The Global balance sheet (GST) is at the heart of the Paris Agreement’s ambition mechanism, an iterative process to increase climate action by all countries by periodically reviewing how well current efforts are meeting treaty goals. The results of the GST can then help countries collectively assess and understand what needs to be done to protect people and ecosystems from the impacts of climate change. To achieve this objective successfully, the inclusion of civil society representatives in the GST is crucial.
Over the past three decades, the processes of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have built a culture of negotiation and exchange between parties (countries that have signed the Convention). This “party-driven” approach leaves very little room for civil society to engage meaningfully beyond meeting observation. The GST process, however, follows a more flexible and participatory approach. As we come halfway through the GST readiness phase, we examined whether the vision of an inclusive GST set out in the Paris Agreement is turning into reality and how it could go further to ensure success. from the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) and beyond.
The Global Report Card: Co-Designing for Success
The GST has incorporated an innovative approach to the inclusion of civil society. In addition to the usual role of civil society representatives as observers, they had the opportunity to be co-designers of the process and made the process more inclusive by encouraging participation beyond parties to the UNFCCC. For example, anyone wishing to submit data and reports to the GST is encouraged to do so through the GST Submission Portal. Additionally, Technical Dialogues (TD) – a core activity of the 2-year GST process that includes a series of roundtables and workshops – are open to civil society experts who facilitate, moderate and contribute to the conversation. This “co-design” process is new to the UNFCCC, and while some aspects could be improved, there is already evidence of success to date.
First, during the first phase of submission (February 2022), more than 68 non-state actors submitted their contributions to the GST process, in addition to three groups of parties and 10 individual parties. At COP 27, we will also see many unwritten contributions from civil society organizations, such as posters, videos and other innovative formats, to the TPS creative space. This demonstrates the interest and commitment of civil society actors to ensure that MSE results are comprehensive and reflect diverse viewpoints. However, to make these submissions even more inclusive, there needs to be a greater focus on accessibility, such as accepting more languages for entry submissions or offering translation assistance, as the process only accepts submissions in English for now.
Second, the World Café format of the discussions during the TD was a real success. Despite the lack of space and time, many civil society representatives were able to discuss with the parties at the same table in an open setting, which triggered frank and constructive exchanges between actors who do not usually opportunity to have these conversations. During the closing plenary of the first TD in June 2022, parties and non-state actors underlined how much they appreciated such a format and wanted to see it continue in the future. The TD roundtables, however, remained formal and interventions still relied heavily on prepared statements. Observers also noted that the speakers at the round tables were not very diverse in terms of age, gender and social or cultural background.
Third, the summary report of the first tutorial incorporates many views and recommendations from civil society, demonstrating the value of these contributions. These inputs include the need to increase climate finance, particularly for adaptation and loss and damage; the fair and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels worldwide; protection of ecosystems and human rights; and the imperative to denounce greenwashing and consider equity in climate action. The synthesis report could be clearer in terms of capturing the dynamics in the room and providing more nuanced observations rather than just a summary, but this report remains innovative and new for an official UNFCCC document.
The final point to consider is the inclusion of non-state actors beyond the UNFCCC, which has the potential to offer new perspectives, ideas and critical questions. It is important to reflect the diversity of society in the TD Room and to listen to all voices around the table. Yet it is also important to remember that non-state experts should be chosen in line with Paris Agreement priorities, and that the GST should not become another venue for greenwashing and trade promotion.
Why is the inclusion of civil society a key success factor for the global stocktake?
As the UNFCCC moves from negotiation to the implementation phase of the Paris Agreement, the inclusive engagement and participation of all relevant stakeholders is essential to realizing the visions set out at the Paris Conference on the climate change of 2015. In this context, the modalities of participation must change.
Civil society groups have played an important role in shaping the Paris Agreement and its subsequent negotiations since COP 21. As such, non-state actors, in particular civil society and people’s representatives those most affected, such as women, indigenous peoples, youth and persons with disabilities, are also key partners in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The agreement will not succeed without national and sub-national implementation, and actions at the local level will not happen without the expertise, knowledge, convening power and leadership shown by civil society and advocacy groups. base.
Thus, the GST cannot emerge without strong and meaningful civil society representation at the table. Here are three reasons:
- They are essential for taking stock of global climate action. Civil society and community leaders work at the local level, mostly directly with grassroots organizations and communities. They have unique perspectives and experiences on the progress and gaps people still face in mitigating, adapting and recovering from the impacts of climate change.
- They are indispensable partners for implementing improved climate action plans after the GST. Civil society will inevitably be involved in the planning and implementation of the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). They have the strongest connections to channel political decisions into concrete actions and projects that benefit people, biodiversity and the climate.
- They are the drivers of political visions and momentum for change. Involving civil society in the design of the GST helps to incorporate their ideas and perspectives on how the process should unfold, what the results should look like, and how to better integrate global climate ambition. The broad participation of civil society groups legitimizes the GST process and results. In addition, civil society representatives have the potential to demand more ambitious results from the TPS by moving the needles from planning to implementation and supporting parties in implementing their climate policies at home. . Thus, the results of the GST should take into account the recommendations of civil society actors and correspond to their needs, and as these discussions continue, civil society must be consulted and heard.
COP 27, and after?
The GST is the first UNFCCC process to propose a new way of working together. The critical phase of the GST will continue at COP 27, including the second TD, which will take place in Egypt. In addition, policy planning for GST should begin at COP 27 and include meaningful engagement and input from civil society representatives. This will allow enough time to produce a strong decision text with political support and a common vision for the outcomes of the GST 2023, led by the current Egyptian Presidency and the future Emirati COP Presidency. These two processes – the second TD and the political discussions on a GST exit – for COP 27 should be prepared with civil society and observers to ensure their effectiveness, legitimacy and relevance.
The TPS should not be the only process where steps are taken to adequately include civil society. Rather, it could be a starting point for reflection on the overall governance of the UNFCCC. Between COP 27 and 28, the secretariat, supported by parties and all civil society constituencies of the UNFCCC, should undertake a stocktaking of progress and challenges of civil society inclusion and participation with the creation of a working group. With insights from both the GST process and the working group review, COP 28 will be a key moment to formalize a process to pursue a number of reforms on how people can participate and engage. engage in UNFCCC processes.
The photo used in the banner image of this article is from the Bonn Climate Conference in June 2022 and was taken by Kiara Worth of IISD/ENB.