Discussion Paper - Harvard Project on Climate Agreements

Linking Heterogeneous Climate Policies (Consistent with the Paris Agreement)

| October 2017


The Paris Agreement has achieved one of two key necessary conditions for ultimate success—a broad base of participation among the countries of the world. But another key necessary condition has yet to be achieved—adequate collective ambition of the individual nationally determined contributions. How can climate negotiators provide a structure that will include incentives to increase ambition over time? An important part of the answer can be international linkage of regional, national, and sub-national policies—that is, formal recognition of emission reductions undertaken in another jurisdiction for the purpose of meeting a Party’s own mitigation objectives. A central challenge is how to facilitate such linkage in the context of the very great heterogeneity that characterizes climate policies along five dimensions: type of policy instrument; level of government jurisdiction; status of that jurisdiction under the Paris Agreement; nature of the policy instrument’s target; and the nature, along several dimensions, of each Party’s Nationally Determined Contribution. We consider such heterogeneity among policies, and identify which linkages of various combinations of characteristics are feasible; of these, which are most promising; and what accounting mechanisms would make the operation of respective linkages consistent with the Paris Agreement.


The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements is grateful to the Enel Foundation and the Enel Endowment for Environmental Economics at Harvard University for generous support of a series of annual discussion papers on climate-change policy and related topics in energy policy, of which this paper is the sixth.

Author Affiliations

Michael A. Mehling, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Gilbert E. Metcalf, Tufts University

Robert Stavins, Harvard University

For more information on this publication: Please contact Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
For Academic Citation: Mehling, Michael A, Gilbert E. Metcalf and Robert N. Stavins. “Linking Heterogeneous Climate Policies (Consistent with the Paris Agreement).” Discussion Paper, ES 17-6, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, October 2017.

The Authors

Robert N. Stavins