Article 13 of the Paris Agreement calls for enhanced transparency in climate actions. At the same time, non-state actors (NSAs) are increasingly referred to within the text of decisions and initiatives by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, the continued use of such a broad and undefined term to represent a complex set of stakeholders - ranging from academia to private sector, civil society to indigenous peoples groups - is unhelpful. There cannot be a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to NSAs
The private sector is a complex and diverse sub-set of NSAs, with significant variations in capacity, motivations and priorities across companies and value chains. Their response to climate change will be key to setting and achieving the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) made by Parties to the UNFCCC.
A large number of international corporations have made voluntary commitments to reduce their negative environmental and social impacts in the agriculture and forestry sectors, within their own operations as well as those of third-party suppliers. Many of these pledges have now been registered on the UNFCCC non-state actor platform (NAZCA). As yet, however, there is no systematic way to track and verify these pledges and their impacts.
One major risk is that stringent and rapidly implemented corporate commitments related to sustainable and 'deforestation free' supply chains will exclude already marginalized smallholders, who often operate within broader informal economies, resulting in indirect detrimental social and environmental impacts. Aside from the Cancun safeguards, such risks remain unrecognized by the UNFCCC.
Public funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), could be used to financially support smallholders and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and upgrade their production systems through the adoption of improved practices and by facilitating their access to sustainable supply chains.
Governments, indigenous peoples groups and civil society organizations, as well as corporations themselves, are monitoring the progress and impact of NSA pledges at different spatial scales. But significant challenges remain regarding the alignment of methods, metrics and data sets, disclosure of information, and the verification and monitoring of indirect impacts.
There is currently no systematic way to track delivery of voluntary commitments through transparent processes that are open to wider society. Additional efforts, including national and international political architectures are needed.
There is justification for the UNFCCC to develop guidance around NSA engagement in climate mitigation and adaptation actions. This can help to distinguish between different groups of NSAs and track the activities undertaken by diverse private sector actors, to better understand how they contribute to achieving NDCs.