Talanoa Dialogue at COP23

Tagalano Roa United Nations Climate change conference 2017 Bonn GermanyLast Year at COP22 in Marrakech, much of the media conversation was distracted by the US election results, and the instability of what would become of the Paris Agreement without the US’s commitment. Would it fall the way of the Kyoto Protocol? Would the economics work in its favor, as they did in the case of the Montreal Protocol? Countries weren’t sure, but they knew that inaction was too risky. They signed the Marrakech Action Protocol, indicating that they were all “Still In” regardless of what other countries decided. The decision was a powerful statement of unity for the environmental community worldwide, and a fierce posture against the new administration’s foreign policy stance. This effort was paired with a decision to include more non-state actors. Where states fail to act or where they are limited in their reach, their capacities can be expanded by including civil society in the implementation, tracking and policy making. This decision let to the organization of a Facilitative Dialogue in 2018.

The facilitative dialogue was called to address three questions:

              Where Are We?                            Where do we need to be?                             How do we get there?

These three questions were to be answered through a conversation between the stakeholders and the 196 nations that are part of the Paris Agreement.

COP23 Frank Bainimarama hosts an open dialogue with stakeholders from all constituency groups present. Talanoa session.

Stakeholders have long been fighting for a voice in the decision making of international climate change agreements, and this dialogue was especially important to youth.  Within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there are nine recognized constituency groups (a network of organizations that share a common purpose). They are: Business & Industry, Research & Investigation, Youth, Environmental, Local Government & Municipal Authorities, Indigenous Peoples, Farmers, Women & Gender, and Trade Unions. Each constituency has one or more policy position that they would like to see pushed through during the negotiations. Each of these constituency groups would now have a stronger voice through the Facilitative Dialogue.

 Fiji Prime Minister hosts the open dialogue
photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

During Week One, Fiji Prime Minister and COP23 President, Frank Bainimarama and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa held an Open Dialogue between party actors and constituency groups. This was the first time for many constituency groups to have a seat at the table with equal footing and an equal voice in the conversation. Statements made by constituencies were given freely, not limited or timed as they typically are. The Fiji presidency compared the dialogue to a process called talanoa, a storytelling style used in the Pacific that emphasizes participation, inclusion and transparency, on a basis of trust and empathy.

Patricia Espinosa listens to constituency groups during talanoa session at COP23
photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

Parties engaged as well, responding to concerns of different constituency groups. The UK mentioned locking business leaders in a room until they figured out how to transition to a green economy, while Mexico joked that their businesses went into the room willingly. Uganda talked about a national climate change forum they held with non-party stakeholders to engage youth and community organizations in climate change adaptation.

Youth asked for greater focus on climate empowerment, with financial and institutional support for their programs so that they can take action in their home countries. We also asked for climate empowerment, capacity building, and climate change education to be included in countries’ national climate action plans, especially for mitigation.

COP23 YOUNGO intervention talanoa dialogue
photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

Moving into next year, there will be an online platform where we can contribute to the dialogue to try and answer some of these questions of where we’re at, where we’re going, and how to get there. The purpose of this dialogue is to create solutions, to drive innovation, and propose realistic means through which we limit global average temperature rise to 1.5⁰C.  Next year will be the big year to get these solutions together so that countries can start putting them in place worldwide before the 2023 Global Stocktake, when a count will be done of each country’s present and reduced emissions, carbon sinks, and mitigation efforts.

Youth around the world are already acting on the ground to create synergy for emissions reductions. Plant-for-the-Planet, Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network, and CliMates are just a couple examples of organizations that bring thousands of youth together for reforestation, less invasive farming, and campaign building. For capacity-building, Youth Climate Lab, China Youth Climate Action Network and Care About Climate have created tools for youth worldwide to connect on online platforms to discuss the issues, solutions, and strategies for youth activists to be most effective in their work to address climate change locally, regionally or nationally. In terms of policy action, on an international level, we have working groups within YOUNGO that address many policy issues such as

Kava- a traditional Pacific drink

Adaptation, Women & Gender, Capacity-Building, Oceans, etc. These work to consolidate our policy positions into a specific request of policy-makers.

