Exploring Global Climate Policy Futures and Their Representation in Integrated Assessment Models

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Exploring Global Climate Policy Futures and Their Representation in Integrated Assessment Models


  • Thomas Hickmann Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, The Netherlands / Department of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden
  • Christoph Bertram Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Leibniz Association, Germany
  • Frank Biermann Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  • Elina Brutschin International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria
  • Elmar Kriegler Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Leibniz Association, Germany
  • Jasmine E. Livingston Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  • Silvia Pianta European University Institute, Italy / RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment, Italy
  • Keywan Riahi International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria
  • Bas van Ruijven International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria
  • Detlef van Vuuren Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, The Netherlands / PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Netherlands


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Abstract:  The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, paved the way for a new hybrid global climate governance architecture with both bottom-up and top-down elements. While governments can choose individual climate goals and actions, a global stocktake and a ratcheting-up mechanism have been put in place with the overall aim to ensure that collective efforts will prevent increasing adverse impacts of climate change. Integrated assessment models show that current combined climate commitments and policies of national governments fall short of keeping global warming to 1.5 °C or 2 °C above preindustrial levels. Although major greenhouse gas emitters, such as China, the European Union, India, the United States under the Biden administration, and several other countries, have made new pledges to take more ambitious climate action, it is highly uncertain where global climate policy is heading. Scenarios in line with long-term temperature targets typically assume a simplistic and hardly realistic level of harmonization of climate policies across countries. Against this backdrop, this article develops four archetypes for the further evolution of the global climate governance architecture and matches them with existing sets of scenarios developed by integrated assessment models. By these means, the article identifies knowledge gaps in the current scenario literature and discusses possible research avenues to explore the pre-conditions for successful coordination of national policies towards achieving the long-term target stipulated in the Paris Agreement.

Keywords:  climate action; climate policy; global climate governance architecture; integrated assessment models; Paris Agreement; scenario analysis

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v10i3.5328


© Thomas Hickmann, Christoph Bertram, Frank Biermann, Elina Brutschin, Elmar Kriegler, Silvia Pianta, Keywan Riahi, Bas van Ruijven, Detlef van Vuuren. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.