (formerly the “Annual Disclosure Report” of CDP). This way, the Under2 Coalition is able to track whether the measures are having the hoped-for effect. The results show that the regional level has both more ambitious climate targets as well as a better track record in reducing emissions than their national counterparts.
Climate Footprint Project: The Climate Footprint Project supports several regional governments to improve their monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems to record greenhouse gas emissions. The International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety is funding the project. Baden-Württemberg had advocated decisively for this funding opportunity.
Climate Pathway Project: The Climate Pathway Project supports several regional governments to draft scenarios and plans to decarbonise their economies and societies. The focus is on regions with significant emissions in the AFOLU sector (agriculture, forestry and other land uses). Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) is funding the project. It is supposed to contribute to forest preservation and to prevent deforestation.
Energy Transition Platform: The Energy Transition Platform has supported eleven participating regions to develop and implement measures and strategies for the development of a clean energy sector. The focus was put on regions with particular structural challenges to achieve a transition in the energy sector. The project was successfully concluded in May 2018. The German State of North Rhine-Westphalia has participated in the project.
Future Fund: The Future Fund supports member regions of the Under2 Coalition from developing countries and emerging economies in their activities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. On the one hand, concrete projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are funded. On the other hand, secondments are sponsored to enable the exchange with other states and regions of the Under2 Coalition. The Future Fund was established in 2016. Several members from industrialised countries contribute to the Future Fund, including Baden-Württemberg.
Industry Transition Platform: The Industry Transition Platform brings together highly industrialised regions. They work together in developing approaches on how to shape the unavoidable structural change in a way that preserves the industrial sites, employment opportunities and economic prosperity. Innovative and ambitious strategies shall reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector as a result.
Net Zero Futures: Net Zero Futures is an initiative led by European co-chair Scotland, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Climate Group, aimed at increasing action toward net zero emissions in states and regions worldwide.
To support state and regional governments in understanding, setting, and delivering on net zero emissions targets, Net Zero Futures provides the opportunity to:
- Participate in global peer learning activities to demystify net zero
- Share learnings and challenges in smaller group in-depth discussions
- Access expert resources and technical assistance
- Highlight Net Zero Leaders – governments with net zero targets – ahead of COP26 to demonstrate how ambitious targets can be set and achieved
- Empower states and regions to join the UN’s Race to Zero campaign
ZEV Project: This project has supported states and regions to increase the amount of zero emission vehicles (ZEV) within their jurisdictions. It enabled the sharing of experiences among regions and contributed to the dissemination of innovative policy approaches. Webinars were offered and case studies were drafted on topics like charging infrastructure or switching governmental fleets to electric mobility. Baden-Württemberg participated actively in the project with its e-mobil BW GmbH. The project now runs with a different title and changed design as ZEV Community.
Further Projects: The Under2 Coalition is active in fields as diverse as short-lived climate pollutants such as methane or ocean acidification. Further project ideas are constantly collected and discussed to broaden the scope.
Phone: 0049 711 126-1851
In this blog, Franz Untersteller, Minister of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector Baden-Württemberg, reflects on the past four years of state and regional climate action through the Under2 Coalition.