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Governments agree to strengthen climate education, public engagement

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President of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP24, Michal Kurtyka (right) and Fijian Prime Minister and COP23 President Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama during the COP 24 held in Katowice, Poland

Governments meeting during the June UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (SB50) agreed on a draft decision to significantly strengthen climate education, awareness and public engagement, which are crucial to achieving the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and to scale-up Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) implementation. The decision will be formally adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference in Chile in December.

“ACE is fundamental for the long-term transformation to a carbon-neutral lifestyle,” said the UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary Ovais Sarmad. “We need everyone on board with solutions and we need everyone to take climate action on the ground.”

At the opening of the 7th ACE Dialogue, held on June 19 and 24, Mr. Emmanuel Dlamini, Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, called on participants to “share good practices and lessons learned” while implementing ACE activities under the umbrella of the Doha Work Programme – an eight-year, country-driven, and flexible framework that was under review in Bonn and will end in 2020.

The Bonn Dialogue provided an opportunity for government and non-government stakeholders to share their real-world efforts and lessons learned from implementing ACE actions on the ground in their schools, communities, cities, countries, and regions. Inspiring examples included:

Chile has integrated ACE into its Nationally Determined Contribution and has opened up its policy-making process to include a public participation process in the form of online consultations and workshops to gain multiple stakeholder input when developing or amending national climate change policies.

Ghana has developed, with the help of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), a “National Climate ACE strategy titled Change & Green Economy Learning Strategy”, which provides a comprehensive, multi-sectoral -stakeholder road map on how to implement ACE elements at the country level. Emmanuel Tachie-Obeng, the ACE Focal Point, from Ghana, outlined benefits from developing and implementing this strategy, which included a climate change and green economy week in Ghana.  “Everybody wants to be there,” he said.

A representative of the UNFCCC Youth Constituency, Richard Frances Apeh, reported on the actions of young people around the world, commenting that “We have seen that young people are getting more and more engaged, with or without the help of governments. That is because they have understood the urgency and the need to add to avoid the catastrophe that will rob us of our future”.

Examples he gave of action youth are taking include the “Conference of Youth” (COY) organized on the margins of the Annual Climate Change Conferences (COPs), to create spaces for networking and to learn from each other, as well as “Fridays for future”, a global movement of youth, who are taking to the streets and that is creating awareness on climate change for both the young and old.

The “Foundation for Environmental education” (FEE), which focuses on action-based positive global impact promoting sustainable development, runs 5 projects in around 80 countries, which includes about 53,000 “Eco-schools”, “Learning about Forests” – with a focus on biodiversity and the role that forests play in our lives, and “Young Reporters for the Environment” – which encourages young people to use media tools to tell stories to their communiies. He shared what has worked in his experience. He says: “The process has to run in iterative loops, short, in order for people to feel they are having an impact. Try to take small sized bites and show people how their actions actually have an effect”.

A project funded by the EU Commission, called “Urban LEDs” which involves training and empowering local government staff in eight countries: India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Colombia, Brazil, South Africa, Lao PDR, and Rwanda, to provide climate change-related information to local decision-makers.

The role of cities’ in implementing ACE action was explained by Maryke van Staden of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), a network of cities towns and regions, with around 1,750 members and networks across 100 countries. She stressed, “If the Mayors and local councilors don’t know which decisions to make because they don’t get the right information, we have a serious problem at the local level”.

The dialogue also saw discussions on recommendations to scale-up the implementation of ACE after 2020, such as: to integrate all ACE elements into climate change policies, including into national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement (Nationally Determined Contributions, or “NDCs”); develop national ACE strategies including climate change education into all curricula at all levels of formal and informal education; support youth engagement beyond schools; strengthen the role and capacity of ACE National Focal Points; enhance non-Party stakeholder engagement and participation; track and record progress; foster regional and international cooperation and establish partnerships.

ACE activities will continue at the 2019, at Regional Climate Weeks in Latin America and the Caribbean and in Asia and the Pacific in August and September, as well as at the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 in Chile in December, where countries will adopt a draft ACE decision on the terms of reference for the review of the Doha Work Programme.

Mr. Véjar, from the incoming COP25 Presidency stated, “We are very happy to see the completion of the terms of reference for the review of the Doha Work Programme on Article 6 of the Convention, to be adopted in Santiago. This is a solid base for a successful review and enhancement of the Doha Work Programme in COP25.”

Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) recognizes the importance of climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, and asks Parties to cooperate in taking appropriate measures.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement also encourages Parties to continue to promote the systematic integration of gender-sensitive and participatory education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and regional and international cooperation into all mitigation and adaptation activities implemented under the Convention, as well as under the Paris Agreement, as appropriate, including into the processes of designing and implementing their nationally determined contributions, national adaptation plans, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies and climate policies.


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