Rising Seas, Raising Ambitions

Evaluation of Dutch climate diplomacy 2018-2021

Solar panels in Nevada
Image: ©BLM Nevada

Results – Evaluation of Dutch climate diplomacy 2018-2021

The Netherlands conducted an international climate diplomacy campaign in the run-up to COP26, the 26th meeting of the Conference of Parties UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2021. The aim was to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and encourage other countries to accelerate climate action. The campaign took place in the period 2018-2021. IOB has now evaluated this campaign.


Climate change is having an increasing and serious impact worldwide. Diplomacy is a visible and  important part of Dutch climate policy and international cooperation in this field. This evaluation focuses specifically on climate diplomacy, as a substudy for the overarching periodic evaluation on Dutch climate policy in development (2016-2021). The other substudies in this context are the evaluation of climate financing (published in 2021) and the evaluation of climate adaptation, which will be published later this year. These evaluations mainly serve to draw lessons for future policy.

Central question

To what extent has the Dutch campaign achieved its goals? What explanations for this are there?

To answer this question, six subquestions were formulated:

  • What was the policy on climate diplomacy?
  • What capabilities and resources were available?
  • Which networks and actors have been mobilised and how successful was that?
  • What strategies were used and what was their quality?
  • How effective was the campaign in bringing about change in target countries?
  • What were success factors?
Youth on stage at the COP25 in Chile, Opening session COP26, Ban Ki-moon visiting the Collins Glacier
Image: ©Climate Emergency DAY; UNclimatechange; UNPhoto/Eskinder Debebe


Although there were challenges, the climate diplomacy team managed to integrate climate better into both the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) itself and that of its partners. The team mobilised dozens of embassies and, through them, experts, the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Embassies have contributed to putting climate on the agenda in target countries, especially in the field of renewable energy. In addition, climate adaptation has been integrated into cooperation with some countries. In some cases, the Netherlands has managed to contribute to setting more ambitious climate policy goals, with the help of like-minded actors and partly thanks to growing international awareness of climate issues.

Below are six conclusions that address the various subquestions of the evaluation. A more detailed description can be found in the report.

Recommendations for diplomatic campaigns

Based on the findings, IOB formulated some recommendations. A full description can be found in the report.

The most important lessons for future diplomatic campaigns are:

  1. A. The mandate for a diplomatic campaign should be clear, focused and achievable.
    B. The campaign team should fit the mandate and be large enough.
  2. Draw up a clear Theory of Change.
  3. Make the strategy specific to each country and/or theme, and deploy capable staff for this purpose.
  4. Be flexible: keep an eye out for opportunities.
    - Always beat the drum on priority topics and foster your reputation.
  5. Offer concrete benefits, such as technical expertise or access to finance.

These recommendations are formulated based on answers to the research questions. In addition, two more issues emerged, in conversations and interviews, which (although outside the scope of the evaluation) are worth mentioning:

6. The climate diplomacy team no longer exists; their work has been integrated into the IGG department. But mainstreaming carries the risk of 'away-streaming'. If new momentum builds, consider setting up a new diplomatic campaign.

7. The second concerns a recommendation on coherence. The Netherlands will have to put its money where its mouth is and also show ambition in national policies. This will make it a more credible advocate towards other countries.