Action for Climate Empowerment
WHAT IS ACTION FOR CLIMATE EMPOWERMENT?
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) refers to activities aimed at implementing Article 6 of the Convention (1992) on Education, Training, Public Awareness and Participation as well as Article 12 of the Paris Agreement (2015):
‘Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.’
ACE encompasses a wide range of activities on public participation, education, training and raising public awareness on climate change aimed at increasing momentum and effectiveness of climate change action. This includes programmes which develop and implement educational and public awareness, train scientific, technical and managerial personnel, enable access to relevant information, and promote public participation. ‘Education’ means the full range of formal education (schools, colleges and universities), non-formal education (training and professional development), and informal education (community education and lifelong learning).
Climate change negotiations are unique within the UN negotiations with regards to the involvement of civil society both in activism activities and in the negotiation processes. In particular, the Framework Convention and Paris Agreement both recognise the importance of involving citizens, including youth, in climate action and educating them to achieve a just and efficient transition and implement the Paris Agreement. The Convention and the Paris Agreement invite parties to cooperate in this process, by exchanging good practice, lessons learned and strengthening national institutions.
The six elements of ACE have been set out as follows (see Action for Empowerment Guidelines for accelerating solutions through education, training and public awareness, p.14):
Education seeks to achieve profound, long-term changes in understanding, particularly among young people. It involves developing educational curricula, training of trainers and teachers and adequate pedagogies. The results of a successful programme would ultimately be a population whose deep-seated appreciation of the climate challenge leads to greater national action and commitment.
Public Access to Information
Programmes to engage citizens and CSOs in addressing climate change can be improved by ensuring that information is freely available. This is crucial in order to develop and implement effective policies and to engage people actively in implementing these policies. Technologies such as databases and the internet facilitate the provision of climate information, data and statistics to all citizens.
Training programmes seek to spread specific practical skills that can have an immediate practical application. Examples include the ability to gather and interpret climate data, conduct inventories of national emissions, and identify climate-friendly technologies. Training is about learning by doing – individuals, communities and organizations can all benefit from ongoing learning.
By ensuring that people can participate effectively in climate change decision-making and implement climate mitigation and adaptation activities, governments should seek to integrate civil society perspectives and mobilize the general public. In some places, this will prompt profound changes to how political leaders and civil servants are accustomed to working and encourage people to be more attentive to policy-making. Apart from the preamble, Article 12 is the only place in the Paris Agreement where the importance of public participation is recognized.
Many governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), intergovernmental organizations and UN agencies have already launched major public awareness programmes. But there remains an enormous unmet need for more outreach. Creating a successful outreach programme that truly changes behaviour involves targeted and systematic communications.
International cooperation and exchange can play a major role in strengthening ACE efforts. Many governments and relevant stakeholders need access to expertise and financial and technical resources so they can develop their own climate change programmes. All countries can benefit from sharing success stories, exchanging personnel and strengthening institutional capacity.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ACE UNDER THE UNFCCC
2002 (COP 8)
Parties adopted the 5-year New Delhi work programme and agreed on the key elements of activities related to Article 6 of the Convention:
Public access to information
2007 (COP 13)
Parties adopted an amended New Delhi work programme.
2012 (COP 18)
Parties agreed on and adopted the 8-year Doha Work Program on Article 6 of the Convention, which aims to enhance ACE implementation by Parties. This program promotes measures and actions from both parties and civil society to enhance public engagement concerning climate issues. Its progress is measured every year during intersessionals in so-called Dialogues, which are also intended to exchange ideas, good practices and experiences with regards to Article 6 of the Convention.
The six thematic areas of ACE were divided in 2 focal areas, with international cooperation overlapping both of them. The area discussed during the ACE Dialogue will be alternating on a yearly basis.
Education and training
Public access to information, public participation and public awareness
The Doha Work Program further calls parties to name ACE National Focal Points who are the main national contact on ACE issues and calls countries to develop ACE National Strategy Plans.
2013 (SBI 38)
The 1st ACE Dialogue focused on the topic of education and training. See a summary here. The meetings and discussions were focused on:
strategic approaches and long-term planning of climate change education
Challenges, good practices and lessons learned from the implementation of climate change education at the national level
Measuring for results
Challenges, good practices and lessons learned from the planning, implementation and evaluation of climate change training at the national level
Opportunities for strengthening the implementation of climate change education and training through international cooperation
Have a look at the structure of the Dialogue as well as relevant documents and recommendations here.
2014 (SBI 40)
The 2nd ACE Dialogue focused on the focal area 2: Public access to information, public participation and public awareness. Discussions focussed on:
Public participation in climate change policy decision-making and action
Good practices and lessons learned in fostering public participation in climate change policy decision-making and action
Value of public participation in climate change policy decision-making and action
Good practices and lessons learned from raising public awareness on climate change
Increasing public awareness as a means for mobilizing climate action
Public access to information on climate change
Good practices and lessons learned from enabling public access to information on climate change
Public access to information as a means to enhance public input to informed decision-making and effectiveness of climate action
See the agenda and relevant documents here.
2015 (SBI 42)
As per the usual rota, the 3rd ACE Dialogue focussed on education and training. Sessions focussed on:
Climate Change Education and International Cooperation on this matter
Climate Change Training and International Cooperation on this matter
2015 (COP 21)
At COP 21 in Paris, Parties adopted the terms of reference for review of the Doha work programme on Article 6 of the Convention with Decision 15/CP.21 with the review to be finalised by 2016.
