COP23 brought historic climate progress, opened next year’s talks to all people

CCL at COP23

(L-R) Peter Fiekowsky, Joe Robertson, Celia Byrne, and Cathy Orlando in front of a Fijian boat that was the symbol of the COP23. We’re all in this together, and “Despair is not allowed on this small boat.”

COP23 brought historic climate progress, opened next year’s talks to all people

By Joe Robertson

While 600 volunteers and most of the CCL staff were in Washington D.C. for our Congressional Education Day earlier this month, I was in Bonn, Germany for COP23—so named because the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the COP) were meeting for the 23rd year. This meeting of 195 nations took place from November 6 to November 18 and was hosted and managed by Fiji, though Germany provided the venue.

At COP23, the nations of the world explored ways to operationalize and accelerate their national climate-action plans to meet the Paris Agreement goals for 2020. There were five key areas where we wanted to see progress:

  1. Mission: Accelerated pathways for keeping warming to 1.5ºC or lower.
  2. Civics: Establish participatory role for non-Party stakeholders in design of overall climate response.
  3. Finance: Coalition for aggregating and upgrading the climate intelligence of all finance everywhere.
  4. Realignment: Shift incentives away from the bad bet of climate-disrupting investment.
  5. Firewall: Start moving all resources toward real and shared climate solvency.

Happily, we saw major progress in all of those areas. Here are just a few of the key outcomes, which will give us a powerful platform to build on in the next few years.

Talanoa Dialogue

The Fijian word ‘Talanoa’ refers to an inclusive process of dialogue where all participants, regardless of power or influence, are peers. In that spirit, Fiji convened the first ever Open Dialogue between the Parties (the governments) and non-Party stakeholders as part of the COP process. The subject was the value of input, commitments, and action from non-Party stakeholders, as a foundation for a new way of running future negotiations.

Talanoa Dialogue COP23

The Talanoa Dialogue emphasizes including everyone in these important discussions.

After a productive Open Dialogue, the COP22 and COP23 Presidencies asked that the Facilitative Dialogue to be held at the COP24 honor the spirit of Talanoa, so that the best ideas could come together to galvanize a global climate action agenda ambitious enough to protect vulnerable countries from catastrophic climate change. The message was, “We are here to work together to secure a win-win on climate and development for all people in all countries.”

After some contentious final hours of overtime negotiation, a two-part Talanoa Dialogue was agreed, with the mandated Political Phase to take place at the COP24, preceded by an year-round open, global Preparatory Phase. Starting on January 1, all people, at all levels in all societies will be invited to convene meetings to discuss their vision for a smart climate future and provide input to the official negotiations. It is unprecedented and gives regular people a voice in shaping Earth’s future. Read more about the Talanoa Dialogue here.

Resilience Intel

Another big win was the creation of Resilience Intel, a first-of-its-kind Climate-Smart Finance Aggregator, a new global partnership announced by the COP22 Presidency, Citizens’ Climate Education, and the Geoversiv Foundation, in collaboration with the South Pole Group.

The Aggregator will use a light-touch analysis to parse any investment or spending into good / bad / neutral and then add up all of the good, to identify hidden climate-action money across the whole economy. As UNFCCC Secretary Christiana Figueres said at the conference, “No finance can go into any activity that is actually damaging the planet and putting the welfare of citizens at risk.”

But to ensure that, nations need to understand where the available money is, and then move from the general outline of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) into Economy-wide National Climate Action Plans. That shift, from commitment to real action, requires innovation and new commitments in four areas: finance strategies for achieving the NDCs, scaling up adaptation finance, effective technology transfer, and capacity building.

To meet these challenges, the COP22 sought to identify “transformative actions that we can put in place for countries to achieve their NDCs and to finance the climate transition.” That work developed into the a detailed pathway for scaling up deployed climate-related finance from billions of dollars to trillions. Read more about Resilience Intel here.

US climate Action Center COP23

The U.S. Climate Action Center at COP23 showed the American people’s commitment to climate action.

Daily briefings

Another achievement for our team was a detailed but focused Daily Brief on the Paris Progress website. These news bulletins provided thematic updates from each day of COP23 and let readers dig even deeper into the amazing progress the world is making to get closer to climate action at the necessary scale and speed. Among those updates is exciting information on:

  • Days 4 and 6, when the US Climate Action Center launched “America’s Pledge” and aimed to show the America’s resolute commitment to climate-smart future-building.
  • Days 8 and 9, when the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition hosted several high-level roundtable events on carbon pricing.
  • Days 11, 12 and 13, which trace the process of developing, proposing and finally winning approval for the two-part open Talanoa Dialogue.
  • And much more! Read all the updates here.

Overall, COP23 has been by far our most successful COP, and the positive influence of CCL’s methodology in the UNFCCC process is clear. Now, more than ever, we are seeing a shift toward a new mindset about global policy, where ambitious action is rooted in governments co-creating the future with their citizens.

We will be submitting recommendations for the Talanoa Dialogue Preparatory Phase, to ensure strong input that makes room for the voices of even the most marginalized and vulnerable, and for raising ambition by facilitating the sharing of best practices, from all levels of society. As I wrote to the CCL family from Bonn, “The groundwork you have laid for that future of honorable, ongoing civic empowerment will touch millions of lives, and all of them for the better.”

Joe Robertson is the Global Strategy Director for Citizens' Climate Lobby. He is also the author of CCL's booklet, "Building the Green Economy."