solar mirrors

A solar mirror faces the New Mexico sunset at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia Labs.  New Mexico's Energy Transition Act sets a statewide renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030 for New Mexico investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives and a goal of 80 percent by 2040, in addition to setting zero-carbon resources standards for investor-owned utilities by 2045 and rural electric cooperatives by 2050

Image credit: Flickr CC/Randy Montoya

How Politics Impacts Climate Policy: A Conversation with Gernot Wagner

Gernot Wagner, Clinical Associate Professor at New York University and former economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, shared his thoughts on the impact of politics on climate policy in the latest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program,” a podcast produced by the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.

The goal of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, which was established in 2007, is to  identify and advance scientifically sound, economically sensible, and politically pragmatic public policy options for addressing global climate change. Drawing upon leading thinkers from around the world, the Project conducts research on policy architecture, key design elements, and institutional dimensions of international and domestic climate-change policy.

Director's Welcome


The Twenty-First Conference of the Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Paris in December 2015, adopted a major new international agreement to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that are changing the Earth's climate. Nearly all of the 197 national governments that are members of the UNFCCC submitted plans, under the Paris Agreement, to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions — a level of participation far exceeding that of the Kyoto Protocol, which was the first major international climate-change agreement. The Paris Agreement also provides a pathway for member countries to increase the ambition of their mitigation plans over time.

The Paris Agreement will, for most important purposes, become effective in 2020. A great deal of work remains to be done before that time to define how the new regime will operate and how the Agreement will be implemented, if it is to fulfill its promise. The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements is engaging leading scholars and policy practitioners to identify and assess research-based options that might prove useful as the Paris Agreement is elaborated and then implemented.

Our Research

As of June 2019, the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements had released 107 Discussion Papers, three edited books (published by Cambridge University Press), and a number of policy briefs, all written by leading scholars in the fields of economics, political science, international relations, and law. These documents are available at the Project's website. Examples of topics addressed by Project authors are:

  • Options for international policy architectures and institutional venues for global climate change — including alternatives and complements to the UNFCCC (for example, separate aviation or trade agreements — and various types of climate policy clubs)
  • Methods for comparing the ambition and effectiveness of heterogeneous mitigation systems that will be characteristic of the new Paris regime
  • Carbon-pricing policy, including cap-and-trade and carbon-tax systems; linkage among emissions trading systems—and among heterogeneous mitigation systems
  • Interaction between international, national, and sub-national climate policy

For research publications, news of events, presentations, and other information, see the  footer of this page. You may sign up for email updates on the Project's research and events by selecting "Environment & Climate Change" on the subscribe page.

The Harvard Project has conducted research workshops in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Venice, Italy; Berlin, Germany; and Beijing and Shanghai, China — for Project authors and other scholars studying climate-change policy. The Harvard Project has collaborated with leading research institutes focusing on environmental economics and policy: Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, based in Venice and Milan; the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, in Berlin; the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation in Beijing; and Resources for the Future, in Washington, D.C.

Policy Outreach

In addition to its research workshops, the Harvard Project has conducted numerous roundtables bringing together researchers, policy makers, and stakeholders (advocates and leaders in business and non-governmental organizations), in Brussels, Washington, D.C., Canberra, Rome, London, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Mexico City, Beijing, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, and Doha. Summaries of most roundtables are available on the Project's website.

The Project has conducted policy-outreach meetings at the Thirteenth (Bali, Indonesia), Fourteenth (Poznan, Poland), Fifteenth (Copenhagen, Denmark), Sixteenth (Cancun, Mexico), Eighteenth (Doha, Qatar), Nineteenth (Warsaw, Poland), Twentieth (Lima, Peru), Twenty-First (Paris, France), Twenty-Second (Marrakech, Morocco), Twenty-Third (Bonn, Germany), and Twenty-Fourth (Katowice, Poland) COPs. At the COPs, Harvard Project leaders have also held meetings with individual negotiating teams from over 50 countries. At all of these meetings, the Project receives valuable insights, suggestions, and feedback with regard to international climate-change policy.

Climate Change Policy: Economics and Politics is an online executive program developed by Harvard Kennedy School faculty to address the significant challenge of climate change and its impacts on the environment, as well as society and the global economy. Through an engaging virtual curriculum, participants will explore potential policies to address climate change; why some governments might choose to address climate change more or less vigorously; and how sub-national governments and non-governmental actors might complement action by national governments.

Led by Professor Robert Stavins, this interactive program is designed for managers, analysts, and leaders from government, corporations, and non-governmental organizations from around the world. This five-day executive program will provide:

Deep insights into the science, economics, and policy of climate change.

Cutting-edge research from the field

Analytical tools and conceptual frameworks to better understand climate-related policies

Climate Change Policy: Economics and Politics

Session Dates: October 5, 2020 – October 9, 2020

Application Deadline: September 21, 2020

Faculty Chair: Robert Stavins

Executive Certificate Offered: This program is part of the Economic Development and Public Policy Executive Certificate series.

For more information, please visit the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education website: Climate Change Policy: Economics and Politics.

Our Zotero library includes both publications by the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements and later versions of these publications published in peer-reviewed journals. Zotero is a bibliographic-management solution with both a web and plug-in interface.

The following web sites are good sources of additional research and information on public policy for global climate change:

The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements is grateful for support from the Harvard Global Institute, the Enel Foundation, Harvard University Climate Change Solutions Fund, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, and the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

The closely affiliated, University-wide Harvard Environmental Economics Program receives additional support from the Enel Endowment for Environmental Economics at Harvard University, the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School, BP, and Chevron Services Company.

Previous sponsors of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements include: The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School, Christopher P. Kaneb, ClimateWorks Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation, the Qatar National Food Security Programme, and Shell.