Harnessing international climate governance to drive a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

Wolfgang Obergassel, Lukas Hermwille, Sebastian Oberthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


The impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and the global response to it will co-determine the future of climate policy. The recovery packages responding to the impacts of the pandemic may either help to chart a new sustainable course, or they will further cement existing high-emission pathways and thwart the achievement of the Paris Agreement objectives. This article discusses how international climate governance may help align the recovery packages with the climate agenda. For this purpose, the article investigates five key governance functions through which international institutions may contribute: send guidance and signals, establish rules and standards, provide transparency and accountability, organize the provision of means of implementation, and promote collective learning. Reflecting on these functions, the article finds that the process under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), together with other international institutions, could promote sustainable recovery in several ways. Key policy insights: The incoming UK presidency of the Conference of the Parties (COP) should urge Parties to present transformative sustainable stimulus packages alongside more ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) at the postponed Glasgow Climate Conference (COP 26). Specific principles and criteria for sustainable recovery should be adopted. A coalition of interested governments should work through institutions such as G20 to enable swift action even before COP 26. The Glasgow Conference should establish a process to review the consistency of recovery packages with the Paris Agreement and their implementation, to support their sustainability and promote policy learning. Developed countries and international financial institutions should renew their climate finance commitments, and work towards an increased long-term finance objective in the context of greening recovery packages. At COP 26 governments could take stock of the ‘Paris-compatibility’ of international recovery support and adopt further guidance as necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1298-1306
Number of pages9
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Harnessing international climate governance to drive a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this