The Climate Summit in Paris may or may not create a binding agreement for countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, but either way, the real work will begin after the talks.

Image credits: Nature.

Image credits: Nature.

“When the meetings in Paris are done, the real business of decarbonization must begin,” write climate-policy experts David Victor and James Leape in a Comment piece in this week’s Nature. They call on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to hold companies to the emissions-cuts promises that they will make in the glare of the world’s media at December’s international climate talks in Paris. NGOs should also help businesses to make the wide-ranging changes needed to their structures and supply chains, they suggest.

The role of NGOs in dealing with climate change has often been controversial; while many see them as a much needed force that can make a difference in the fight against climate change, some see them as dangerous, loose cannons that only spark public interest without truly making a positive impact in the greater scheme of things. But if anything, as Victor and Leape say, they can hold companies responsible for the promises they make (and way too often, break).

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But who can do that for governments? What kind of binding agreement can be … binding? What external organization can play the role on this scale? The two suggest that it’s vital to set up a system that enforces the rules and makes sure that even the big players like US or China respect the agreements – an external organization, like the World Bank or the OECD.

In the mean time, we as individuals can still do our part and limit, as much as possible, our impact on the environment – change has to come both from above, and from the grassroots.