Over the next year, the UNFCCC will be continuing the Talanoa Dialogue at intersessionals in May and at COP24 in Poland. We look forward to drinking kava and having many more talanoa sessions! In the meantime, we’ll be continuing with our capacity building work year-round and working to make it as inclusive and transparent as possible. As Mr. Bainimarama said, “We are all in the same canoe“, we must work together to find & implement solutions.

By Sarah Voska

Sarah Voska is a delegate to the UN climate change conference, COP23, and the director of the Online Youth Exchange. She studies Sustainable Management at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Use the #ClimateSign to join the fight against climate change. Contact us at careaboutclimate@gmail.com with any questions!

Talanoa Mada ~ Youth Stand for Climate Action

For the past three days, over 1000 students, youth and young professionals converged in a high school in the outskirts of Bonn to define policy goals for COP, share strategies, and brainstorm ideas for how to combat climate change. The Thirteenth Conference of Youth, or COY13, was a place for youth to come together to prepare for the UN climate change conference (COP23) and another year of environmental activism around the world.

Photo rights to COY13 Germany COP23 Bonn Climate Sign Action
Participants raise the Climate Sign during the Opening Ceremony. Photo courtesy of COP13 PR team.

There were over 300 program contributions, consisting of workshops, presentations, and panel discussions. There was also an art space active throughout all three days, where the participants could make banners and signs for the Climate March, as well as other actions directed at building momentum and pushing negotiators towards stronger action.COY13

One session that I felt was really helpful was called “Combatting Isolationism in the Environmental Movement. The session recognized the number of environmentalists killed annually: a sobering 100 activists, or two a week, worldwide. It also addressed the issue of disconnected activists, who work outside the framework of a formal organization. For them, it can be extremely difficult, and even dangerous to do their work. Without resources, recognition, or support, they are most likely to burn out or be discouraged.

Photo courtesy of COY13

At the end of the session, we talked about how we all must work together. We are all working towards the same goal, of stronger commitments to greenhouse gas emission reduction, reforestation, reduction of plastic and food waste, and access to climate change education, mitigation resources, and adaptation strategies for people all around the world, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender or wealth.

This communal theme ran through all of COY, and positive energy flowed through all the participants as we engaged in the conference theme of Talanoa Mada, which essentially means “Let’s talk” in Fijian. It connotes a participatory dialogue about how to combat issues that affect the entire community. As we move into the first week of COP23, the participatory dialogue will be a focus of the Fijian Presidency. Lagi Seru, a Fijian delegate and COY13 team member, describes Talanoa Mada:

Lagi Seru from Fiji. Photo courtesy of COY13

Talanoa is an everyday part of Fijian life. Creating a harmonizing environment for all, it brings together people to give thoughts and share opinions without the fear of retribution. People can freely voice their concerns, no finger pointing, and take the time to offer practical solutions at this space.”

Throughout COY13, special care was taken to support diversity, inclusion, well-being and equity, so that everyone felt that their voice were heard and valued. So many solutions were shared through case studies, brainstorming sessions, and workshops over the three day conference, and the participants left on Saturday encouraged, motivated and united for climate action, whether in their local communities, on their school/university campuses, and during COP23.

With youth from 114 countries worldwide, there was a great diversity within the venue. Everywhere you went, there was a burst of languages, laughter, and bright colors- from the clothing, flags, and signs born by the participants. Despite, or more accurately, because of the great diversity, there was a sort of synergy. Together, with so many different ideas, perspectives and experiences, we are able to overcome any roadblocks and obstacles we faced. Policy papers were written on behalf of the working groups, new partnerships were formed between overseas organizations, and those going into the COP23 negotiations were carefully prepared for strategic engagementduring the conference. COY13 was an incredible model of collaboration and participation. Whether it was through their food waste diversion programs, or morning yoga sessions, it gave us all the energy & focused determination that we needed to move into the tough negotiations of these next two weeks.

