When I attended my first international climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009, I was surprised by the limited opportunities to showcase the work that civil society, especially business leaders and innovators, were doing in their communities to tackle climate change.
It was not that these groups were not interested in participating in the conversations taking place in Copenhagen—on the contrary. Unfortunately, there were limited opportunities to share how innovative partnerships were already producing concrete results in the fight against climate change. Such a demonstration could have potentially helped bring together the national governments negotiating the outcome of the conference called the Copenhagen Accord.
Whether or not you think the Copenhagen conference was a success (I had my own thoughts after returning from the conference), one aspect that has substantially improved in the UNFCCC process since then is the ways in which non-state actors are participating and contributing to the overall goals of the international negotiations. Here is a recent interview (in Spanish) with Fernando Tudela, Mexico’s former Vice-minister of the Environment. In it, he explains how the Mexican government purposefully focused on new ways to engage both national governments and civil society to propose solutions to climate change and how this was critical to the success of the 2010 Cancun Climate Change Conference.
This year’s conference in Warsaw took the engagement by non-state actors to another level, truly turning the Warsaw conference into an opportunity to showcase concrete climate actions. Governments are increasingly open to acknowledging the work being done by non-state actors, learning from it, and perhaps finding ways to work together to take these efforts to scale. Thus, the Warsaw conference included a series of special events recognizing the activities that a myriad of actors, including cities and regional governments, corporations, and women’s groups are undertaking to address climate change. Most of these events took place inside the main conference venue, allowing national government officials to directly engage with corporate leaders and social innovators who are implementing concrete solutions to climate change.
The initiative I work on, Momentum for Change, played a prominent role during the Warsaw conference, highlighting specific examples of how communities, businesses, and civil society are coming together to tackle climate change. You can watch the main recognition event here:
The question now is how do Peru and France, as the countries responsible for organizing the upcoming international climate change conferences in 2014 and 2015, respectively, continue to make progress in bridging the world of the negotiations with the world of implementation led by international development agencies, business entities, civil society, and communities affected by climate change? It will not be an easy task, given the significant pressure for these countries to have the global community reach a universal climate agreement by 2015. There is also a busy schedule on the road to 2015, including concluding the negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. However, as long as the upcoming host governments continue to recognize that the involvement of non-state actors is essential to the success of the international negotiations, I expect to see an increased appetite for these actors’ participation. This will surely create the required groundswell of support for stronger action by all stakeholders, which will help secure an ambitious universal climate agreement in 2015.