CCL at COP21, Day 3: Solidarity and the launch of the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network

Sarabeth Brockley speaks at the Launch of the Citizens' Climate Engagement Network in Paris.

Sarabeth Brockley speaks at the launch of the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network in Paris.

By Sarabeth Brockley

Solidarity. At these events, your network of support is critical. They sustain you, inspire you, and propel you forward when you are tired, burnt-out and weary.

In one form, solidarity is social cohesion and integration that comes from the perceived or enforced homogeneity of individuals: People feel connected through similar work, educational and religious training, and lifestyle, which is often based on the kinship ties of familial networks.

Yet within a global solidarity network, solidarity can become something both subtler and more powerful. That’s how our team operates. Solidarity is our call to recognize each individual person as a part of one human family — regardless of ethnic, national, racial, gender, economic, political or ideological differences. The negotiators need that word on every corner of the Blue Zone.

As world leaders meet in Paris to discuss global solutions to climate change, one wonders if the pulse of democracy is alive and beating. The dispatch from the team tonight is a large barbaric yelp into the Parisian alleyways: “Yes!”

The Citizen’s Climate Engagement Network became a reality as negotiations took its toll on civil society, UN staff, and national delegations alike. (It is notoriously difficult to attend all necessary meetings, find food, complete one’s daily reporting and advisory tasks, and also sleep more than a few hours, during the COP.) Solidarity is normally the only element holding people together, those who recognize a common goal and can see the parabolic curve of success and failure, and worry and work through all that threatens or enables a better outcome.

Today marked the launch of two engagement platforms in partnership with CCL. The Healthy Climate Project and the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network (CCEN). As CCL has long roots in the United States and is gaining traction in a diverse range of countries worldwide, it’s good to take a step back and reflect on the critical parts of the program that helped it to grow.

The creating and launching of the Citizen’s Climate Engagement Network (CCEN) required time, adaptation to circumstance, and the persistent evolution of creative ideas.

This is Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s new strategy to expand the space for citizen participation in the global climate change negotiations. The CCEN will provide a way for non-governmental stakeholders throughout the world to shape policies after the Paris Climate Accord that will reduce greenhouse gas emission currently putting our climate at risk.

The evolution of the project is remarkable, for the building and integrating of multiple cross-platform engagement projects, with an emphasis on building capacity and effectiveness among team members. The events of the day are a good indication of the ways in which the CCEN can bring together multiple issue areas, engagement strategies, and theories of change. Attendees experienced, over 5 hours from late morning to mid afternoon:

  1. The Healthy Climate Project
  2. The Engage4Climate
  3. The Global Strategy Program
  4. The CCEN and CCL
  5. Three Global Poets

The Healthy Climate Project’s main take-away is they want to replace the thinking that sees climate change as a disaster to be averted with new thinking that sees a healthy climate as a challenge to be met. Máirtín Cronin, a member of the Global Strategy Team echoed founder Mary-Ann Gallagher’s analogy, saying:

“Instead of looking at a problem in front of us or as put into UN speak, a challenge ahead, the analogy was like riding a bicycle. You look ahead, not at your feet or at the wheel because if you keep looking at the rock you will certainly crash into it. The focus on positive language and moving from fixating on ‘avoiding’ or ‘mitigating’ climate change to ‘achieving‘ and ‘realising’ a healthy climate.”

Citizens’ Voice

Within 2 days of being live, Citizens’ Voice accumulated over 1,012 YouTube views and 574 Facebook likes through updates, interviews and feedback covering voices at the COP21. Led by Claire Richer, Director of Citizen’s Voice, a number of voices from the Climate Generations area comprised today’s reporting. A highlight was with indigenous negotiators from Suriname, who advocated changing our paradigm regarding how to solve collective climate change issues. Of critical importance to their narrative was moving away from the type of thinking that caused a broken system in the first place. Citizens’ Voice collects many other stories like Suriname and is a 24/7 one-stop shop for citizen news and views on what is happening in Paris during COP21, and it features spaces and voices that tend to be underrepresented in most reporting.