Vikaka & Danke to the entire COY13 organizing team!

Climate Sign
COY13 Stands in Solidarity for climate action using the Climate Sign, with Fiji PM & COP23 President Frank Bainamamara, Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Mayor Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, & UNFCCC Focal Point on Education & Youth Adriana Valenzuela.

 

By Sarah Voska

Sarah Voska is a delegate to the UN climate change conference, COP23, and the director of the Online Youth Exchange. She studies Sustainable Management at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Use the #ClimateSign to join the fight against climate change. Contact us at careaboutclimate@gmail.com with any questions!

We’re Still In?

Tagalano Roa United Nations Climate change conference 2017 Bonn GermanyOn June 1st, President Donald Trump announced that the US would be pulling out of the Paris Agreement. But next week, he’ll be sending the Rex Tillerson’s third-ranking state department official and undersecretary for political affairs, Tom Shannon, to lead the US delegation at a United Nations conference in Germany to work with world leaders on the details of the Paris Agreement’s implementation.

Shannon will be on his way next week to join UN delegates, and representatives from industry, non-profits, universities, Indigenous groups and local governments to hash out the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement. Written in 2015, it was signed by 196 countries and so far has been ratified by 169. The only county in the UN that has not signed the agreement is Syria.

It’s difficult to understand the US’s position on climate change. President Trump, during his campaign and while in office has called for our removal from the Paris Agreement. The United States cannot officially withdraw from the treaty until 2020, so the US delegation will be there to negotiate the rules for measuring & tracking emissions. Their delegation will be Huffington Post John Kerry UNFCCC Climate Change Conference Marrakechmuch smaller than last year’s 90 person delegation, led by John Kerry, and they will not host an official US pavilion, which traditionally has been a space to engage with civilians, share relevant NASA or EPA data, and host presentation on how US public and private sector are engaging to combat climate change.  The delegation will mostly be there to protect US interests by ensuring that other countries are being transparent in their reporting methods and actually meeting their commitments.

Many environmental leaders are stepping up to fill the void of a smaller US presence in the conference. We’re Still In is a collaboration of state governors, mayors, CEOs, university presidents and tribal leaders representing about 120 million people (more than a third of the US population) who are committing their governors, mayors, businesses investors and universities global leaders reducing carbon footpringstates, cities, businesses, schools and nations to the Paris Agreement.  They are hosting an unofficial US pavilion, and sponsoring educational seminars and workshops to show the world that at the local level, US citizens are doing something to combat climate change.

Because the Constitution reserves the power of signing international treaties for the Federal government, this commitment is unofficial, and symbolic. But leaders of these groups firmly believe that action on climate change is absolutely necessary from a public health, economic and social justice standpoint. If we don’t act now to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll face rising sea levels, more ferocious extreme weather events- among the likes of Maria and Irma, droughts and heat waves that destroy cropland- and increased migration & conflict around the world.

Caroad2paris USA climate change UNFCCC COP23

Former Mayer Michael Bloomberg (NYC), Gov. Jerry Brown (CA) and other prominent leaders from local governments will be leading the charge at this year’s conference. Both have mobilized private funds to support projects to reduce emissions worldwide. The Paris Agreement calls for $100 billion USD to be raised each year for 5 years, in order to help developing countries pay for the costs of sustainable development investments and rebuild after climate change related flooding or other disasters. Their presence at the conference will be part of a larger conversation going on there, a conversation to better engage those who don’t work in the government: to hear their concerns and use them as a resource to better enforce the Paris Agreement. Through this Facilitative Dialogue, countries will be able discuss what progress has been made since Paris, and ramp up efforts to meet their commitments to the Paris Agreement.

What makes the Paris Agreement unique from past UN climate change treaties is that each country is only hold to what they commit to contributing. So the US isn’t being told they have to pay anyone, our negotiators determined what would be a realistic amount that would fit our budget. The US has also committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28% below 2005 levels. This sense of personal responsibility is part of what has inspired cities across the nation to prioritize renewable energy, promote LEED certification or green roofs, and take an audit of their energy consumption and emissions to see where they can become more efficient. Companies are seeing the returns of engaging in corporate social responsibility, not to mention the economic benefits of corporate sustainability policies. It has become clear to open minded leaders in government and industry that movement towards sustainability is not just economically and socially viable, but absolutely necessary for the United States. So let’s stand together and let the rest of the world know that We’re Still In.

