National climate institutions complement targets and policies

National climate institutions complement targets and policies

By Navroz K Dubash, Aditya Valiathan Pillai, Christian Flachsland, Kathryn Harrison, Kathryn Hochstetler, Matthew Lockwood, Robert MacNeil, Matto Mildenberger, Matthew Paterson, Fei Teng, and Emily Tyler
Science, 5 November 2021

National climate institutions are a missing element in climate mitigation discussions. Yet institutions translate ambition to current action, guide policy development and implementation, and mediate political interests that can obstruct mitigation efforts. The landscape of relevant institutions is usefully categorized around ‘purpose-built’ institutions, ‘layering’ of responsibilities on existing institutions, and unintentional effects of ‘latent’ institutions. Institutions are relevant for solving three climate governance challenges: coordination across policy domains and interests, mediating conflict and building consensus, and strategy development. However, countries do not have a free hand in designing climate institutions; institutions are shaped by national context into four distinct varieties of climate governance. We suggest how countries can sequence the formation of climate institutions given the constraints of national politics and existing national political institutions.