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Students Build Climate Policy Database, Find Gaps in Most UN Climate Commitments

PDI is proud to announce that, as part of the Global Student Policy Alliance (GSPA), one of our teams (Kendall Chappell, Adriana Obeso, Adam Ramgoolie, Kristy Lam, and alum Zarek Drozda) helped build the Global Climate Policy Database which was officially released yesterday. This Database not only identifies shocking gaps in climate policieseven those officially committed to by UN member-statesbut also strives to rank the climate policies of all 193 member-states equitably by accounting for the resources available to each nation.

View the Database at and find out more about this incredible youth-led work in the press release below!

Interested in helping keep this critical work going & preventing the climate crisis? Reach out to either PDI or GSPA on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!


The Global Student Policy Alliance (GSPA), an association of student-led think tanks from leading US and UK universities, has created an open-source, user-friendly Global Climate Policy Database which will inform climate policies around the world as countries fail to meet their climate action targets. The open-source database can be found at (, including the full summary paper.

The Open Climate Policy Database project aims to increase the amount of publicly available data on 193 countries’ policies in four key areas relating to climate change: agriculture, emissions reporting, energy, and extraction. The resulting database sheds light on the global climate policy landscape, which remains largely inadequate.

In June, student teams from four universities University of Cambridge, University of Chicago, Cornell University, and University of Edinburgh) built a database with over 50 variables from the bottom up. Each participating researcher was responsible for ten countries, according to their country-level background, language skills, and personal interest.

Some key findings include: 1) the majority of countries are either maintaining (100+) or increasing (60+) their fossil fuel power generation, despite high-visibility commitments to more renewables 2) fossil fuels were directly subsidized by over $300 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2019—3x the size of the goal for the U.N. Green Climate Fund, which remains unmet 3) while agriculture is a concentrated source of more powerful greenhouse gases like methane (34x CO2) and nitrous oxide (296x CO2), less than half of countries outline any policy strategy for address their agricultural sector emissions 4) the majority of countries (125) have not officially reported their emissions in 5 or more years, with 48 having not reported since 2000—a shocking data gap that makes policy difficult to craft.

The latest projections for global emissions show quickly dimming prospects for staying within the temperature limits designated by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Even if every country adhered to commitments made in their current NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), we are unlikely to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by the recommended amounts.

We invite the collaboration of other university students from around the world to help update and expand this database annually.


Established in 2019, the GSPA is an association of student-led organisations: The Cornell Roosevelt Institute (Cornell University), The Buchanan Institute (University of Edinburgh), The Paul Douglas Institute (University of Chicago), and The Wilberforce Society (University of Cambridge).

“Our database is valuable for its holistic approach determining what a sustainable world should be- it not only covers basic indicators such as emissions reduction and the energy transition, but also sheds light on extractive industries and agricultural practices, and touches on environmental justice and social impacts of climate mitigation,” says Chiara Oppo (Project Leader from The Buchanan Institute).

“The Open Climate Project Database is a unique free resource for anyone interested in environmental policy, providing an interactive, visual portal for comparing countries across four important areas and learning about the global state of climate policy. This tool is sure to start conversations about good and bad approaches to the challenge of climate change but, equally important, it has already started a conversation between future climate policy leaders across our four universities and laid the foundation for future student-led collaboration. This project was built by just 20 students over the course of a few months, I have high hopes for what we can build on top of this as we involve more students and youth climate advocates from around the world,” says Adam Ó Conghaile (Project Leader from The Wilberforce Society).

"This project is of paramount importance. As students from universities across the world, we conducted the project hoping to model to our leaders the kind of international collaboration that will be necessary to combat climate change," says Magda Smith (Researcher from the Cornell Roosevelt Institute and GSPA Liaison).

“Most International Organizations and NGOs face institutional constraints that restrain honest criticism of unambitious climate policy. This project represents an attempt to have students to fill that communications gap, while building on other youth climate advocacy with hard data,” says Zarek Drozda (Project Advisor from the University of Chicago).

“This project has been a path-breaking exercise in unifying student researchers across the world, working collaboratively to address the global wicked problem that is climate change, through increasing transparency in data on global climate action. The database showcases the power of students’ capacity to produce high-quality research and address pressing global challenges through filling gaps in current literature,” says Nina Pusic (Project Advisor from the University of Edinburgh).

“By providing a transparent and detailed picture of a complex global policy landscape, the project represents the considerable potential of student-led initiatives to improve accountability, drive public engagement and support evidence-based analysis in the field of climate policy. The GSPA hopes to further capitalise on this potential as the database continues to develop and evolve over time,” says Ben Rhydderch (The Wilberforce Society Deputy Head of Policy and GSPA Liaison).

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