2016 (SBI 44)
At the 4th ACE Dialogue, Public Participation, Public Awareness, Public Access to Information, International Cooperation on these matters as well as a presentation of good practices and lessons learned were the subject of discussion. See the agenda and documents here and the summary here.
2016 (COP 22)
With Decision 17/CP.22, Parties agreed on activities and measures for improving the effectiveness of the Doha work programme on Article 6 of the Convention. This included encouraging systematic integration of gender-sensitive and participatory education, training, public awareness, public participation and access to information in adaptation and mitigation activities.
2017 (SBI 46)
The 5th ACE Dialogue centered on Climate Change Education and Training, and International Cooperation on these matters, see the agenda and relevant documents here.
2018 (SBI 48)
In Bonn, Parties found an agreement on the ACE decision, intended to be part of the Katowice work programme on ways of enhancing the implementation of education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information to enhance actions under the Paris Agreement. The decision calls on Parties to appoint ACE national focal points and outline national strategies for further developing ACE. The decision also reaffirms “the key role that a broad range of stakeholders, inter alia, national governments, regions as applicable, cities, education and cultural institutions, museums, the private sector, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, decision makers, scientists, the media, teachers, youth, women and indigenous peoples, play in ensuring Action for Climate Empowerment”. Moreover, the 6th ACE Dialogue took place. See the agenda and relevant documents here.
At COP24 in Katowice, Parties adopted an ACE decision which constitutes part of the Paris Agreement work programme and requested the 7th Dialogue on Action for Climate Empowerment to cover the final review of the Doha work programme.
2019 (SBI 50)
The 7th ACE Dialogue reflected on the implementation of the Doha work programme and reviewed in working groups and open dialogues the topics of Education, Training, Public awareness, Public participation and Public access to information. Agenda here.
2019 (COP 25)
Final review of the Doha Work Program and adoption of the ACE decision, including the Terms of Reference, with Decision 15/CP.25. The following objectives were set:
To take stock of the progress made in the implementation of the Doha work programme and Action for Climate Empowerment to date, noting that this work is still ongoing;
To evaluate its effectiveness and identify essential needs, emerging gaps in and barriers to the implementation of the Doha work programme;
To identify good practices and lessons learned with a view to their dissemination, promotion and replication, as appropriate;
To identify recommendations and possible further actions on enhancing the implementation of Article 6 of the Convention and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, with regard to future work on Action for Climate Empowerment, following the review of the Doha work programme.
CHALLENGES AND RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
None of the decisions inside the Convention or the Paris Agreement/ Katowice Climate Package related to ACE are legally binding, thus there is no obligation to implement them, limiting progress on this topic. Moreover, ACE has been prioritised much less than other major issues mentioned in the rulebook. When Parties named their ACE focal points, their engagement generally is in addition to other duties rather than a sole focus. ACE is also lacking funding for efficient implementation. This issue is not mentioned in any mandate of international financial institutions.
COP 24 was seen as an opportunity to address the need for countries to provide institutional support for ACE implementation. A section dedicated to ACE was included in the Katowice Climate Package. Amongst the most important outcomes:
Reaffirms the linkages between ACE and SDGs
Calling (again) Parties to appoint ACE NFP and Develop ACE National Strategies
“ The Decision encourages the 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 the Paris Agreement”
The decision recognizes the outcomes of the ACE Youth Forum
Again, no legally binding decisions were made: It is more than likely that ACE will remain a low-interest topic for the coming years, even though recent engagement of Youth during climate Strikes has led to attention and recognition of the role of youth in international climate politics.
A further issue is that the past years of engagement with ACE have shown a predominant focus on the element of education, giving less attention to the other five elements. This is problematic because ACE was designed as a package, recognizing the importance of fostering each element to truly empower citizens to take climate action. Adding onto that, Article 12 is the only Article in the Paris Agreement that codifies the importance of for instance public participation in climate policy-making. Disregarding it under ACE therefore means that no significant action on public participation may be taken, sweeping an essential element of driving ambition and just climate policies under the carpet. During the review process, this unbalanced approach was repeatedly highlighted.
Youth engagement and ACE
Youth NGOs have largely been involved in ACE processes since it is their priority topic. In 2018, during SB48, were organised an ACE Workshop and an ACE Youth Forum.
TO GO FURTHER
UNESCO and UNFCCC (2016). Action for Climate Empowerment Guidelines for accelerating solutions through education, training and public awareness. UNESCO and UNFCCC
IISD (2019). Summary Report 17-27 June 2019 of the Bonn Climate Change Conference June 2019.
YOUNGO and CliMates and CAN view on ACE:
Paris Agreement (Dec. 13, 2015), in UNFCCC, COP Report No. 21, Addendum, at 21, U.N. Doc. FCCC/CP/2015/10/Add, 1 (Jan. 29, 2016) [hereinafter Paris Agreement].
United Nations (1992). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. New York: United Nations, General Assembly.
unfccc.int. 2020. What Is Action For Climate Empowerment?. [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/topics/education-youth/the-big-picture/what-is-action-for-climate-empowerment#:~:text=Action%20for%20Climate%20Empowerment%20 [Accessed 10 October 2020].
unfccc.int. 2020. Negotiations On Action For Climate Empowerment. [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/topics/education-and-outreach/the-big-picture/education-and-outreach-in-the-negotiations [Accessed 10 October 2020].