Real World Help for Fighting Climate Change

The Fletcher School is launching a center to offer expert policy analysis and advice for nations implementing the Paris Agreement

parched soil in drought conditions

Countries around the world have pledged to do something to stave off the worst effects of climate change, but many of them need help figuring out what to do next. As nations scramble to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which officially went into effect in November, the Fletcher School is launching a center that will offer expert policy analysis and advice to assist them.

The new Climate Policy Lab will “determine which climate policies have worked, which haven’t and why,” and provide concrete recommendations to policymakers, according to its director, Kelly Sims Gallagher, F00, F03, a professor of energy and environmental policy at the Fletcher School. The center will offer independent, objective guidance based on empirical research, she said.

“Even very small countries can be important places for experimentation” with climate-change initiatives, says Kelly Sims Gallagher. Photo: Ian MacLellan“Even very small countries can be important places for experimentation” with climate-change initiatives, says Kelly Sims Gallagher. Photo: Ian MacLellan
“There’s a need for it,” said Gallagher, who met with representatives from Liberia and Haiti at the recent U.N. climate conference in Marrakech to discuss possible collaborations. “This is the perfect opportunity to help governments use rigorous academic analysis in the real world.”

The Climate Policy Lab will work in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the development of national and local adaptation plans to prepare regions for expected climate changes. In addition, the lab and the UNDP will work together to support the design and implementation of climate-change policies that help countries meet their Paris targets, known as nationally determined contributions. Developing nations can use funding from the Green Climate Fund to begin the implementation process.

The lab is also developing a new quantitative Climate Policy Performance Index that will evaluate nations’ effort and performance in implementing effective climate policies. The first rankings are expected to be released in 2017.

“Hopefully, we’ll encourage countries that are performing poorly to improve, as well as reward those that are doing well by recognizing them,” Gallagher says. “Even very small countries can be important places for experimentation” with climate-change initiatives.

The lab will focus on how to most effectively and efficiently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help countries weather climate change, for example by suggesting how farmers can best maintain their productivity despite expected shifts in temperature. To conduct its work, the lab will gather teams of scholars and practitioners from across the globe to evaluate existing climate policies and provide guidance to decision-makers contemplating new policies.

Initially, the lab will build on the regional expertise of Fletcher School professors and research fellows who focus on the United States, West Africa, Ethiopia, Europe, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, China, India and Southeast Asia.

The lab will also share its expertise by offering a weeklong, residential executive education program for mid-career and senior-level professionals in government, business and nonprofit organizations, as well as academics and researchers from around the world. Participants will study the history of and issues related to climate negotiations and policies and earn a climate policy certificate. The first training session will be held in May 2017. Gallagher also is planning for the lab to host a regular conference on climate policy, with the goal of improving communication among policymakers and academics.

The lab is housed at the Fletcher School’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, led by Gallagher. It has received seed funding from a variety of philanthropic and private-sector sources.

Contact Heather Stephenson at

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