Global Strategy Program

The program, led collectively by 7 current/recent graduates, focused their studies on the myriad of issues surrounding Climate Change. Isatis Citron, Máirtín Cronin, Zac Be, Morgan Wood, Claire Richer, Stephen Stoddard and Audrey McSain collectively formed a coalition of youth to take on various aspects of the Pathway to Paris program and work within their individual networks. Here is a snippet from one team working to engage their communities about the Sustainable Development Goals and the intersection of Climate Change:

Zac Be and Morgan Wood, students from the CUNY system in the State of New York, worked with the Sustainable Development Goals and the SDG Workstream as a part of their internship with the Pathway to Paris initiative. They launched a campus-wide campaign to adopt the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda into the legal systems and constitutions of their network of college campuses.

“I think the Sustainable Development Goals are one of the most important things to ever happen to the sustainability movement in the aspect that most NGOs and activists never had a defined vision or movement together.”

Zac likened this to an observation by Daniel Katz, the founder of the Rainforest Alliance who notes that “the green groups have a hard time working together. They’re always competing, they’re working for the same money, the same attention, and when it’s all said and done they have nothing.”

Morgan ended with the observation of why some movements worked over others. “The reason the NYC Climate March in September 2014 was so successful was primarily because they organized through a unified goal.”

They, in true team-building fashion ended with this:

“We truly think that the SDGs bring every aspect of sustainability together in a unified place, define each goal for those that don’t know what it is, and then provides them the framework for achieving the goal.”

Stay posted for more updates from them at the Pathway to Paris Blog.


Building on the numerous different platforms listed above, the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network (CCEN) seeks to develop the role of citizens across the world at the level of the international negotiation process. In a similar way that CCL works at a national level to create participatory democracy and citizen engagement, CCEN seeks to transpose and perfect this model at the UN level and ensure that citizens’ voices are heard and included in all negotiations, even those behind closed doors.

To finish off the launching of the CCEN, three award-winning poets closed out the session from Spoken Word for the World. They are organized and managed by one of the Global Strategy Interns, Isatis Citron, who worked with many young voices to give them space to contribute to another part of the climate movement: the link between art as a transformative process and the ability to talk about the UNFCCC through spoken word and personal experience. We suggest the title: “run for your life.”

Eunice Andrada “Perhaps the further you are, the quieter we become. In this spectacle of drowning as you watch baby teeth float to shore, after the ocean spits out another hometown”

Isabella Borgeson “We people born from ocean now fear the sea that stole our families, this is not the problem of the Philippines, of the Pacific Islands of Oceania”

Terisa Siagatonu “Everyone wants to talk about how to address climate change, yet rarely wants to address the obstacles that get in the way of why those that are affected by climate change the most can’t prioritize it in the first place”

The ranges of all the ages here vary. From the interns starting at age 19 going through the 20’s to the bulk of the team representing 40+ :relaxed: Which leads us to the next and final point.

Intergenerational Collaboration

For most sustained movements, there is usually one side of age, class or cultural status dominating the conversation. One of the brilliant parts about the CCEN team is put beautifully in this addition:

“An Intergenerational Affair”

“I was a young person of 21 years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. History was made and I was a witness.

“Today I witnessed history again and this time I am making it at 67 years old with a bunch of 19-27 year olds.

“The launch of the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network (CCEN) was formally introduced to a room full of climate volunteers in Paris for COP21, many of whom are volunteers with the Citizens Climate Lobby.

“I am no stranger to taking on big tasks and seeking partners with whom to work; generally a bunch of committed gray haired former hippies and transformed corporate CEOs. Today I was surrounded by a group of talented, smart and passionate young people ready to take action to limit our planet’s fever.

“The CCEN will be the on-going product of the Pathway to Paris Project taking citizen action on climate solutions to the global stage. And the CCEN team that will take on this climate change challenge is in good hands with the wisdom of the elder activists and the intellect and passion of the younger, tech savvy generation.”

Need a project? This one is for all ages and one for the ages as well.”

–Paul Thompson
Citizens Voice Reporter at COP21
CCL Regional Coordinator North Wind Region

Meanwhile, at the negotiations….

And as Jon Stewart would say this last word: “Here it is, your moment of Zen.”

The Climate Action Network planned to hand out a Fossil of the Day award each day during the conference, but said that Tuesday’s events warranted a temporary replacement award: Ray of the Day.

This was given to the 43 nations from the Climate Vulnerable Forum who called for a Paris agreement that aims to achieve full decarbonization and 100% renewable energy by 2050, and to set 1.5°C as the binding target for global average temperature rise.

“This declaration is so big, so bold, that it makes lots of the other countries…look like fossils,” said CAN.

Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter at @valklimate.