By Sarah Voska

 

Sarah Voska is a delegate to the UN climate change conference, COP23, representing Care About Climate. Care About Climate is a 501-C non-profit that works in climate change education and communication. She studies Sustainable Management at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Use the #ClimateSign to join the fight against climate change. Contact us at careaboutclimate@gmail.com with any questions!

Ode to Oregon

IMG_2361Immediately after we presented at Willamette University in the wonderful capital of Salem, OR, we hustled on south to Corvallis, home of Oregon State University. Corvallis is the definition of a college town, and is centered around the university. Everywhere you can see Beaver pride.

We checked into the hotel we were staying at, and then after a couple hours of conference calls (which an organizing story cannot be without) we headed off to a very important meeting. The night that we got into Corvallis was the eve of the People’s Climate National Day of Action, and we had been working with a student from Oregon State University to plan an event on the campus, but we had not met her yet. Now was the moment of truth!IMG_2365

We met Jacqueline in a middle eastern restaurant.  She is a feisty individual with a passion for environmental and social justice. Jacqueline met a People’s Climate organizer this summer and she wanted to do something on her campus, but needed a little help, and that is where we came in. We wanted to make sure that the day of action was centered around a local issue, and there is currently a competition that the city is participating in to win $5 million for climate action projects. Corvallis is competing with 49 other cities to successfully implement an energy reduction program, and the city that comes up with a plan that reduces the most and can be replicated will win the money. The campaign in Corvallis is called Take Charge Corvallis. For this to be successful, the city must effectively engage students since a large portion of the population in Corvallis is OSU students. Therefore, Jacqueline decided to center the day of action around this initiative.

The next day we woke up bright and early and headed out to the OSU Memorial Union quad. We set up our table with materials to help students sign up for the program. We also had students write down their “bright ideas” on a paper light bulbs for what they would do with the $5 million for climate action in Corvallis. We talked to over 100 students and had 70 of them write down their bright ideas, which will be delivered to the city.

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Directly after our National Day of Action event, I rushed over to the OSU Kelly Engineering building for a Climate Leadership Training with Youth Climate Action Now, or YouCAN- Corvallis. YouCAN is a program of the Our Children’s Trust and the Sierra Club. This program focuses on empowering youth to motivate cities into passing science based emission reduction commitments in cities around Oregon. In this leadership training I helped contextualize the local work that YouCAN is doing nationally and internationally. Then the YouCAN organizers provided information on what is happening in Corvallis, and they gave a training on how to create an elevator speech. They have longer trainings to help build organizers periodically, and they are hoping to effectively engage youth to create change locally.

After a very productive day in Corvallis we headed to Portland for a day. While in Portland we caught up on some work, and took some video to help with our compilation of the Road Trip to Paris. In addition to regrouping, we met with the head volunteer co-lead of the Sierra Club international climate campaign. This individual is incredibly knowledgable, and he gave us a briefing of where the current Paris Agreement stands and where he things it should go. Currently, the new draft climate agreement is incredibly weak, which is not what we want if we want to address climate change as a global community seriously. It does not effectively keep countries accountable and it does not encourage them to increase their ambition at any point of time that the agreement is in effect. If the agreement were to be passed tomorrow, it would not change much about the status quo. That is why it is so important that we make a lot of noise, demand more from our governments, and get serious about making something happen. Because without that noise nothing will happen. The meeting that we had with the Sierra Club leader was enlightening and challenging at the same time because it showed that there is still a lot that we must get done, but it is also going to be an uphill battle.

Today we headed into Seattle, Washington, but Oregon was a great state to visit on our Road Trip to Paris because of the wonderful things that are going on, and because we were able to participate in events that were part of larger conversations throughout the state.